Picture the scenario. You’re an aspiring 19-year-old writer, fresh out of school and soon to take a few months off to travel around the world.
Suddenly, you get a call from some bloke at The Guardian who’s heard on the grapevine you’re off travelling and wonders if you’d write a blog for the paper’s website about your experiences.
Naturally you say yes, never imagining for a moment that people might find it interesting enough to read.
However, that was far from the case when Max Gogarty’s first entry appeared on the Guardian’s site.
The vitriol that followed may or may not be justified. Having followed many a thread on other parts of the site, I do think that the Guardian’s blog community is particularly harsh, but then they’re probably of an opinion that the content should be pretty high, given that contributors are probably being paid.
However, in this case, the reaction was so strong and almost universally damning that the GU’s Travel Editor was moved to write a reply.
Inevitably, this got just as much of a shoeing as the original blog.
Part of me feels pretty sorry for the guy (19-year-old Max). At that age, very few of us can manage to craft copy that would be lauded by the audience of the Guardian blogs.
Hell, I know I’d have a problem now at almost twice his age. The fact that he writes for Skins doesn’t mean he’s a great writer, more that he can probably create dialogue that is credible for that age group.
Midway through the comments in the Editor’s response, Max’s dad writes saying that it’s hurt both Max and his family reading the comments. This is one point on which I have no sympathy.
Max’s dad is a writer himself and should know that people take potshots at journalists for both their views and ability to create well-read copy.
He should also know that, if you publish something on a widely-read site like The Guardian, those taking the potshots are far more likely to make themselves heard.
Whether the Guardian’s online editors were right to publish Max’s musings in the first place is also something that could be debated. Personally, I just hope that Max doesn’t take it all too much to heart and continues to pursue his dream of being a writer.
One day (hopefully very soon), he will look back on the incident and be able to laugh at it and treat it as just another ‘war story’