When Your Writing Comes Under Attack

Sometimes newsmakers get angry when you dare to write about them. Sometimes they attempt to kill a story, through threats, harassment, even lawsuits. It happens regularly at the LA Times, LA Weekly and even FishbowlLA, sometimes for reasons hard to fathom.

It’s never fun, but it can be especially traumatic the first time it happens to a writer, and especially confusing in the era of digital media. Here are seven things to keep in mind when your story becomes a target:

1. Don’t take it personally. This is about someone else’s agenda. It has nothing to do with you.

2. Write work you can stand behind. Do your research. Check your facts. Ethical journalism is like an invisible force field. It’s hard to mess with.

3. Don’t let the threat of legal action scare you. People often use lawsuits as an intimidation tactic. It doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong.

4. If you’re being threatened with a lawsuit, let your editors and attorneys know. It’s their job to have your back. If you’re self-published, retain your own legal representation. Not because you’re in the wrong, but because sometimes you need people in your corner.

5. Don’t take an already published story offline.  If you’ve made an error, admit it. Issue a correction. Don’t erase your work.

6. Be prepared to fight for your story. You may work for a media outlet that’s run by, say, a real estate mogul with no respect for professional journalism. If you must make a case for your work to your employers, do so clearly and calmly.

7. If as a journalist you never make anyone angry, you’re doing it wrong. Being a professional truth-teller means you will at times make enemies. Accept it and move on.

Has something you’ve written ever been attacked? Email us — FishbowlLA would love to hear your story!