Came back from Turkey trip to find a simple journalistic request soliciting advice on solo travel on a travel forum drew more than 20 replies in just 24 hours. Fantasic! This is what the internet is all about, I thought: multiple viewpoints and multiple empathy; a conversation as opposed to a lecture; not just the advice and rantings of me, myself and I as a solo travel addict… But no. When I clicked through, what popped up was a flaming frenzy, with posters:
a) asking why the the hell they should share their travel tips with a journalist (er, because it’s an advice forum and I was requesting advice…)
b) implying I was there to nick their ideas (if anyone had posted anything useful I’d have emailed them offlist to request a name check or further info)
c) suggesting I was being “bloody patronising” saying that the idea of the feature was to encourage more people to go it alone: “We are going thanks very much!”
d) using the slagging off the original poster as a vehicle for wit (which admittedly one or two were) or for flirting (fer krissakes, get a room!)
e) just killing time and being purposely unhelpful – judging by the 3am timings of the posts.
I was left thinking this feels like revenge from the days of ‘journalism as lecture’. Now that anyone can respond to online journalists, it’s a bit like a mob mentality. I’ve seen other journalists flamed for posting feature requests online but it is nevertheless a useful tool of the trade – though in this case it was more a complete waste of time. Perhaps sites would be better off having a media requests section – or perhaps I should have played dumb and posted as a sockpuppet who encourages responders to feel superior and sorry for me by pretending I was a scared little girl and please would somebody help me.
Now THAT would be underhand and unethical.
Fortunately I posted exactly the same question on a forum for older travellers who were all very helpful. As for the flame thread, I batted back all the sour replies – but still no actual tips arrived. I suppose whenever and wherever flaming occurs, you can say goodbye to free speech because posters will fear getting on the wrong side of the mob. It’s certainly made me reluctant to post honestly in future. Anyone else come under fire on forums for being a journalist? I’d love to know!
PS Here’s a discussion on journalists and message board etiquette.