If you want to take a peek at one of the curious directions the internet is taking journalism, have a look at On Line Opinion, the self described “e journal of social and political debate.”

An exchange has been posted between the chief editor and founder of the OLO site, Graham Young, and NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon on Young’s blog Ambit Gambit. Their dialogue is refreshing in what it reveals about the inner thoughts of an online media outlet, even though it reads in places like an apologia.

The open letter from Young to Rhiannon follows a story in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald in which Rhiannon claimed she had been censored by OLO because a piece co-written by her had been critical of the Liberal party.

The piece, by Rhiannon and Dr Norman Thompson, had described the extensive network of cashed up Liberals funding Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull.

But Rhiannon believes the story was pulled because it offended several Liberals who are connected with the OLO site, including Malcolm Turnbull’s wife, Lucy Turnbull, as well as Young himself, who is described as the “former Queensland Liberal campaign chairman.”

After The Age and SMH pieces, Young retaliated by posting a grumpy response on the site yesterday, denying there had been a conspiracy and explaining that Rhiannon’s piece had been ditched for the strangest of reasons — because it was too newsy:

On Line Opinion is owned by a number of institutions, and they think they have bought into On Line Opinion, not Crikey. We do opinion, we don’t do news. We do not have the resources to do news. If the Greens want to run a news story there are plenty of other publications to send it to.

Young went a step further, insinuating that The Age had been a party to misreporting the reasons for spiking Rhiannon’s piece. Young wrote:

We will also be seeking clarifcation from Age Editor Paul Ramadge as to his view on the affair, particularly as a number of matters call into question the integrity of one of his journalists and his editorial process. I would like to think that The Age will be concerned to uphold good journalistic practice and recognise this as an opportunity to lift their standards.

But it’s what’s happened next that is so interesting. Young has posted an open interview with Rhiannon on his blog in which he, as editor, interrogates Rhiannon, as a disgruntled contributor. Both his questions and her responses read as self justification, but nevertheless he has hit on a novel way of shedding light on the whole affair.

Young’s effort at disclosure was nicely summed up by Annabel, a reader who posted a comment after reading their exchange:

I’m glad I stumbled on this site and was able to read the above conversation. As one who sometimes visits the Online Opinion site I was concerned at the implication that there had been editorial interference. I’m still not sure that this has not been the case, but at least I have had the opportunity to see a conversation conducted by both sides. How grown up — and how different to many other sites.