Online Journalism Scandinavia: A blogging-journalist hero for Ada Lovelace Day
Danish IT-journalist Dorte Toft used her blog to help reveal one of the country's biggest business scandals in modern time. It won her both acclaim and criticism.
Today is Ada Lovelace Day, and, answering UK software consultant Suw Charman-Anderson's call, over 1,500 blogger worldwide have pledged to write about a woman they admire working in technology. As I believe we sorely need new journalistic heroes and new myths who better illustrate the opportunities offered by our rapidly changing media landscape, I thought I would take this opportunity to put forward one such hero.
Dorte Toft is the programmer turned journalist whose blogging helped reveal IT Factory, named "Denmark’s Best IT-company 2008" by Danish Computerworld, as one big ponzi scheme: according to Techcrunch, sources assessed that up to 90 per cent of IT Factory's turnover had been based on non-existent or false contracts.
Toft, a blogger at Berlingske Business and freelance IT-journalist, started blogging about the company in December 2007 - almost a year before the company was declared bankrupt. The blog helped her solicit sources, tip offs and made her blog the natural place to turn to for those both in the know, and those wishing to understand more and talk about what was happening in the company.
For her work, which was the closest any Danish media came to reveal the IT Factory scam before the company was forced to admit it all, Toft has received several awards, including the e-Jour award for outstanding online journalism, but the story could have ended very differently.
Only a few days before the company was declared bankrupt, the IT journalist was preparing to go to court to defend herself against libelling IT Factory and its CEO Stein Bagger. He had sued Berlingske, where Toft writes her blog, for allowing several anonymous and libellous comments to be posted on the blog and was calling for damages to the tune of 10K.
Fortunately for Toft, events revealed several of the assertions made in these comments to be true before she had to go to trial - but the story illustrates both the extent to which libel law can be used to silence journalists; and the problems associated with talking freely, and often anonymously, on a blog.
However, this debacle led to Berlingske banning anonymous comments on its site. Steen Rosenbak, business editor at Jyllands-posten, and Jens Christian Hansen, business editor at Berlingske business, also published an op-ed in which they warned against using blogs as a journalistic tool, to which Toft replied: "Without the blog and the emails sent directly to me because of it, I would never have been able to prove that IT Factory's products that were cited as the reason for its impressive sales had never reached the market."
This post also appears at Kristine Lowe's blog.
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