As a former journalist, I can't say the most recent threat against me was my first time. It wasn't. That honor goes to someone in Carroll County, MD, who is most likely serving time. But that's a story for another post.
The recent threatening involved a not-so-professional Tea Show and former tea company.
I had stumbled upon a scandal and, as the journalist I am, started investigating it. But no one really wanted to talk, except for one person. That one person is actually the owner of a tea company and I didn't really want to get him involved if I didn't have to. Why not? Because he simply didn't do anything wrong.
One great thing about the Internet is that it's really hard to delete posts and pics. So I followed the cyber trail, as recommended by one of my favorite readers, and discovered he was right.
How did this all get started? One of my readers told me he would stop reading my blog if I celebrated the type of trash that I had in a previous post. That's not the threat I'm talking about. I can't say I know all that much about this reader, but I do find him to be trustworthy and relatively low-key. That something had gotten him to the point of saying that he would stop reading my blog intrigued me.
So I started digging. (I wasn't an investigative journalist for nothing!)
I contacted the person my Reader had accused. He responded with a pity card. Which is what I am calling it now. At first I thought he was honest - or since I find everything suspicious, I thought he was at least trying to move beyond the incident.
I emailed a few friends to find out what they thought. These are people I trust - and they've earned it. Most of them didn't want to dredge up the past, as this was something that happened months prior. But they gave me their honest opinion about what was going on.
OK, now you may be confused. So let me fill you in on what my Reader brought to my attention.
There was a popular blog called The Tea Show, which featured video tea reviews. These were hosted by a Brian and Lisa, last name withheld because I don't need libel charges against me. (Which is something they have threatened a friend of mine.)
They also started a little tea company - Magic Carpet Tea. This is something I found out about after the fact.
I had contacted them to be a CelebriTEA on my blog. (I feature fellow tea friends and fiends who also write about tea.) I provide a questionnaire to the CelebriTEAs and they are asked to respond to whichever questions they'd like, and add whatever they want. I'd much rather do this over the phone or in person but since this isn't my full-time job - not yet! - I have time constraints, as I'm sure my CelebriTEAs do as well.
I wrote up a nice feature on them and they were the CelebriTEAs for a month or two in the fall. Once the month(s) ends I delete the post as a tab and run it as a regular post, that way it's in the archives for good. This blog is connected with Tea Trade, as I sell tea there, so what was a feature on my other blog for a couple months was a post within a day or so. This is how my Reader found it.
I researched all I could about this and was stunned by the following:
1) Brian, of Brian and Lisa (as he seems to be the biggest offender), attempted to bully people into giving positive reviews of their solo tea, Magic Carpet Tea (MC Tea). When people pointed out flaws - such as the fact they used date sugar but claimed their product was sugar-free - MC Tea would threaten them by claiming they were being libelous (not true, but more on that later). They would throw around legal terms like confetti and bully people into being positive.
2) Brian never mentioned in our "interviews" that he was in fact associated with Magic Carpet Tea. And I never asked him. I can only report on what is made aware to me. This was never mentioned until after the fact, and only after I asked him. Wouldn't you think a company just starting out would love free publicity? Two CelebriTEAs I featured (at different times) were each starting her own tea company so I gave them both the chance to talk about it.
3) There were inappropriate photos taken and tweeted to their followers re: anyone who gave negative or less than raving reviews. You might think these photos can be deleted, but there's always a trail. I found them on my own and was disgusted. They were sexually graphic photos that made me sick. Anyone who would take that kind of photo and use it to bully someone into positive feedback made me absolutely livid.
4) When I presented this information to Brian, he threatened to block me from his email list and remove me as a friend. It's this point here that really put the nail in his coffin. I knew right then and there he had something to hide. If he really wanted to clear his name, why not help me do just that?
I took a great deal of time to figure out how to respond. For one thing, Brian seems whole-heartedly misled about how Internet law works. This is something I learned very early as I had a Web site in high school. Someone stole my writings and lawyers got involved. I also had someone threaten me - a high school journalism student! He did so in writing, not very smart.
When you allow people to review your product, you are allowing them to be honest - as you'd hope they would be. I sell my own tea myself, so if someone complained that there was in fact sugar in my product that could ultimately hurt a diabetic or someone else who cannot have sugar, I would want to know - so I could remedy it. I certainly wouldn't harass said person and threaten them with libel. It's not libel nor even slander, because the reviewer can prove it. Case closed.
I doubt most people enjoy being threatened, but for me it's always sparked a fire in me. I know behind most threats are either a psychopath like Ted Bundy or something people want to hide. For The Tea Show, it was the latter.
I also have a responsibility to my readers. Brian, if you're reading this, you should know: like a good journalist I am responsible to my readers. This means I have to be honest and credible, but also responsible. I would much rather lose Brian's so-called friendship with conditions than a reader who, in this case, has always been honest and fair, not to mention very non-threatening himself.
So I am removing the post involving the Tea Show and deeply apologize to my readers for that entire experience. I won't stop doing CelebriTEAs, as this has been the only bad apple in the bunch. And it's a feature I really enjoy.
What I do ask is for readers to be like my Reader here. If you find out something about anything I post or am involved with, please tell me about it. I will never reveal where I got the information, but I will do a thorough investigation.
When I was a journalist I would get calls from angry readers - everyone in our newsroom would get bad reviews each week. Even if I did the best I could - and I did and do - there was bound to be fallout. But I would tell the unhappy readers that I can only report on information as it's given to me. I can't know everything and would never claim too. Feel free to bring any information to me, as my one brave Reader did. I had confidential sources as a journalist and have them now, so you will be safe.
Thanks for reading my blog and keeping it a success story, even through this muddy affair. Bottom line: I've worked hard on my blog; we hit 10,000 hits long before Keen Tea Thyme was a year old. And I am grateful to each and every reader who makes my blog a success story.
Thank you for your continued support.