As most digitally connected media junkies will now know, last night the blogger Grog’s Gamut, real name Greg Jericho, after almost two weeks of silence, burst back in to song on Twitter with the words: “Wow! Damn is it ever good to be out of that mine #wherehasgrogbeen”.

And the celebrations broke out as everyone sent him congratulations, including the man who outed him, The Australian’s James Massola, who is now the man everyone on Twitter loves to hate.

Our own Bernard Keane responded pithily in retweeting Massola’s welcome back message with the prelude “what a c-nt”. That too was retweeted many times.

Grog now has 3569 followers (at the time of publication) on Twitter. This is equivalent to the circulation of a small town newspaper. And he has done it all through nothing other than the quality of his content, assisted in recent weeks by the notoriety The Australian has given him.

Nobody would give his blog any design awards. There are no tricks or moving pictures or attention paid to user experience. And who knows why the statue of David, or the Ralph Fiennes avatar on Twitter. It’s a mystery.

No, it’s all about the content. For political and current affairs junkies, content really IS king. Yes, really. Take note, mainstream media.

Grog was also back blogging last night with a spate of posts that gave the impression they had been cooking throughout his enforced silence.

The journalistic ethical implications of the Grog imbroglio have been raked over a great deal. But I think the most significant thing about his return is what it tells us about the public service.

I understand the decision to allow Grog to continue his blogging hobby was taken at the highest levels. He has been instructed to continue to observe the public service strictures that say he should not allow his personal political views to affect his duties. Since he always has observed these, that means no change.

Thus, the public service seems to have decided that blogging and tweeting, even when they are attracting audiences comparable to those of media outlets, are “political activities as part of normal community affairs” as mentioned in the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct. This means, it seems, that blogging is a citizen’s right, and public servants are therefore as entitled to do it as any other citizen, providing they separate their personal views on policy issues from their performance of their job.

It’s a significant shift, and we can now expect it to be reflected in other things, such as the Government’s attitude to the Government 2.0 agenda, which I have written about before.

I was thinking last night about the killing of mocking birds, and the words of Harper Lee’s hero Atticus Finch. It is a sin to kill a mockingbird because its does no harm, but brings pleasure. In this case, the mockingbird is not dead. Which is good, and interesting. Other mockingbirds can take heart. Particularly public service Tweeting mockingbirds

But I would continue to argue, as I have before that those taking part in public debate — be they bloggers, journalists or anyone else — have no automatic right to expect anonymity. This is public space. We should remember that.

Peter Fray

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