One of the reasons I know the Mail is a horrible paper, and a horrible place to work, with horrible values, is because people who work there tell me. I keep urging them to leave, to understand that public resignation and explanation of their private disgust might make them feel better – and open up new doors. To which they say variants on the theme of – all very well for you to talk what with book deals, and lucrative speaking gigs, and plenty of job offers to refuse because you have a nice life: to which I reply ‘fair enough, but I promise you you’ll feel better…’
Anyway, as I continue to draw attention to the poisoning of public and media life via the Dacre Mail, and its very successful online version, not least via the two Lectures I did at Cambridge last week here and here , out of the blue came a piece from someone who works at Mailonline, who proposed the headline Most MailOnline staff, like me, are gimps
With thanks for the article, the payslips and internal emails proving you are who you say you are, and confirmation of what a vile news factory it has become, here is your piece … I still think you should resign. But if you have to stay, do feel free to update me from time to time …
“An esteemed broadsheet editor used to get me to clean out his ashtray for the minimum wage – my ‘glory days’. I drank with the best of them but it soon became clear that if I wasn’t of blue blood, I was going nowhere. I watched on as all the other ‘Ashtray Assistants’ become heads of departments or section editors. I, on the other hand, left to go travelling. I kept it to myself when I ended up on the dole just six weeks after resigning. Times got tough and after a year-long period of unemployment I had to downgrade even further to the last-chance saloon of journalistic integrity – MailOnline.
Initially I was grateful, even proud. I was back in the game and, at 110 pounds for a nine hour shift, on more than I was before. Then came the training day. This was something of a misnomer as it didn’t involve any training at all. Instead I was thrown in the deep end which entailed a whole morning spent on a quest for where one can buy a celebrity’s thong. The pictures I was given to go off were pap shots of said witless celebrity in a drunken, uncompromising slump. I was told that an unpaid intern would usually do this sort of thing. So much for my ten years experience. I didn’t come near an ashtray and when I asked to go for a cigarette break myself, they said ‘No!’
I was made to work so hard that I nearly shit myself. Really. They didn’t even have the time or courtesy to show me where the toilet was. Nor the kettle. Nor the fire exit. There was no desk to call my own. On one occasion an under pressure hack returned to find me sat in ‘her place’ and glared at me with laser-beams of disdain. The goal of this ‘hot-desking’ policy was, I am sure, to engage the staff in a Hobbesian battle of all-against-all – a contest where only the strong and sharp-of-elbow would survive and those who failed would forever be consigned to stand around like a lemon. And believe you me, I wasn’t the only casual staff standing around looking dejected.
But I don’t hate my editors. I feel really sorry for them. I watch on as they meltdown on a regular basis. It’s genuinely fascinating. I think it’s ironic too. One of the things the Mail really hates is benefit claimants. And yet the Mystic Meg in me can see what’s coming. The only place to go when the Mail don’t do statutory sick pay (at least in my case) is Employment Support Allowance. Unless of course they’re toffs; which a lot of them are.
I’m familiar with journalists at the MailOnline venting their frustration in emails. ‘I despair!’ they type, before parking their social conscience at the door and drafting another article on the state of ‘broken Britain’. Then there are the readers – and here I despair too. MailOnline is the biggest newspaper website in the world. It’s also an echo chamber for racism, sexism… quite a few ‘isms’ actually. The Mail seem to have a monopoly on certain ‘isms’ though not, as one might expect, ‘feminism’ or ‘trade unionism’.
The Mail also have a near monopoly on Muslim-themed articles. Like everyone else, I play my small role in the publication of these stories. So you’ll probably be horrified to learn that I don’t even know the difference between a niqab and a burqa. In the same breath, I have often fantasised about turning up to the Kensington offices dressed in full Muslim dress. Yes. Me. A white, middle-class woman. Once I’d arrived I’d then throw myself at Martin Clarke, the MailOnline publisher, just to behold his reaction. A useless social experiment I think you’ll agree. But I’ve got to try and stay creative somehow.
To give them credit, the readers are creative too, in a criminal mastermind type way. The comments section of the website really ought to have a direct line to the hate-crime unit at Scotland Yard. It is essentially a magnet to those for whom the milk of human kindness has long since soured and turned into a pro-vitriolic yoghurt. Avid Mail-watchers will reel in horror at the stuff that gets published in the ‘comments’ section. If you imagine the sort of statements that Julius Streicher may have considered a bit too extreme to feature in Der Stürmer, you’ll get a picture of what gets axed by the moderators.
And speaking of the axe my boss at the MailOnline has already threatened to dispense with my services for one simple mistake. They’ve also threatened to show me the door if I don’t increase my workload by 100 per cent (for no extra pay!). Some of my colleagues have already capitulated. With the zero-hour contracts that myself and the other unfortunate gimps are on, there’s not much we can do. I now spend my shifts plotting an escape but fear that, like Tim Robbins in the Shawshank Redemption, I’ll have to crawl through the journalistic sewer-pipe to break free. Now, has anyone seen a spare desk…?”