The Daily Mail’s second journalistic mistake? Not listening to its readers

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Most media-savvy readers will know that the U.K.’s Daily Mail endured some scorn this past week after it focused on the legs of two of the U.K.’s leading politicians.

For those who aren’t aware, the Daily Mail ran a front-page picture of British prime minister Theresa May and Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon next to the headline: “Never mind Brexit, who won legs-it?”

Yes, this was the coverage the Daily Mail offered to the world as the U.K. prepares to leave Europe, and Scottish leaders seek another referendum on Scottish independence.

The tabloid with a massively popular website decided to objectify the two women, rather than focus on the important – crucial, in fact – issues at stake.

The Daily Mail doesn’t listen to readers

But what stood out during the backlash (after the publication’s sexism) was its response to the critical reaction. “Get a life,” it told critics.

That response smacks of arrogance. The Daily Mail is telling readers that it doesn’t listen, and doesn’t intend to listen when people are unhappy or demand something better.

The mainstream media has never been great at listening. Maybe I am naive, but one would hope that after the 2016 U.S. Presidential election campaign and Brexit some news outlets would make an effort to rehabilitate themselves by adjusting their attitudes, raise the bar, and, most importantly, listen to readers like they have never listened before.

The Daily Mail’s print circulation continues to fall steadily. But as of 2016, its website was the most popular news website in the U.K. It probably will be for a long time to come.

So it’s sad indeed that a powerful media presence such as the Daily Mail continues with its gossipy, sensationalistic, anachronistic content. Its clickbait style gives readers a daily dose of the bizarre, weird and titillating.

Theresa May: Disapponting

Meanwhile, Theresa May reaction to the Daily Mail’s approach was a disappointment. She described it as a bit of fun and nothing serious. (It’s a good thing that she has a sense of humor, given the grueling months that lie ahead for her and her ministers).

Seriously though, her response was a let down. It seems that she agrees with the Daily Mail that women in power shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

As well, Ms May seems to be as out of touch as the Daily Mail is when it comes today’s realities in the media and politicies. Speaking to a journalist, Ms May said: “Obviously what we do as politicians is what makes a difference to people’s lives. I think that most people concentrate on what we do as politicians.”

Really? Does the British Prime Minister truly believe that the Mail’s focus on politician’s legs doesn’t impact people’s perceptions? Given the analysis of the Brexit campaign coverage (which contained an abundance of misinformation) and the revelation that many people didn’t realize what they were voting for, Ms May seems woefully out of touch.

In contrast, Ms Sturgeon was more serious and appropriate with her spokesperson’s response: “Brexit may risk taking Britain back to the early 1970s, but there is no need for coverage of events to lead the way.”

Demand more from your media

Will things change soon? Probably not. But remember, you don’t have to put up with it. Write to them (although I suspect they probably won’t listen).

Without doubt, the best action any Daily Mail reader can take is to drop the website and find something else to read. Hopefully something more realistic and informative.

It may be years down the road, but eventually, as evolved, serious and savvy journalists arrive to challenge the status quo, and as independent bloggers and vloggers develop followers, the Daily Mail will be a thing of the past.

Until then, remember you can make a difference. Be way more active in demanding more and better from your news providers. They’ll have no choice but to respond.

Sheelagh Caygill

Sheelagh Caygill is a journalist and content marketer. She has worked for newspapers, news organizations and in the corporate and non-profit sector in Canada and the U.K. She is a Director at Gocontentmarketing.com and is available for freelance assignments. Contact her via the contact form or Linkedin.

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