Has the paywall protected AA Gill from wider criticism?

 by Martin Belam, 2 August 2010

The row over AA Gill's review of Clare Balding's new show has been simmering all week, eventually reaching the front page of The Guardian on Saturday.

What is intriguing is that this is the first time a Times or Sunday Times piece has been embroiled in controversy since the paywall was erected. The last newspaper column to be surrounded by such high profile accusations of homophobia was Jan Moir's vile piece about Stephen Gately. The link to that was zipping around the Twittersphere in seconds. By contrast, a week on from the publication of AA Gill's review, and I still haven't read the original piece in question.

Nor have the rest of us been able to get a glimpse of whether his comments sparked much outrage amongst the paying online Sunday Times users, as the community is closed to outsiders.

It does rather hark back to a previous age - where reporters reported on what had been said about a story, and you had to take their word for it, rather than the audience being able to Google it for themselves.

As it is, with the paywall in place, rather than making our own minds up about whether AA Gill was nasty and homophobic, it now seems we'll have to wait for the PCC to judge it for us.


A few response to this blogpost on Twitter:

minifig: If nothing else it slowed the pitchfork-laden villagers. But there's only one thing in the world worse than being talked about...

sharkastic: Well it was hardly broadcast on the BBC after the most popular horse race of the year, was it

LMacDonald23: Join Westminster Libraries and get online access for free - he's actually quite kind to Claire in some respect

iaincollins: I think the paywalls are a wonderful form of self censorship, protecting the internets from newspapers of dubious virtue!

Well why not pay £1 and read it for yourself!

We can still make our own minds up about this dispute because the words complained of have been reproduced in several places on the web, and in The Guardian and The Daily Mail, and the published extracts have been long enough to establish the context of Gill's remarks. It's also important that in this case, the focus of Balding's complaint to the PCC was editor John Witherow's reasoned defence of Gill's words, rather than Gill's words alone.

The main problem caused by the paywall is that if a journalist wants to claim that his or her words have been misquoted, distorted, or taken out of context, he or she would have to arrange publication outside the paywall.

Has the paywall protected AA Gill from wider criticism?
Answers: NO thanks :))

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