Several blogs — including Blairwatch, Obsolete and A Big Stick And A Small Carrot — have reproduced the following, from Girl With A One-Track Mind; its pseudonymous author, it will be recalled, was outed by the Sunday Times earlier in the year, much to her distress at the time. We’re probably most of us aware of the way the tabloids — and also, it is apparent, the so-called quality press, at least that owned by Rupert Murdoch — suggest to their victims that ‘since we’re going to run the story anyway, why not give us your side of it, so it looks a bit better’ — but it’s pretty chilling to see the veiled threat in action.
Bad enough to know that they’re going to go after you, but the thought they’re going to drag your family into it must be appalling. Good for ‘Abby Lee’s’ mum, say I.
Below is one of the actual emails from the Sunday Times newspaper which was sent to me the day prior to the publication of their article ‘outing’ me. [For reasons of privacy, I have deleted certain details in the parentheses]. I print this to show the level newspapers will stoop to, to get a ‘story’, and also to highlight the private effect that an article such as this can have:
Aug 5, 2006 11:08 AM
Dear Miss [my name],
We intend to publish a prominent news story in this weekend’s paper, revealing your identity as the author of the book, Girl With a One Track Mind.
We have matched up the dates of films you have worked on – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Batman Begins and Lara Croft Tomb Raider – and it is clear that they correlate to your blog. We have obtained your birth certificate, and details about where you went to school and college.
We propose to publish the fact that you are 33 and live in [my address] -London, and that your mother, [her name], is a [her address] -based [her profession]. The article includes extracts from your book and blog, relevant to your career in the film industry. We also have a picture of you, taken outside your flat.
Unfortunately, the picture is not particularly flattering and might undermine the image that has been built up around your persona as Abby Lee. I think it would be helpful to both sides if you agreed to a photo shoot today so that we can publish a more attractive image.
We are proposing to assign you our senior portrait photographer, Francesco Guidicini, and would arrange everything to your convenience, including a car to pick you up. We would expect you to provide your own clothes and make up. As the story will be on a colour page, we would prefer the outfit to be one of colourful eveningwear.
We did put this proposal to you yesterday, but heard nothing back. Clearly this is now a matter of urgency, and I would appreciate you contacting me as soon as possible. To avoid any doubt we will, of course, publish the story as it is if we do not hear from you.
Acting News Editor
When I received this email, I cried. And then showed it to my mother. It was one thing to expose me in a newspaper; it was another thing altogether to violate my mother’s privacy too – I was worried about the effect it would have on her job and her private life. As my mother read the email, I told her I would do whatever the newspaper wanted – participate in their fucking photo-shoot, or give them the interview they had been demanding – if it meant they left her out of it. I was ready to comply, cave in, and submit to their threats.
You know what my mother said? “Fuck them.” She told me not to dignify the email with a response; to ignore them ringing my phone off the hook. She hugged me and told me that whatever happened, she and my dad would be behind me and back me up. So we sat tight, ignored all the harassment, (never once communicating with the paper I might add) and waited for the article to come out. And then my parents made me lots of cups of tea, and toast and marmite, whilst I tried to pick up the pieces of my no-longer-existent private life. I am forever grateful for all their support.
Technorati: Sunday Times, Blackmail, Girl With A One Track Mind