I’ve been flamed!

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.

5 responses to “I’ve been flamed!

  1. Fiona – I think you’re just experiencing the reality that online communities are like offline ones. Some neighbourhoods are nice and people hang out, look out for each other, chat, are helpful etc. In others people are mean and mug each other, or spit, or scribble on other people’s property and let their dogs do big piles of pooh on the pavement.

    The people who helped you were part of the first kind of online community, the ones who were rude and unhelpful were part of the second kind.

    Humans can be great. And they can be right tossers as well. Keeps things interesting though . . .

  2. I’m a journalist, and I have a travel website, and I post requests all the time. I don’t think the flaming is justified at all – why on earth would someone not want to share information that will help others travel?

    I too have at times been throttled for asking questions, even if I do provide attribution for ideas and message posters asking if I can use their posts…

    So how exactly are we supposed to get information if we can’t go to the source – to those with the experience?

  3. I’m coming to the conclusion that people don’t like to give you anything for free if you are going to earn from it. I have the same reaction to those companies who ask wannabe writers to work for them for free.

    Might try a few different approaches and tones to see if I get a better response next time.

  4. Interesting. Looking at it from a blogging perspective. I have received emails from a number of journalists in the past looking for travel advice. I never have had a problem with this. Some of the time, they mention my blog, sometimes they don’t. If they don’t, then I don’t loose sleep over it, and will probably not be as helpful next time.

    A forum I suppose is a little different and you’re dealing with the general public, rather than writers/bloggers etc that are more receptive. They probably don’t understand that writers/bloggers/journalists have to go out and research their article, and why not use an advice forum to do this.

    My advice; if you need any travel related advice, just drop me an email or visit my blog.

  5. Thats such a shame, forums are great indication of how the ‘general public’ think and these views are invaluable to research. As the person above said, some forums are friendlier than others. That just the way it is.
    That aside, you’re welcome to join Inside Cruise any time and i’m more than sure you’ll get a warm welcome and your questions answered 🙂