'Mrs. Doubtfire' star calls out Daily Mail for ripping off her blog

Journalists aren't the only people accusing the Daily Mail's website of ripping off content with little or no credit or attribution.

Mara Wilson gained fame as a child actor in films such as "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "Matilda." She is now a playwright and has a blog, Mara Wilson Writes Stuff, where she recently reflected on life as a child star.

That post happened to be published not long before "Matilda" the show cleaned up at the Laurence Olivier Awards, the British theatre awards.

Wilson's recent post was taken by the Daily Mail and repurposed into an article on their website. (The version you see now is very different from the original, as Wilson details in a blog post I quote below.)

Among other problems, Mail Online didn't credit the content as having come from her blog, it didn't offer a link, and it made several factual errors.

Wilson was completely unaware the Mail had produced an article about her until people started getting in touch.

"In the past week hundreds of people have contacted me via Facebook and Twitter to tell me they 'liked my interview,'" she writes in a new post on her blog. "The problem is, I haven’t done an interview."

She eventually tracked down the Mail story, which itself was subsequently picked up by The Huffington Post and Us Weekly.

Wilson was not happy with what she saw in that first version of the Mail story.

From her post:

I had read articles in the Daily Mail before, so I knew what to expect: something cheap and sensationalist. What I did not expect was an article composed almost entirely of out-of-context quotes from my blog. There were no citations and there was no link to the original post on my site. It didn’t even seem to have been proofread: it ended mid-quotation. Simple fact-checking escaped the author, as well: I was a Drama major at NYU, not an art major (I understand they’re both considered “useless” degrees, but the fact is easily verifiable); I was five, not four when I started acting and starred in Doubtfire (which is not a big deal, unless you either know a good deal about child development or take a second to realize that 1993 minus 1987 equals six and I would have has a birthday at some point that year) ... It was a mess, and it made me seem bitter and ungrateful. I was less than thrilled.

A friend of Wilson's has a friend at Mail Online, who offered Wilson the opportunity to write something in her own words for the website.

"I declined, because they wanted it to be about child acting and I would have rather it been about the Daily Mail's lack of integrity," she writes.

Wilson says the Mail story has been updated several times since it was first published. It now has an additional byline and also attributes the source of its quotes. There's even a hyperlink, a new practice the Mail recently introduced.

"We will soon be introducing features that will allow us to link easily and prominently to other sites when further recognition of source material is needed," Mail Online editor Martin Clarke recently told the New Yorker.

The Mail delivered on its promise to add hyperlinks to stories. So why don't they put them in the first version, with other basic attribution?

As for Wilson, she's taken a step she hopes will help ensure her work is properly credited.

"... I’ve chosen to get a Creative Commons license for my blog," she writes. "I love when people enjoy my work and share it, but I would like people to know who it was that did it."

  • Craig Silverman

    Craig Silverman (craig@craigsilverman.ca) is an award-winning journalist and the founder of Regret the Error, a blog that reports on media errors and corrections, and trends regarding accuracy and verification.


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