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Sep 28, 2010

Simons: it wasn't unethical to name Grog's Gamut

As for Grog's Gamut, I don’t think the Oz has done anything unethical. Just mean. But there are other questions to be answered.

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A great deal has already been said about the rights and wrongs of The Australian’s decision to out the engaging blogger Grog’s Gamut, and reveal him to be Canberra public servant Greg Jericho. Quite a few people have asked if I have any opinions. I do.

I don’t think the Oz has done anything unethical. Just mean.

And the affair highlights some interesting and largely encouraging media trends.

First, we are seeing a new career path into journalism opening up. Whatever else happens to him over the next few weeks, it would surprise me if Jericho doesn’t field a few calls from media organisations wanting to take him on.

He has demonstrated a rare incisiveness and fluency with the written form, and a good understanding of how to use social media. Perhaps journalists are jealous.

It seems like only yesterday that people were asking how one found material worth reading on the web. Social media, as visiting US journalist Jan Schaffer said at the New News conference earlier this month,  is a game changer. Anyone with good material can find an audience, and any audience can find good material.

Which can be a mixed blessing. As Jericho said in his response to the outing: “I guess the lesson here is if you want to blog anonymously, don’t do it effectively.” Once you begin to have an impact, people will want to know who you are. Who you are becomes a story, and everyone who writes knows what a powerful thing a story can be.

There is nothing automatically wrong with outing a pseudonymous writer, whether they be a blogger, a novelist or a journalist.

Some people have referred to the journalistic convention of protecting sources, and suggested that what The Australian has done is therefore unethical. Sorry, but that’s bollocks.

Journalists who agree to keep a source confidential are, for reasons of perceived public interest, agreeing to compromise their core commitment to “disclose all relevant facts”. They do so in the interests of being able to bring otherwise secret facts to light.

They are essentially withholding a piece of truth — the identity of the source — because they believe that getting other information out there is more important. Or that is what careful and ethical journalists are doing, in any case. Agreeing to hide a source’s identity is always a significant ethical decision.

The essence of the ethical obligation is an agreement between reporter and source. There is not, and should not be, any automatic presumption of anonymity.

So far as I know, Jericho made no agreement with any journalist about confidentiality, so I don’t think it was unethical to out him.

The other comparison people have made is with newspaper editorials, including The Australian’s recent controversial efforts. Editorials do not carry by lines. I think this is a much more interesting point.

The justification for anonymous editorials has always been the notion that they represent the institutional voice of the masthead. The idea is that the newspaper has a history, a voice and a personality over and above and apart from those who work for and edit it.

Thus, in those mastheads where such things are taken seriously, editorial writers will take care to be consistent in their line. A newspaper will not argue in favour of the National Broadband Network one day and against the next, even if this reflects the opinions of the relevant writers. Even a change of editor will not necessarily cause a rapid about-turn in an editorial line.

A masthead changes its opinion only gradually, or after due argument and explanation.

The idea of the institutional voice may seem quaint to the Twitter generation, but it is alive, if not well.  When comedian Catherine Deveny was sacked from her Age column because of indiscreet Tweeting, the newspaper felt it should have some say in the relationship she had with her Twitter audience — because she was also part of the institutional personality and presence that was The Age.

Now, I happen to think the idea of a media institutional voice has had its day.

As the Grog’s Gamut rise to prominence demonstrates, writers no longer need media institutions in order to reach their audience. More than ever before, a masthead amounts to little more than the relationships its writers have with their audiences. And those relationships belong mainly to the writers and the audience members, not to some abstract institutional personality.

This is one of the reasons why journalists should not agree to anything other than sensible limitations on their right to participate in social media. Give up your social media presence, and you cede all power, and your independent agency as a journalist, to your employer.

So perhaps it is time that we had more transparency around who and how newspaper editorials are written. But the necessary extension of that argument would be that perhaps people such as Jericho should be prepared to be outed, and not whinge too much about it.

Blogging and Tweeting are public acts. That is why they are potentially powerful.

So I don’t think it was unethical to out Grog’s Gamut. But there is no doubt that it was a bit mean.

The justification given by The Australian — that Grog’s Gamut had influenced policy at the ABC — is fairly hollow. The evidence was a line in a speech that ABC managing director Mark Scott gave in a at the Public Interest Journalism Foundation’s New News 2010 conference earlier this month.

I organised the conference, and compared the speech. The name Grog’s Gamut came up as part of a general point about response to criticism of election coverage. Nothing is added to our understanding of what occurred at the ABC by knowing Jericho’s identity.

Nor is there anything in the claim that Jericho has done anything improper. Nothing about his role as a public servant precludes him from engaging in normal political and public activities. The Australian looks pathetic and pretentious for pretending otherwise.

The unanswered question is — why now? Jericho claims that journalist James Massola has known his identity for almost a year. I rang Massola yesterday evening to ask if this was true.

But Massola, like Jericho, is not doing interviews at present.

But I think we all know the reason. Grog’s Gamut’s increasing public prominence made his identity a story — if only to journalists and politically engaged Twitterers. A year ago, it wasn’t a story.

This was just a good yarn — and all journalists like writing good yarns.  If you doubt that it was a story, then look at the reaction.

The Australian would be better off just publishing it, and dropping all the silly swagger about duty and public interest. The comparisons to writers such as Helen Demidenko and Darville are also nonsense. Demidenko pretended to be someone she was not. Jericho simply declined to say who he was.

Several outcomes are possible now. Grog’s Gamut may be silenced. He may use a new pseudonym. He may move in to professional journalism.

Personally, I hope we don’t lose him from public life. He is a good read.

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49 comments

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49 thoughts on “Simons: it wasn’t unethical to name Grog’s Gamut

  1. Seneca

    To use your term, Margaret, “Bollocks”. Publishing a pseudonymous blogger’s name without his/her permission is unethical. By doing so, the Oz is diminished even further as a responsible news outlet.

  2. shepherdmarilyn

    Privacy doesn’t count then Margaret? Surely the journalists so-called code of ethics only means journalists and not any old blogger?

    Last year the Australian decided to defame me in an editorial, I have no idea which moron at the paper wrote it and I will never be told. They had written the first of many editorials claiming we have to breach the law and send refugees away and that to my mind is genocidal.

  3. reb of Hobart

    “It wasn’t unethical…”

    Whatever….. 🙄

    It hasn’t stopped The Oz from just “making stuff up” (again) in order to try an garner support for Massalo’s unwarranted attack on Grog’s Gamut.

    Today the Oz alleges that James Massalo has been “threatened” by twitter users following the publication of his tirade! But doesn’t bother to back this bizarre claim up with any evidence…

    http://guttertrash.wordpress.com/2010/09/28/the-australian-accused-of-just-making-stuff-up-again/

  4. edwardb

    What about Henry Thornton? Jack the Insider? Surely, if there is no ethical conundrum, the Oz is obligated to say who they are now?

  5. Daniel

    Being defamed by The Australian is basically a badge of honour, Marilyn. It means you’re doing the right thing. 🙂

  6. Daniel

    Also reminder that Christian Kerr currently writes for The Australian. His previous journo gig was writing for Crikey under the pseudonym “Hillary Bray”. His reports were described by Stephen Mayne as “insight from a government insider”.

  7. Julius

    Margaret Simons: you are right about it being acceptable to name Greg Jericho as the otherwise pseudonymous blogger and right about the unnecessary humbug that the Australian has indulged in.

    If Greg Jericho was doing something wrong qua public servant in blogging as he has been doing then it was certainly right for him to be outed. If not, and he wants to remain pseudonymous, then he should not confide in anyone he can’t trust, and his complaint, if he has one, is against James Massola.

    If someone pretends to know who I am and publishes widely that I am the well-known retired clergyman Bill Knox then I can’t complain. If I am Bill Knox I can say that I am but, next time I choose a pseudonym I won’t disclose it to that rat Jimmy Blabbermouth; or I can coolly deny it and claim that I am indeed Julius Caesar Trumpington, or not, as the fancy takes me without my basic honesty being in question any more than if I claim (pseudonymously) on a blog that I am 115 years old and remember well what Billy Hughes said at the first big referendum campaign rally on conscription.

    (To make it clear: if my true name was Dr John Smyth, and, using that name in a blog and correctly identifying myself, I put my authority as well known chemist behind some blatant falsehood I would indeed put my basic honesty in question).

    It is a pity that the Australian has obscured the simple truth that the blogger’s identity and occupation was clearly a small, but still newsworthy, fact which it was a newspaper’s right to publish, with rather more justification than the latest news about a footballer’s knee.

  8. Julius

    @ EDWARDB

    “What about Henry Thornton? Jack the Insider? Surely, if there is no ethical conundrum, the Oz is obligated to say who they are now?”

    1. What possible *obligation* does the Oz have to publish such information? What is your reasoning? I suspect you are too intellectually lazy, even if capable, to give a sensible, let alone convincing, answer to that, because

    2. You are obviously too lazy to use Google to find the answer which stares you in the face.

  9. klewso

    It’s like the last episode of Zorro :- his being cornered and unmasked, finally, by Sergeant Demetrio Lopez Garcia, and the rest of the “Limited News garrison”, isn’t it?

  10. Jackol

    To me the issue is more of ‘where is the public interest’.

    As a public servant, Grog was/is obliged to keep his professional and personal views separate – his pseudonym was a good mechanism for doing that, and there is no suggestion that he improperly managed the dissociation between the two.

    As a private citizen, Grog is entitled to maintain his privacy.

    The only justification for ‘outing’ him would be if there was a reasonable public interest perspective in doing so. The Australian has offered up some piss weak rationales (just as channel 7 offered up risible justifications for their outing of David Campbell) – the weakness of their offerings is fairly damning evidence that there was no public interest being served by their actions.

  11. paddy

    Bullying is generally unethical Margaret, and that’s what the Australian was doing by outing Grog.

    I suspect that they’re hoping he’ll stop blogging on politics because he’s managed to make their own stable of opinionistas look as lame as they really are.

    The reaction of journalists from other outlets has been equally revealing.
    Lots of suggestions that he give up his “real” job and become one of them.
    (Never mind the fact that he’s stated he’s quite happy in his current job and blogs as a hobby.)

    That frisson of discomfort, that radiated through the MSM during the election still remains.
    An “outsider” writes better copy than they can! Shock, horror!
    Quick. Kill him off, or bring him into the tent.

    Let’s hope he remains a public servant who blogs. God knows, the P.S. needs good people and the blogoshpere would be a lesser place without him.

  12. klewso

    Did they mention what was probably (on form) “the real reason”? “The Competition – doing better than they deserved, as deemed by us”?
    As such staunch advocates, this is really just another practical example of how they really think “the free market should work” – on their terms, to their benefit – and “whatever it takes”, to retain that “balance”?

  13. Julius

    Isn’t it always at least a modestly interesting item of information to know that some insider’s views or alleged facts are supported (or could – or should in honesty be) by the nature and location of his insider’s position?

    Separate but related test question: Wouldn’t you want to know if some of the wild advice handed about on financial matters could be sourced to a Goldman Sachs employee blogging in his leisure hours?

  14. Jackol

    Julius – it’s the nature of blogging and social media that anyone and everyone will be putting their opinions, ideas, genuine news, loopy conspiracy theories etc out there. As browsers of the internet we all know this, and you have to make allowances for the fact that there’s a lot of (a) misinformation, (b) vested interests, (c) crazy people. That’s just the way it is. You find writers whom you like/trust/are entertained by, sites that attract people who seem to have worthwhile things to say, and you stick with them.

    This notion that as consumers of the above we deserve to know who all these bloggers/social media participants are (and what does that mean anyway? their real name? their job? all their investments? their spouses? their spouses’ jobs? the fact that their neighbour works for big tobacco? where does it end) is just silly.

    Sure, traditional media and journalism is (and should be) held to a higher standard – we DO want to know what may be influencing their stated viewpoints and how they report news, and we have a right to know this because the media organizations and journalists claim the authority of being formally part of the media. Bloggers, generally, claim no such authority, and so shouldn’t be held to the same level.

    In Grog’s case, as he basically said, the issue was that his informal blogging was actually successful enough to threaten the established media’s authority – not because he claimed the authority, but because of the lack of quality of the MSM etc. Until a blogger makes a claim to be a journalist, we don’t (and News Limited doesn’t) have a right to hold that blogger to the standards of a professional journalist.

    This whole notion that ‘lines are being blurred’ is a furphy – until someone is being paid as a journalist, they’re just a random member of the public and should be treated as such (and their privacy respected if they wish to maintain it).

  15. paddy

    In a further shocking development.
    Uncle Rupert seeks to gather more click revenue for his tawdry tactics by paying Jay Rosen for his (admittedly worthwhile) input. 🙂

    [I don’t think The Australian has made much of an argument at all. It seems to have declared war on any blogger who 1.) influences public debate and 2.) chooses to remain anonymous.]
    http://tinyurl.com/2bjpfbe

  16. sickofitall

    As usual, the media, wearing their new clothes, as designed for the Emperor, are called on it. Should barely-literate journalists give opinions? Or should experts? Certainly, when a public servant breaks his or her impartiality, then they should be discipliined. But, anonymously, where you can have a divide between what you think, and what you have to do, where’s the issue? Myles NaGopaleen, Alfred Deakin and several others did it anyway… so, the Oz: remember – you are tiny guppies swimming in a small pond. Thinking people stopped reading you years ago.

  17. Julius

    @ JACKOL

    You are answering a point I didn’t make.

    “This notion that as consumers of the above we deserve to know who all these bloggers/social media participants are……. is just silly.”

    No dispute there. Of course we don’t deserve anything like that.

    Nor am I defending the reasons the Oz has given for publishing Greg Jericho’s name or the suggestion that there is any great merit in doing so. But, unless you tell me that the merits of his blogging, which I haven’t read, are without any relation to his standing as a public servant or source of knowlege or expertise by reason of being a public servant or of being a public servant in a particular position then the arguments I last put about his identity being of some understandable and defensible interest to many people stand. Another test question: supposing his views (and I admit that I haven’t read them) emanated from an 85 year old retired prima ballerina living on a Barrier Reef Island would it not be of some interest to know that – precisely because people were beginning to take the blogger’s views seriously?

  18. baal

    I know there are some poor souls who think the Australian does have some redeeming features – even people who don’t work for it – but it is a doomed prospect which survives because Rupert is sentimental about print and it is one of the only papers he started rather than bought from someone else. I think to expect ethics and/or taste from such a gang is to be marginally deluded. The quality of the thinking of the opinion writers, whether they be ‘serious’ like Paul Kelly or the journalistic equivalent of a fascinator – Janet Albrechtsen – they are limited people always looking over their shoulder to gauge what either the powers-that-be or the ordinary folk are thinking. In other words, born followers who imagine people are much nastier than they are – and as such destined to disappear. Probably sooner than we hope.

  19. Jackol

    Julius, my point was that the internet is flooded with information from people whom we know nothing about. We don’t expect to necessarily know anything about them beyond what they present themselves. Why is Grog any different because he was mentioned by Mark Scott, in passing, once? Or that he gets 1000 hits a day (which isn’t massive by blog standards)?

    And I trust by saying “would it not be of some interest to know that” you haven’t pulled out the old ‘the public interest is what the public are interested in’…

  20. Margaret Simons

    A few points.

    Some people are making a comparison between the Grog outing and David Campbell and Channel Seven. The cases are entirely different. Massola exposed Grog only in relation to his public activities. Campbell was “outed” concerning his private life. That is a big and crucial difference. If Massola had revealed anything about Grog’s private life, I would utterly condemn the conduct. (I was one of the signatories of a petition condemning Channel Seven in the Campbell case).

    Second, I wrote that while I didn’t think outing Grog was UNETHICAL, I did think it was MEAN. Paddy’s word, bullying, might be equally relevant. I don’t disagree with him. And I think my piece made it clear that I think there was negligible public interest in the outing. But it was not UNETHICAL conduct to out him. Sad, but not unethical.

  21. Jackol

    Margaret, I only made the comparison with David Campbell in the sense that a (very very weak) defense mounted in both cases for the outing was that it was in the public interest, whereas I don’t think either ‘outing’ had a public interest basis.

    I also disagree that Massola’s exposing was only in relation to his public activities – one’s job and one’s name are part of your personal information that should still be able to kept private, even while participating in public life. Do you need to know my profession before I can make this comment? If I was a prostitute, or a debt collector, or a parking enforcement officer or a taxation compliance officer, is this something that I need to disclose, or that I might reasonably want to remain private?

  22. Margaret Simons

    @jackol I agree that neither outing had a public interest base.

    And no, I don’t need to know your identity.

    But on the other hand the fact that you are participating in a public forum means that you should not assume that everyone has agreed to keep it private. You are in public space here, not private space.

    Revealing your identity might be a mean thing to do, but to call it unethical is to suggest much more than that.

    In some cases, it MIGHT be in the public interest to reveal your identity. Suppose you were Stephen Conroy’s chief of staff, for example. Or the editor of The Australian Or of The Age.

    It is routine for writers of letters to the editor to be named, except in special circumstances. It is routine for speakers at public forums, such as council meetings or other public meetings, to introduce themselves. Nothing inherently unreasonable in that.

  23. Jackol

    It is routine for writers of letters to the editor to be named, except in special circumstances. It is routine for speakers at public forums, such as council meetings or other public meetings, to introduce themselves. Nothing inherently unreasonable in that.

    Heh. That’s heading back to Atkinson’s attempt during the SA election ironically enough.

    I think we’re basically agreeing. I’m just moderately concerned that this notion that we have a reasonable right to privacy is not given enough weight. Yes, Massola knew who Grog was; Grog could have kept his real identity better hidden by staying away from public events or being more secretive. In that sense he didn’t protect his privacy as much as he could have, and perhaps that means his identity was therefore fair game for Massola.

    However. That doesn’t tally with other notions of what privacy we are reasonably entitled to. Snaps of celebrities exercising at the gym through the window. Rifling through our rubbish to work out what magazine subscriptions we have. Spending the time to tie what is on the public record together to provide a potted employment, emotional, residential, financial history. This is all potentially public information, with enough digging on the part of the journalist. I wouldn’t think that any of this is reasonable to publish without the public interest justification.

    So, to summarize, just because something is known by the journalist doesn’t make it reasonable to publish (obviously). It’s not reasonable for a journalist to publish that interconnectivity information about me. I don’t see why it is reasonable to publish it about Grog. (Again, if there is no public interest justification).

    We’ve kind of agreed that there wasn’t really a public interest justification in Grog’s information being published. Without that justification I would argue that it was a violation of Grog’s reasonable right to privacy – privacy being not a monolithic thing, but of the information that we choose to keep private in a particular context.

    Whether that pushes it over into being unethical; you suggest it does not. To me, even if it’s not that serious an issue in the grander scheme of things, the fact that it was published not for public interest reasons, but for some baser agenda on the part of News Limited pushes it into being unethical.

  24. Rod Hagen

    One danger in these sorts of situations is that the arguments on “principle” that surround the Grog issue may be applied by the same people in situations where the consequences could be far more drastic.

    If News Ltd start invoking some sort of “public right to know” argument in any situation where a blogger and the “public interest” is involved , then spare a thought for those in other places where the results may be far more dire. News Ltd don’t only operate in Australia where Grog may “only” risk losing something like his job as a result. I’d hate it if they applied the same “principles” to other anonymous bloggers elsewhere who might lose something far more precious .

  25. baal

    The issue of anonymity: Aside from the occasional columnist like the late Auberon Waugh and the equally late Paul Foot the British satirical (and investigative) magazine Private Eye (which started in 1960) has never published signed articles in fifty years. It sometimes gets things wrong and has to apologise and has even had to pay out sums in damages but the tradition continues. There are a few po-faced twerps who look down on it, but many many more use it as a vehicle for material they could not get published in the MSP. Oh yes and for decades before Murdoch took it over, the Times journalists were all anonymous.

  26. Diogenes

    “Blogging and Tweeting are public acts. That is why they are potentially powerful.”

    Hmm. And leaking to a journalist who will publish isn’t? Great argument. Do they toss you out of journalism school if you have a three-digit IQ or do they beat the stupidity into you?

  27. Julius

    @ BAAL

    It wasn’t just The Times which had a rule of anonymity once. “Our Canberra Correspondent” was supposed to write as a dispassionate professional and it was by odd coincidence a senior Murdoch man who, many years ago, lamented the effects of giving scope to the egos of journalists by giving them all personal bylines. Of course newspaper business owners would have been seeing the marketing advantages of featuring people with names as their writers.

    @JACKOL

    Your difference with Margaret Simons (and me) seems to be your claim for people to be able to demand an enlarged rigtht to privacy and therefore a duty on the rest of us not to disclose what we know whether to entertain or to use fairly or unfairly in debate (a debate entered upon by the would be anonymous debater voluntarily). The absence of public interest is surely only of great weight if the disclosure of information the pseudonymous person doesn’t want disclosed will do him significant harm (not just embarrassment which doesn’t amount to objective harm). In Jericho’s case that would only be true if he had done something wrong or against public service rules. And if that were so, would he be entitled to complain. Indeed, might that not justify the humbug the Oz has uttered as its (unnecessary) justification for publishing his name.

  28. Jackol

    Julius,

    will do him significant harm (not just embarrassment which doesn’t amount to objective harm)

    Er, no. We expect that the press will not publish embarrassing information without permission when they have no justification for doing so. There isn’t necessarily any legal recourse for us, the public, when they do (ie it may not be defamatory, we may not be able to claim any damages), but that doesn’t make it ethical, justifiable, reasonable, or anything ending in ‘ull’.

    Say, eg, in my youth I dumped some of my exes in unfortunate and regrettable ways. Publication of that information would be mildly embarrassing for me. There is no public interest served in doing so, and I would expect (even if I were a public figure) that an ethical journalist would not publish those details.

    Or, eg, that I had invested money 10 years ago with someone who turned out to be a known con artist and lost the money. There might (just barely) be a justification for publishing such information if I was taking a position as a director of a major company, or treasurer of Western Australia, but as a generic blogger commenting on politics this potentially public information is not relevant, nor is it justifiable to publish it.

    It’s not an enlarged right to privacy. My point that privacy is not monolithic is about this notion that seems to be bandied about that once you step into the public sphere at all that all bets are off. It’s not true, and it shouldn’t be considered to be true. eg Bob Hawke’s infidelity issues. They were known, but not reported. He was most certainly a very public figure, and yet there were aspects of his life that were private and remained so, because there was no public interest in revealing them. My examples were of how journalists have the ability to dig up plenty of nominally public information and connect the dots in ways that provide an interconnected map of a person’s life that would not be visible to most people. The question is whether journalists are within their rights to publish that interconnectivity information, public or not, if there is no justifiable reason to do so.

    Again I ask does the fact that I’m publishing comments here under a pseudonym matter? Do you need to know my real name? Do you need to know what I do for a living? I don’t think that you do. I prefer to retain that anonymity. Your arguments (Julius and Margaret) appear to be that if a journalist (or anyone?) connected me to my ‘real’ persona they would be justified in trumpeting that I am Mr John Smith the Carpenter. I don’t think knowing that would change the nature of my comments, and I don’t think that if I wish to retain my anonymity that I should be obliged to refrain from making public comment.

    You also seem to be wheeling out the line ‘if he has nothing to hide then he has nothing to fear’, which is a classic line used by persecuting authorities since time immemorial.

  29. Julius

    @ JACKOL

    I agree with most of your analysis but would probably come down in favour of letting journalists (reptiles though many are) have their heads more often than you would. For example, I infer from what you said about Hawke’s infidelities that you might also have approved the French media’s silence on Mitterand’s mistresses and extra-marital daughter to the point where the great unwashed wouldn’t even have known of it in the most general terms.

    I remember being told by a young man who had just been in Washington DC about the JFK sexual exploits and I thought he was big noting himself, encouraged by my seniors to think that no President would do such risky things. My point is that inside the Beltway people knew but the mass of American voters had very little idea what a lot of sleazy crooks the Kennedys were (as well as courageous in their different ways and public-spirited in some ways too – but that last got plenty of publicity).

    An important distinction is between identifying a person by name or otherwise so it can be known who the pseudonymous person is and noting something interesting and possibly significant in some way such as a person’s occupation or affiliations. It would be rather intriguing and food for thought if someone said, and I believed, that you were a transexual prostitute. More interesting, and actually worth something, if you were said to be a retired appeal court judge because that would add weight to your opinion and offer insight into the way of thought of the judiciary (possibly) but also make one aware that one didn’t automatically defer to the logic and reasoning of a senior judge for reasons that one might want to consider but would probably find satisfying.

    You rightly questioned my suggestion that embarrassment might be OK. I would make a distinction between the fact that someone might in fact be embarrassed because, e.g. a normally private person was exposed to public gaze and mad imaginings of what the largely indifferent public might think or because he or she had some idiosyncratic private worry about a weakness or fault not readily observable by others and not actually exposed by the unwanted disclosure, AND, on the other hand, might be embarrassed by something damaging because e.g. it disclosed unkind words thoughtlessly used about a friend.

  30. Chris Johnson

    Margaret – I’m sure the Fair Work Ombudsman would have delivered Grogs a more objective outcome than The Australian’s new industrial relations machine.

  31. Chas

    Surely being mean is in of itself unethical? Nitpicking I know.

  32. harrybelbarry

    Rupert’s running the Titanic at full speed into the unknown seas of the Internet and will hit the ice-berg because its steering hard Right. Look on the bright side of life Grog’s got more people following him and will get more hits , while the American / Saudi owned rag won’t last longer than the cocky shitting on it in his cage. I don’t even click on any of Rupert’s sites and will never buy anything of his. Don’t feed the biggest TROLL.

  33. MANNIK

    (((But on the other hand the fact that you are participating in a public forum means that you should not assume that everyone has agreed to keep it private. You are in public space here, not private space.)))

    Is that right Marg?

    If so, then you just single handedly muted 10,000 subscribers who by now are probably unsubscribing.

  34. paddy

    There’s a very thoughtful and insightful piece put up by (ex) anonymous blogger Dave Gaukroger this morning.
    Well worth a read.
    [There’s a lot of back and forth about the ethics of unmasking an anonymous blogger, but I think a lot of it is talking at cross purposes because most of the journalists genuinely do not understand why a blogger would use a pseudonym and therefore begin with the attitude that there is something that needs to be uncovered.]
    http://blog.dfg77.net/2010/09/29/outing-an-amateur/

  35. Julius

    @ CHAS

    Nits are rather small: not surprising you missed it. “Ethics” usually connotes either theorising in contrast to consulting the mores of the tribe (morality) or a set of specialised rules for a particular profession or situation. Here I think it is pretty clear that the ethics are those of journalism which, like the ethics of the legal profession, doesn’t forbid meanness.

    Interesting however, to consider why one wouldn’t call meanness in the way Margaret uses it “immoral”. It is certainly contrary to the accepted customs of the tribe to be mean but, IMO, one wouldn’t call such meanness immoral and the way Margaret raised the question of meanness tends to prove that.

    @MANNIK

    Aren’t you being a little hysterical? To start with who are all these subscribers (to every blog potentially but perhaps you mean Crikey) whose anonymity is so important to them and, a necessary part of your final bit of rhetoric, are likely unsubscribe because they fear that Crikey will out them (on the basis that Crikey has the electronic record connecting email address and pseudonym – or are they all supposed to have false friends in whom they have confided and who may out them? In which latter case it is a bit late, ain’t it?) ?

    Test question? You go into a public space for a protest rally but don’t want Great Aunt Maud to know that you support the Ban the Whales movement so you borrow your sister-in-law’s second best niqab, go to the rally and borrow a “Ban Wales (sic)” banner to wave in the air. However a sharp eyed journo notices your store manager’s ID label which you have forgotten to unpin from your jacket and outs you as Ian Kenneth Mann of the Dept of Environment and Sustainability where you actually perform only IT functions. Were you not venturing into a public space where your apparent attempt to remain anonymous almost guaranteed interest in who you are and challenged others to defeat your purpose (because you are, after all, knowingly going into battle, albeit a non-violent campaign)? I can think of differences with blogs but are the differences significant?

  36. tiwebbee

    @JULIUS

    A long long time ago i was on some forum and some guy who mistakingly thought he worked out my real ID and sort of threatened me in a joking and “semi” harmless way to out me.

    I did n’t respond and ignored him ( forgave him ) and moved on to another topic.

    Fast forward to another time and I bumped into him again on another forum and this time I was acting the goat and applied a bit of innocent horse-play to him the same way he did to me previously, but he SPAT it and could n’t see the funny side of it…BTW I believe no damage was done either way, well I certainly hope so to say the very least.

    We all make mistakes and we all say and do things we later regret….not sure where this going so I better end it.

  37. DAAT

    @JULIUS

    ***ain’t it?) ?***

    Now that’s. ..hysterical!!!

    @ TIWEBBE

    I think you mistook Julius for Jackol.

  38. MANNIK

    JULIUS

    (((Here I think it is pretty clear that the ethics are those of journalism which, like the ethics of the legal profession, doesn’t forbid meanness.)))

    Oh, you don’t really mean that.

  39. Julius

    @ MANNIK

    Yes I do because, if you read my comment again, you will see that I am referring to a formal code of ethics of a profession or occupational group.

    @DAAT

    “ain’t it” – yes, nicely old-fashioned, don’t you think? Dowager language of the 20s perhaps, therefore suitable to keeping the tone light in the 21st century…..

    @ TIWEBBE

    I was about to have a dig at the idea that all the effort of forgiving someone might be worthwhile in a context of anonymity when it occurred to me that your equation of ignoring with forgiving was more interesting. Don’t you suspect that most forgiving is just shrugging the shoulders and ignoring, not exactly forgetting but feeling that no more emotion or thought should be invested in whatever it was?

  40. Alphonse

    The guy writing for the Australian under the pseudonym of Greg Sheridan is Dick Cheney.

    This will be remembered long after the name Jericho fades from memory because it contains a relevant untruth rather than an irrelevant truth.

  41. Julius

    @ ALPHONSE

    Are you sure it is not Tommy Suharto though the thought inspires me to wonder how close GS might be to that remarkable evangelical Indonesian-Chinese Old Caulfield Grammarian James Riady. I don’t think he was at school with Ron Walker but he is certainly big time in the political business because he had to pull lots of strings to get back into the US for a child’s graduation after having had to pay the largest ever fine in the US for electoral finance malpractice – helping the Clintons……

  42. baal

    I think Mr Sherida has been channelling the shade of BA Santamaria and would regard that as a badge of honour. He’s a smug chappie who never entertains the idea that fighting the Cold War may now be somewhat off-message.

  43. Syd Walker

    In many respects, this incident has been Australia’s perfect storm in a stubbie.

    It has journalists and twitterers tweeting, blogging, writing serious articles (that’s mainly down t0 journos and ‘reputable bloggers’, of course) – and in general happily debating the nuances of privacy and the right to know in this day and age, what with this social media thingy and all that…

    All fine… for a distraction. A safe way for people to let off steam about the widely-reviled News Corp and its power in our society.

    After all, Greg Jericho’s articles are typically well written and insightful, but nothing really radical. They cover ground that’s quite safe to debate within the mainstream. His blog stays well clear of major cultural taboos of this era.

    If Greg’s articles had appeared as a regular feature in the Oz (“Grog the Insider”, perhaps?) I doubt many people would have thought much of it, except a handful of folk suprised to notice a momentary improvement in News Corps’ standard of prose.

    I say this not to be mean to Grog. It was/is an interesting blog, which he pulls together on top of many other commitments. Good on him. Impressive. But it just isn’t much different from intelligent commentary within the mainstream discourse either – which is why, I suspect, people like Mark Scott were amenable to its message and felt safe to comment about it.

    I myself sent a couple of tweets to Mark Scott shortly before this incident erupted – messages unconnected with #groggate. However, there is a common thread because my appeals are for fair and honest media coverage of the important political issues of our times.

    When these get a reply to these messages – either directly to me, or better by the ABC taking ACTION on the essence of my complaint – I’ll know the ‘new media paradigm’ is more than a nu brand name.
    _____________

    (1) For heavens sake @abcmarkscott, WHEN will ABC cover the story of Building What? http://tiny.cc/1n911 – 26 Sep

    Followed later in the day by:

    (2) @abcmarkscott If you CAN’T tell the truth about Building What? http://tiny.cc/1n911 RESIGN & SAY WHY – 26 Sep

  44. baal

    @SYD – I can’t imagine why you would think Mark Scott would respond to your demand on Building What? Get a grip.

  45. Syd Walker

    My point, Baal, was not to suggest that a couple of shrill tweets will change the world.

    My point was to emphasise the level of frustration experienced by those of us – a very significant number by now – who know with certainty that the western mass media has been playing the Emperor’s Clothes game regarding the issue to which I referred.

    The unprecedented free-fall collapse of the 47-storey Building 7 in the WTC (aka ‘Building What?’), an event not even mentioned in the initial 9-11 inquiry(!), demonstrates in one fell swoop that the official explanation of the 9-11 atrocity that launched the ‘war on terror’ is an absurd lie.

    It’s now more than nine years, two major wars, hundreds of anti-civil liberties laws, hundreds of thousands of deaths,millions of refugees and at least a trillion dollars of additional military expenditure later. Under those circumstances, one might imagine SOMEONE in the Australian media might break the embargo in this country on reporting the collapse of Building 7 on that fateful day, September 11th 2001. One media outlet at least? The ABC? Fairfax? Crikey?

    But no, the paid commentariat chat on about Groggate,the footie … anything except the crucial foundation myth of the War on Terror. If they discuss Afghanistan, it’s to look at practically every aspect under the sun except to consider the reason the invasion was allegedly launched in the first place – a reason still invoked – and whether that reason has ANY validity at all.

    The behaviour of the western mass media – as a whole – since 9-11 has been simply disgraceful. Within all the Anglosphere, the Australian media is probably the most shameful of all.

    I realise this is off-topic in a strict sense. But that’s the problem – there’s never an opportunity to discuss it ON-topic. As this thread is at least in part about media credibility and ethics, it seems to me sufficiently relevant to disucss here and I thank Margaret for allowing my comments. If anyone wishes to debate 9-11 or quiz me further on the topic, they’re welcome to post critical comments on my own blog where it’s discussed in numerous articles.

  46. Julius

    @ Syd Walker

    Here, from a hardnosed one-time Washington DC insider who had questions about 9/11 is a nicely satirical take on some of the conspiracy stories:

    http://fredoneverything.net/PFO.shtml

    Isn’t the killer fact the reality that a real airliner went down in Pennsylvania after several recorded telephone calls with passengers and another flew straight into the Pentagon?

    Aha, but of course: the CIA is not nearly as incompetent as is generally supposed and the Saudi citizens plot was well known to the Agency. What a great opportunity to get rid of the true embarrassment, namely Building 7……. Or was it a fund-raising hit by the CIA on a Mafia target? Let’s settle for something confined to politics and government. Your imagination is as good as mine.

  47. Syd Walker

    @ Julius

    1/ Phone calls:
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=16924

    2/ Fred On Everything
    Personally I don’t joke about mass murder, but each to his own.

  48. Julius

    @ Syd Walker

    1. Your link about phone calls didn’t tell me anything because it didn’t show anything beyond suggesting it had something to do with BP’s little mishap in the Gulf. No doubt people made phone calls from the rig but I can’t guess what the rest of the connection may be.

    2. “I don’t joke about mass murder” is OK as sanctimonious rhetoric but doesn’t advance your case much. On reflection I suppose the accusation is against me rather than the hardbitten former Marine Fred of Fredoneverything who just writes a column of a certain readable style to make his points. But both of us were, if “joking” about anything, joking about the usual style of the conspiracy mongers.

    In the end, apart from some such fanciful explanation as I concocted at the end of my last post, I can’t see how one gets away from the fact that four airliners were hijacked and crashed deliberately with our without other particular details that I am not interested in arguing about or investigating unless given much better reason than anyone has so far given me.

    I have always thought the Iraq invasion dubiously justified at best and, if asked what to do about Afghanistan and its providing a haven for Al Qaeda it would never have occurred to me that occupying it (with insufficient numbers of troops) and trying a democratic makeover rather than just bombing the sh1t out of the Taliban until they kicked Al Qaeda out was the way to go.

  49. Syd Walker

    Julius. I suggest we take this debate elsewhere if you wish to continue it.

    One possible place to do that is by commenting on my recent article “Naked Lies & Long Noses: from Watergate to #Groggate”

    A discussion specifically about the facts of 9-11 would not be out of place here. Out of respect for Margaret and Crikey, who don’t write about the topic as of 4th October 2010, let’s leave it at that on this thread.

    http://sydwalker.info/blog/2010/10/01/naked-lies-long-noses-from-watergate-to-groggate/

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