A Blogger’s Dilemma 

On Monday evening a freelance producer sent me an email.  He’s working on a new series of gardening pod-casts for ‘The Sun‘ newspaper’s website and invited me to take part in a filmed telephone interview with the series presenter, a well-known media gardener.  It sounded jolly: a five or ten minute chat about winter gardening tasks and my blog. Without too much thought, and whilst busy making a fish pie, I replied, “Yes, of course!”  I mean, what blogger wouldn’t lunge at such an opportunity?

But later, prodding the wood-burner and sated with pie, I mulled over my decision and knew I’d made a mistake.  Any publicity for my blog is a good thing, right?   That had been my initial reaction.  But hang on, hold those horses.  The Sun?  Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun?  A paper I loathe and whose owner I loathe in fairly equal measure?  And I should stress that my distaste isn’t only because I disagree with The Sun’s politics, though I do.  After all, I recently did an interview with The Telegraph!  It’s The Sun’s small-mindedness, the bile, fearmongering and the untruths that I can’t stomach nor forgive.  From a long list of grievances, it’s the historic homophobia  – which as a young gay man in the 80’s filled me with anger and despair; it’s the lies including, but by no means restricted to, Hillsborough; it’s the thigh-rubbing and drooling over the sex-lives of others; it’s the ongoing phone hacking scandal; it’s the bully attacks on anyone who doesn’t toe Murdoch’s line; and it’s the meddling in domestic politics by a non-UK-tax-paying-living-in-America media baron.  What had I been thinking?  Annoyed with myself for saying yes, I wrote again to the producer saying no.

Am I guilty of stiff-necked hubris in refusing this rare opportunity?  Maybe but saying ‘Nofeels right.  I wonder though whether saying ‘No‘ makes a difference to anyone but myself.  I imagine somebody was only too happy to take my place in the interview and neither the presenter nor the producer seem to harbour any qualms about working for Murdoch.  Perhaps they like The Sun.  A lot of people do.  Or perhaps they like the monetary inducement and if so who am I to judge.  As I wasn’t offered any payment, it was easy for me to walk away.  But what if – a big if – I had been offered £200 or £500?  Or a regular income?  Would I still have turned down the interview?  I’d like to think so but I do ponder the price sticker on my convictions.  Who but the richest can easily say otherwise?  Wouldn’t most of us just hold our noses and take the cash?  I hope not.

What really, finally convinced me to say ‘No‘ to The Sun was the embarrassment, shame actually, at the prospect of advertising my collaboration on this blog  and on social media, to my friends and family.  Given my deep-rooted prejudice against Murdoch and all that he stands for, to write the words, “I’ve been interviewed by The Sun. You can listen to it via this link” would be unconscionable.  And if I felt too ashamed to tell anyone what I’d done, how could I possibly take part.  Some, possibly a lot, more traffic to my blog is hardly reason enough.

What do you think?  Is there a company or organisation you wouldn’t countenance working for?  And if so, is there a price – not necessarily financial – that might twist your arm?

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83 thoughts on “A Blogger’s Dilemma 

  1. Well done you. When I was a journalism student and trying to get my foot in the door at National newspapers, a friend offered to introduce me to some of the people at the Daily Mail. When I told her I would probably get thrown out for hitting someone on the first day she said “oh it’s okay, none of them really believe what they are writing. They are all actually really nice.” I still never took her up on her kind offer, but that has stuck with me every time I see some poisonous rubbish they are spewing. The Mail, The Sun and every other hate-fuelled rag is kept alive by good people putting their principles aside and tolerating their existence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Alex, I had an email from a friend after I posted this confessing that they had done some work for the Mail years ago when just starting out. They said how ashamed they feel – to this day. I’d be inclined to think the same way. Well done you too, especially so early in your career, when crying out for work and recognition. I don’t accept this “well, they’re really nice people line” either. The Mail is fully as egregious as The Sun perhaps more so, given its smear of respectability as a non-red top.

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  2. What a wonderful and surprising thing to read my first gardening blog ever and stumble in a moral debate instead of a roses-or-tulips-dilemma. My gay guy and I just moved in our first house with a real yet empty garden in the south of Berlin, Germany (hence the search for a gardening blog), and when I told him about your SUN-decision he applauded you from outside (he’s the one who’s planting bulbs while I’m the one who goes outside to smoke) and so do I. Well done, David. Integrity doesn’t always put food on our tables, but it sure as hell makes our skin glow. Congratulations again, I can’t wait to read up on your older posts. Big hug over the garden fence, Lo Malinke

    Liked by 2 people

    • Danke schon (sorry, no umlaut on my keyboard). Wow, your first ever gardening blog? It feels like a real honour – to me – that I’m your first (so to speak). There’s not an awful lot going on in the gardens at the moment but I do post about them still from time to time over the winter, hope that’ll help (with the bulbs rather than the smoking).

      I’m a huge fan of Berlin and visit as regularly as I can … and even harbour an idea of living there for a while one day. But perhaps Brexit has put paid to that plan though I hope not. We have a yearning for a small apartment near Winterfeldplatz – but then I guess a lot of people do – with our days spent in Manufactum (which we can’t afford to shop in but is just so damn lovely we can’t stay away). Thanks for the hug, D

      p.s. I’d suggest roses AND tulips.

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  3. Your response to this dilemma is heartening David, and in the current climate it seems more important than ever to respond with integrity, and also be open about where we are coming from when we do decline an opportunity such as this. I do think when we work with a person or organisation we are seen as tacitly endorsing them (unless you had a fairly hilarious disclaimer at the start of each podcast). I also grew up gay in the 80s and know it’s not over-sensitivity or bearing a grudge to recognise that the actions of the media and government at that time had a very real impact on our safety, wellbeing and fulfillment. The Sun have profited from ruining so many people’s lives, it would be contrary to the work you do, which is much kinder and more all-embracing. Phew. I’m sure another door will open

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Bec. I do like the idea of a strongly worded pod-cast disclaimer! Perhaps with expletives. It is easy to forget just how grim aspects of the 80’s were – though I generally had a great time! No thanks to the actions of The Sun and others who were busy gloating over their outings of celebrities, stoking fear about AIDs and gleefully throwing about names like poof. No wonder I was in the closet.

      If a door opens that will be good, but if not that’s OK too. I’m perfectly happy writing what I want, when I want on a blog which I have overall control over. That in itself is an amazing thing – certainly my 20 year old self would have thought so, D

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    • Hi Jules, and thanks. It was only a couple of days after the event that it occurred to me to write about the offer. The comment response has been remarkable, so I’m glad that I did. (Phew, finally caught up replying to each and every comment. That took a while)! D

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  4. Well done!
    Some years ago, when I was a full time academic scientist, I was asked by the Austrian goverment science council if I would referee a grant. It was the time when the far right party (Jorg Haider) was in the ascendent and given the country’s history I felt very uneasy about supporting anything Austrian. I turned down the offer to referee the grant and told them why. They were not happy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting, Philip. It seems that, for the time being at least, the Austrian far right are no longer in the ascendant (given the recent presidential election result). I for one hope that it has peaked. D

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  5. It is refreshing to find some one else who is anti Murdoch, he is why I would never have Sky TV. I do although read the Telegraph ( they have a good gardening section) and voted to leave the EU. (To restore our Parliaments sovereignty). I hope that doesn’t make me a bad person!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It doesn’t make you a bad person at all Brian, at least in my eyes. Though I question the reasons behind why the referendum was ever held, how it was orchestrated and I fear for the consequences now that we have the result. Dave

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  6. Hats off to you David. Would that more people – not least gardeners (yes, Monty Don, I mean you) took a similarly principled stand, and refused to endorse (however tacitly) the despicable editorial line of papers such as the ‘Sun’ and ‘Daily Mail’. If these papers were deprived of any content which gave them a veneer of respectability – and which correspondingly allows their readership to console themselves that they’re not ‘actually’ reading a vitriolic and hateful rag – then this dank corner of the print media would be seen for what it is. I’m sure there are plenty of bigoted, xenophophic, homophobic gardeners out there who’d produce interesting and entertaining copy… oh, wait a minute…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! I rather like the idea of a coven of bigoted, xenophophic, homophobic, dribbling gardeners. An eclectic mix of potting and pruning tips with hate. But I imagine that probably exists somewhere on the web already. I agree with all you say but I do think mine was a very personal decision. A couple of people here have suggested that by not working with The Sun I’m guilty of ignoring a large swathe of gardeners whom I wouldn’t otherwise reach – perhaps Monty feels the same way? Dave

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  7. Wow, you must certainly feel supported in your decision. Me, I am not so sure. I don’t read The Sun or Mail. But millions (if you add in Mail on line) do. Are all those people beyond the pale? And the millions that voted Brexit and for Trump. Matthew Parris seems to think so. A man who I have held for some years in high regard. The liberal minded in the world appear to be becoming less and less liberal. More inclined to condem. Something is not right here. But is it “them”, not “us”?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Charles, well no – I don’t consider the readership of the Sun or Mail beyond the pale (and incidentally I don’t mention The Mail). If I did, my life would be awkward as I know – and even like! – several Mail readers. (No-one I knows reads The Sun however … or at least advertises the fact)! I purposefully tried to avoid politics in my post and to stress that my decision wasn’t about that. It was specifically about The Sun and their offer to me, with the reasons why I decided not to work with them. As I said it isn’t politics per se, it’s about truth and decency – at least to my mind. When Murdoch adopts either, I’ll reconsider my stance. As to your thoughts re the liberal minded, if that is so, perhaps it is because of Trump and people like Murdoch neither of whom play softball. Trump’s behaviour and rhetoric especially is deeply divisive and inflammatory – one can hardly complain if some people in turn get angry. Thanks for commenting, Charles – always interesting. Dave

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  8. Well done you !!! With recent political developments in the UK and America, I think it’s even more essential to not be co-opted into the muck-raking, post-truth pap that passes itself off as journalism in papers such as the Sun. Just knowing that not everyone can be bought is an emboldening thought for many…In a world where it sometimes seems everything has a price, some things are priceless…xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jo. I honestly didn’t know how this post would be received but expected perhaps ten or so comments, with a barely audible yawn and “Next post, please” from the rest. The reaction has been amazing and overwhelmingly in support. Whether that points to a ‘leftie’ element in my readership or a genuine feeling of distaste for The Sun and others like it, I don’t know. As I’ve never knowingly written anything vaguely political, I can’t think that it is the former and hope it is the latter – especially as I tried hard not to make this post about politics. D

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      • Wonder if it’s a bit of both…my own, (limited and no doubt hugely skewed) perspective is that in deciding to not go for a tempting (and potentially lucrative) offer of publicity with a media outlet who’s values you abhor, you have taken an ethical stand. Many of your readers, myself included, no doubt are confronted and dismayed daily with the convenient corruption and self-serving actions of all sorts of people in government, media, conservation, business, etc. So every instance of someone standing up for the ideas so many hold, ie: diversity, natural world and wildlife, equality, and the idea that one cannot be ‘bought’ really resonates. We certainly need more people to stand up for these values, more than ever. I salute you…

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I think you are far too sensitive. Just because you are podcasting about gardening does not mean you acquiesce in Rupert’s politics. This was a splendid opportunity to show off your skills and talents. You are not the person you were in the 1980s. One hopes you are wiser and stronger than before, and I would hope you would reach out to people who are not like you and harness their attention and time with good information and tips from a good man, namely, yourself. One never knows the good one can do in a world starved for love and acceptance.

    for the owner of the pspet

    Liked by 1 person

    • A good argument, well made Robert and perhaps you are right. But, and it is a big stumbling but for me, I think that participating with this particular paper – if not necessarily acquiescing with Murdoch or endorsing him – glosses over all the wrong that he has done and continues to do. I hope I’m not too bitter and small minded myself that I can’t forgive past behaviour, but whilst the Sun continues to publish lies and pursue his narrow agenda with such venom, I want no part of it. Sorry. D

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  10. It’s important to have principles and stick to them. I’m glad you changed your mind. Regardless of how flattering it would be to be asked, I couldn’t stomach being associated with such a newspaper or organisation.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. David, I was a young, struggling gay man at the same time. It wasn’t simply the content of the Sun but the hate of difference it stood for that affected me. I equate the Sun with fear. Being a country boy from deepest Kent life at times could be quite suffocating. Far too many people thought (and still think) it was acceptable to suppress others simply because they or their way of living was different. It took me many years to have the courage to hold my head up high and view myself as an equal in our society, not a sub-standard citizen. I’m pleased/relieved you changed your mind. However, if you hadn’t, I hope I’d have had the humanity to accept your difference too and continue enjoy reading about the tribulations of growing Abyssinian bananas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello John, your memories and experience really mirror I own. Not quite deepest Kent but small town Hertfordshire (Harpenden). I was in the closet for years with all the lies, embarrassment and fear that entailed. As a civil servant in the ’80’s I was barred – by law – from working in the Foreign Office, something I really wanted. I’m so happy and so relieved that things (for gay men and women at least) have changed enormously in my lifetime. Having said that, my memory is long and the current behaviour of parts of the press are as egregious as they were back then. The Sun’s screaming attacks on Gary Lineker and the Mail’s chilling assault on the judiciary are good*, recent examples. Dave p.s. I’m trying a new approach to over-wintering the Abyssinians and frankly it ain’t going well. Crumbs.

      *Er, or do I mean bad?

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  12. Well done David. I only wish more people had such integrity. No amount of money would be worth abandoning your beliefs, in my opinion. After the year we have had I believe it is more important now than ever that people take a stand against these institutionally racist, sexist, and homophobic organisations. I would have been less likely to want to read your blog if you had an association with the Sun, and I am sure I would not have been alone. By the way, if you even think about working with the Mail, I’m off!!!

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    • Phew, I’m glad I turned down the offer Rej – if only so as not to suffer your wrath. As for The ‘Enemies of the People’ Mail – you needn’t worry. I said to my partner years ago that I’d never work with The Mail … were they to ask (which they haven’t, incidentally)! I almost mentioned that fact in this post but reckoned Murdoch was quite enough Media Power to have a pop at in one day. Pleased you’re going to hang around awhile. Dave

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  13. For my sins I worked in the media industry before gardens and blogging. The most wonderful part about changing career was finding out that not all careers are riddled with the corruption, nepotism, snobbery and destructive ambition that I witnessed on a daily basis. What sets you apart from other bloggers and other blogs is that you are not blogging for self-publicity or because you are brand-sponsored, – you are blogging for the love of words and plants. That is why I follow you….xx

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    • Blimey, that is quite an indictment of the industry. You make it sound truly Machiavellian. I often (daily?) miss working with people – I miss the joking and working together on a shared goal but I don’t miss workplace politics at all (however none of my places of work were quite on your scale). I’m so pleased you like my blog and bothered to say so. I struggle with it a lot and so very often decide to pack it up … but responses like yours help me to soldier on (he said heroically). Thanks, D

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  14. “To thine own self be true”! You were…and are obviously a man of great moral fibre. Congratulations. Our world needs many more people like you. 🙂
    PS Love you blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Well done, you. I like the distinction you draw between straightforward disagreement with politics and outright rejection of the fear- and hate-mongering of Murdoch’s outlets. It is disconcerting, though, to realize what a nice, comfortable, middle-class thing integrity can be. I mean, I like to think I’d starve before working for Breitbart (not that they would ask), but if I were really desperate, would I? Dunno.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought that too, Stacy. It’s a comfortable position to be in isn’t it, being able to afford to turn down Breitbart (#shudder} or whatever else we feel is wrong or bad? But I wouldn’t say no to a publication just because I didn’t agree with their politics. To be honest, I’d rather I’d never been asked. All this grown-up chat about morals and dilemmas is terribly wearing. Time to take some more photos of and write about the Priory! Dave

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  16. It makes a difference to me that you said no David. I’m not sure where we would be if we didn’t have principles and a moral compass. Views and beliefs might all differ a bit here and there but most people I like believe that the Sun isn’t worth resting your walking boots on. No amount of money would change my view.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was the thought of telling you and other friends and family that decided me Tracy. As I hadn’t said no to any publication before it was a bit of a dilemma. But not too difficult a decision. Nice avatar photo, btw. Hmmm, I recognise it from somewhere! Dx

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    • Well, I wouldn’t say that the traffic itself would be unconscionable – I welcome any readers. I get a lot of traffic from The Telegraph article and I’m very happy about it. But yes, in this instance it was a price I didn’t want to pay. D

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  17. Good for you, it’s when you face a choice between doing something that in theory would be good for your career or turning it down because of your moral compass that you find out how important your principles are to you. I happen to share your feelings about the sun, but even if u didn’t I’d applaud your integrity.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Janet. I actually spent far more time in thinking about this post and writing it than mulling over the producer’s offer. It seemed odd to be writing about something that I felt strongly about rather than just pretty flowers and butterflies. I’ll now return to the latter! D

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  18. It’s not an easy one David. I’ve often wondered how Monty Don feels about writing for the Daily Mail – a paper at least as horrible as the Sun, but with a think veil of respectability hanging around it, making it more palatable for the middle classes. But if someone reading one of these newspapers likes to read/hear about gardens and gardening, is that not a good thing? Could it be the first step to redemption for some of them? And by doing this, you are not endorsing their politics. However, I can empathise with your unwillingness to take Murdoch’s shilling, it’s definitely dirty money!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t know that about Monty Don, Gill (but then I don’t even read the Mail when they’re giving it away in my local newsagent)! And no, I wouldn’t work with the DM either and I’m surprised that Monty does. To each his own. Your point about reaching out to The Sun’s readers is a valid one but it isn’t so very difficult for them to reach out themselves into this huge on-line world of gardening – without those of us who would rather not having to enter the murky realms of Murdoch or indeed Dacre. D

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  19. Funny, as soon as I read ‘The Sun’ I thought ‘well there’s no way I’d say yes to that’ and I suspect we’re not alone in that. And if it feels right to say no, then you’ve done the right thing. As for how much money it would take to sway me? I don’t think there is such an amount because I could never enjoy it.

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  20. Q1 – See Q2 and Q3. Q2 – Yes.Q3 – No. Anyone else I encounter in this world is a ultimately transient part of my life. But every night, I have to sleep with myself and I want to be happy to do that. So “well done” to you. (Not forgetting that you could lose blog traffic as well as gain it!) Now should I have used A1/2/3 instead of Q1/2/3? And if so, will I now be vilified for evermore? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • You really made me work hard on this one, John. There were so many questions in my post that I had to open it in another window to read alongside your reply and work out which questions/answers you were talking about! I got there in the end – the last three – and no, no vilification ever. Promise. As to blog followers, well I seem to lose them as often as I get ’em – whatever, I write! Go figure. Sleep tight, Dave

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    • I would definitely have felt shocked and dismayed and feel that maybe I am a stupid schmuck for turning down the various sleazeball situations I have turned down. This particular blog post is perfect because you get the bragging rights without the doo-doo on your shoe, you show leadership and solidarity with all of us who are suddenly finding ourselves fighting something that increasingly smells like fascism. It’s like becoming vegetarian, you don’t want to eat from something that is contributing to suffering in the world. It’s best to lure gardeners to the light, rather than into the snake den. I have a video blog and sometimes you tube links my dog training videos to methods and trainers that I disprove. I kinda wring my hands because I don’t know how to control that.

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      • Well done for turning down sleazeball situations (nice phrase). I really hate doo-doo on my shoe and try to watch my step. But sometimes, especially when making fish pie, I can get easily distracted. You’re right about the bragging rights too. I hope it didn’t come across as bragging though, I just thought it would make for an interesting post on the choices we bloggers face and the decisions we take. In my experience, we are often nagged to promote goods, services or to participate with various organisations and it isn’t always easy or clear when to say no. It’s also easy not to mention dilemmas like mine for fear of sticking one’s head up above the parapet. For once, I thought that I should – because of the smell you mention. Dave

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          • I base my recipe from the brilliant ‘The Pauper’s Cookbook by Jocasta Innes. Poach white fish in about a pint of milk with a bayleaf, use the milk to make a simple white sauce (with a butter and flour roux). Add a hefty handful of grated strong cheddar and allow to melt. Season with salt, if you use it (I don’t), loads of black pepper and some grated nutmeg too. Mix with the white fish, equal amount of smoked mackerel or similar, two or three quartered hard-boiled eggs, cooked peas and prawns if I’m allowed (my son hates prawns). Pour into a pie dish, cover with creamy mashed potato (a heaped teaspoon of whole grain French mustard added to the mash is good), sprinkle with more cheese and bake in a hot oven for half an hour or so, until the top is browned and the filling bubbling. Serve with green beans or broccolli, something nice and green anyway. Pretty easy and really good! It’s one of my staple ‘straightforward’ dishes. And good idea, Jenny, maybe I’ll start including recipes too. Fishily yours, D

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