Open letter to journalist Nick Pisa

This entry was posted on
Tuesday, October 4th, 2011
8:11 am and is filed
under Old Media.

Morning, folks. I have decided to email Nick Pisa about his conduct last night, when through the Daily Mail he reported how a series of people reacted to an event that never happened.

from Tim Ireland
to nickpisa[AT]
date Tue, Oct 4, 2011 at 8:56 AM
subject Your talent for invention

Dear Nick,

Do you have any response to the evidence that you and relevant Daily Mail staff were prepared to go to print with [an] entirely invented accounts of events, reactions and statements that you could not possibly have witnessed?

This is what I have prepared in advance;

“Oh, do calm down; EVERYBODY does it,” said a clearly emotional Pisa before calling his critics names and running away.

If you would prefer me to report something you actually said, rather than what I expected you to say, then please do get in touch.


Tim Ireland

I’ve already received a genuine response while preparing this post, and I look forward to publishing it shortly.

UPDATE – Nick Pisa is now suggesting that I contact the Daily Mail for a response (on the basis that they published what he imagined) but for the record, this is a summary of what he had to say for himself about the above. These are key extracts from a wider email conversation, but if Nick is worried about being quoted out of context, I would be delighted to publish the entire exchange if he so requests.

Nick Pisa: “If you knew anything about reporting and not blogging then you would know two versions are written for court stories on deadline. Also as you are so web obsessed then you will have seen several news organisations made the same mistake.”

Tim Ireland: “I did see others making a similar mistakes re: the verdict, but this is entirely distinct from inventing reactions and statements made in ‘response’ to something that hadn’t happened. Are you saying that you’ve done this before and you regard it to be acceptable?”

Nick Pisa: “No. Now you are twisting my words. It is a version that is fine tuned before being sent for publication or online… To be honest I think it’s best you get a response from the Mail. They posted it. I have told you what happened. I do not recall name calling in fact the jeering was from your side as I recall ! I did not run away. I did not see the point in discussing it and I am as angry as you are.”

I’m especially delighted that Nick took offence at my imagined version of his reaction before not calling me names and not running away. :o)

UPDATE (8pm) – The Daily Mail have expanded on their earlier statement (amounting to a blatantly false and entirely irrelevant claim about the ‘guilty’ story being up for only 90 seconds; something they persist with at their peril, as it undermines their denial) and have added the following to their site:

Confusion over the judge’s announcement meant Sky News and several news websites, including Mail Online, briefly reported incorrectly that Knox had been found guilty.

This was corrected just over a minute later when it became apparent that he had said she was guilty of slander before going on to say both Knox and Sollecito were innocent of Meredith’s murder.

We apologise for the error and have launched an enquiry to examine our procedures.

It is common practice among newspapers to prepare two versions of an article ahead of a court verdict and these are known as ‘set and hold’ pieces.

We would like to make it clear that Nick Pisa had no involvement in the decision to publish his set and hold piece on MailOnline.

The quotes were obtained from various parties in the event of either a guilty or not guilty verdict.

So the reactions to a guilty verdict that never came… were they obtained ahead of time, too? Perhaps Pisa based these sections of his piece on reactions to the slander verdict…

Amanda Knox looked stunned this evening after she dramatically lost her prison appeal against her murder conviction.

… but if this is the case, it makes no sense for these accounts of reactions to a verdict to be in a ‘set and hold’ piece, because the writer would at the time have been responding thinking he had a verdict.

UPDATE (06 Oct) – I urge you to read the unfolding comments, and when a clearer picture emerges I expect to update the body of this post with any crucial elements (i.e. instead of deleting it and pretending it never happened, as some tabloids are wont to do). At this time, it appears entirely possible that Nick Pisa at least acted in good faith, and with some rigour, though we may not see any relevant details until after the Daily Mail have conducted their internal investigation. Scare quotes from ‘journalist’ in my headline have subsequently been snipped to remove the likelihood of the man being judged by this alone.

(Many people only read headlines/link text. Many others will read a post only, and not the comments, which is why vital corrections belong in the body of a post if/when they emerge, and why headlines should be corrected in line with changes to content. IMO.)

UPDATE (4 Oct 2016)- Nick Pisa never got back to me about the outcome of the Daily Mail investigation that kicked the issue into the long grass. I was not inclined to contact him, as I was anonymously being accused of harassing him through publication of this article at the time (*deep sigh*). However, today I note that the man has become very popular for his unique brand of journalism where key facts don’t get checked and the resulting headlines are never his fault:

Amanda Knox Netflix documentary: The journalist people are branding the real villain – Former Daily Mail reporter Nick Pisa revealed he didn’t fact check key information

In other news, it is 5 years to the day since I wrote the original article. Happy birthday, lil’ article.


About Tim Ireland

Tim is the sole author of Bloggerheads.
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