A web of lies

Running stories based on bloggers’ accusations can backfire for mainstream media. That’s the conclusion from the recent kerfuffle surrounding an alleged purchase of a “men’s magazine”. The whole thing started with a blog post by Åsa Hagelstedt where she states that she can reveal information from “a trusted source” that actor Lasse Berghagen buys porno magazines. But the blog post became more than an innocent remark when Swedish daily Aftonbladet decided to make a big story out of it. So when Berghagen strongly denied that the story was true, in a critical article in Aftonbladet, then Hagelstedt got cold feet. Her blog has now been completely deleted but the content can still be found via Google’s cache for some time (quote can also be found at Sigge’s blog).

Hagelstedt is not only a local politician in Stockholm and live-in partner to Lars Ohly (party leader of the Left Party). She is also Communications Manager at Swedish temperance organisation IOGT-NTO. She is listed as the main press contact at the site but according to an article in Dagens Media she has “gone underground” an not even her boss Sven-Olov Carlsson has been able to reach her. He will not confirm that she will get to keep her job.

But there’s more. Bloggers have commented on the fact that Aftonbladet has deleted the article from Aftonbladet.se. Today Kalle Ljungkvist, Editor in Chief at Aftonbladet New Media, denies that Aftonbladet has deleted the article from its website.

– We haven’t taken down the articles. We never published them online, he says.

While that may be technically true, the longer version of the articles were only in the paper edition, Aftonbladet did publish the story online in form of a telegram. And that telegram has been deleted. Follow this link and check the page title. In the telegram, Berghagen denied the accusations.

Lasse Berghagen nekar till anklagelserna.
– Jag undrar var de tidningarna är. Jag köper historiska tidningar om jag köper något, säger han till Aftonbladet.

I think this incident raises a number of interesting questions for bloggers:

– Do you trust your friends enough to put your career on the line?
– How can you be sure that second hand information is safe to pass on to others?
– If you are a public person, is that reason enough to be especially careful with the things you blog about?
– If you are caught with a serious mistake, wouldn’t it be better to apologize and move on than to delete your blog and hide?

And some for media:

– Is passing on rumours more acceptable if it has been published on a blog first, than if not?
– Is it really a story if A accuses B of something, but B denies it?
– How do you make up for publishing incorrect information? If you publish a story online, should there not also be a mea culpa online, instead of just deleting the original article?

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