Jack Riley: The Daily Mail's response is a case of old versus new media


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The Independent Online

It started with a tweet. The speed and ferocity with which the reaction to Jan Moir's inflammatory piece developed was a perfect example of the potential of the internet as a medium for instant communication - both good and bad.

Twitter was the epicentre of the uproar, it seemed, with users coining the hashtag #janmoir following the article's publication, and references to the Daily Mail, and the piece's author top of the site all day. In a scramble to save face, the Mail's editors, and in particular those of its online team, must have been bewildered when efforts to soften the blow by editing the headline to the piece online only attracted more derision; the change was documented on Twitter photosharing website TwitPic within minutes.

Six separate Facebook groups were established, demanding the Mail retract the article and calling for Moir to be fired, while internet users hoped to top the 40,000 complaints the Mail managed to muster in its campaign against Jonathon Ross and Russell Brand last year, flocking to the Press Complaints Commission website in such numbers that their servers buckled under the strain, leaving the site down for hours.

Moir herself apparently took to Twitter in a belated effort to apologise at the behest of her editor, an indication perhaps of how seriously even an old media fixture like the Mail must take such an outcry. But in truth, the formal apology only betrayed an ignorance as to the nature of the online reaction; Father Ted writer Graham Linehan put it best on Twitter, refuting Moir, the Mail, and their PR company's claim that the reaction was a "heavily orchestrated internet campaign"; "No", he tweeted, "you just united everyone in revulsion at your horrible words."