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Dec 9, 2010

Posetti to fight defo claim ... greenies head for Walkleys ... Fairfax staff walk ...

Senior editorial staff from Fairfax's Community Network division have walked ... The Australian's James Massola attacks the author of Fairfax's WikiLeaks scoops ...

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Posetti will fight Mitchell on defamation claim. Canberra University journalism academic Julie Posetti will fight the defamation action brought against her by Chris Mitchell, the editor-in-chief of The Australian newspaper. In a letter to Mitchell’s lawyers, Blake Dawson, the vice chancellor of the University of Canberra, Stephen Parker, has announced that Posetti will not be apologising for a series of tweets at a recent conference of journalism educators in Sydney.

At that conference a former Australian journalist, Asa Wahlquist, claimed that writing about human-induced climate change at the paper was “torture” due to Mitchell’s tendency to dictate coverage of the issue. Parker’s letter, posted today on his university blog, reveals that Posetti will accept Mitchell’s offer to attend The Australian newsroom to observe its editorial practices on the condition that Mitchell reciprocates by attending some lectures at the university to discuss the issue with students.

Posetti will claim the defence known as “fair report of proceedings of public concern” under section 29 the Defamation Act 2005 because she asserts that her reports were a fair representation of Wahlquist’s comments. She also claims to have a common law defence of qualified privilige. Posetti has declined Mitchell’s invitation to attend mediation at this stage. — Andrew Dodd

Greening the Walkley Awards. Of the 35 gongs to be handed out at tonight’s Walkley Awards for journalistic excellence, none are for environmental reporting. That has upset a group of policy wonks and green advocates, who have signed a letter denouncing the Walkley Foundation for not recognising reporting of environmental issues. They write, in part:

One of the roles of the Walkley Advisory Board is to ensure the integrity and independence of the awards.

In addition to the awards which recognise media forms, from current affairs to cartooning, there are also topic awards for business, international, indigenous, community and regional, sports and social equity journalism.

There is no Walkley award for environmental problems or their solutions.

Clean energy and climate change are the biggest environmental issues facing in the world of 2010. They have powerful impacts on economy, society, technology, science and national security. This presents complex, controversial and challenging decisions for reporters and senior, editorial staff.

Why should some of the most important public interest journalism continue to be under-recognised by Australia’s most prestigious awards?

We believe that the Walkley Advisory Board should instigate a process to bring about a new award for 2011, that would recognise achievement in reporting of clean energy and climate change. This award should also be open to sponsorship, through a process that safeguards its independence and integrity.

The letter has been signed by clean energy manufacturers, policy analysts, academics, GetUp! national director Simon Sheik and Greens MLC Greg Barber. Many will sit together at the Crown Casino gala tonight on a table they’ve dubbed the “clean energy table”. — Jason Whittaker

More Fairfax turmoil: FCN senior staff walk. Turmoil has gripped Victoria’s Fairfax Community Network after the publisher’s veteran editor Alison Dean and chief-of-staff Christie Peucker quit yesterday. The departures, which are yet to be formally announced, come just weeks after a bitter industrial dispute in which Fairfax management offered journalists a below-inflation wage deal.

The upheaval leaves Dan Stock as the only member of the editorial leadership team on the floor going into 2011. Dean will now join the mass-circulation RoyalAuto magazine as managing editor, replacing Neil Spark who is moving to Tasmania. To complete the circle, Spark was a former Melbourne Weekly editor before shifting to Dean’s new position.

Dean and Peucker’s departures will cause further tumult inside Fairfax’s Media House HQ, after 30-year Melbourne Times stalwart and head of photography Peter Weaving also resigned recently to move to Bendigo. Questions persist over the tenure of general manager Colin Moss, who some insiders believe is focused too heavily on commercial imperatives at the expense of editorial. Journalists on the suite of suburban publications are widely-thought to be the ailing group’s greatest asset, however senior management appear reluctant to engage and hire new talent.

“There is complete ignorance of management around editorial and its value,” one observer outside the Fairfax fishbowl said. “All of the publishers have been hired from advertising; no one has any idea about the effort that goes into the editorial side of the business.” — Andrew Crook

The Oz plays the man on WikiLeaks scoop. The Fairfax broadsheets are having a good week, thanks to their access to a selection of cables relating to Australia from WikiLeaks. Yesterday it was the uncomplimentary assessment of Kevin Rudd while he was PM, today the revelation that Senator Mark Arbib was a regular source of information for the US Embassy, and no doubt there will be plenty more to come over the coming days, or perhaps even weeks.

Without access to this material the journos at The Australian have had to either find other angles, or rewrite Fairfax copy. James Massola decided to do the former and came up with one of the strangest articles that has been run by The Oz this year, and I don’t say that lightly. Massola ran a story about the author of Fairfax’s WikiLeaks articles, Philip Dorling, who he formerly worked with at The Canberra Times.

No one can be sure of the motivation behind the piece, obviously, but it doesn’t even seem to add anything to the discussion of WikiLeaks potential impact in Australia. In fact, all that it does seem tell us is that Fairfax’s Dorling has better contacts in Canberra than Massola. Full points to James for the cloak-and-dagger element that he tried to add though:

… the normal rules did not apply to the new national affairs correspondent.

Maybe it was simply the overimaginative minds of journalists, but his trademark trenchcoat and waxy, wan appearance immediately gave rise to whispers that Dorling may have been a former spook for Australia.

Maybe Dorling wore a trenchcoat because the weather in Canberra is often crappy, and his appearance is due to poor diet? I guess we’ll never know.

His first couple of big stories — one about the location of a new intelligence building in Canberra, the other drawing on a confidential document to reveal Australia’s high-priority spy targets — hardly dampened the speculation.

Amazing! A national affairs correspondent who finds stuff out and then writes stories about it, what next?

His increasingly infrequent appearances in the office (he was also a visiting fellow at the Australian Defence Force Academy) and his practice of often working remotely added to the mystery.

A mystery that, thus far, seems not to be any closer to being solved by our intrepid reporter.

At one point he let slip that he was being positively vetted for “a position”. No more information was forthcoming.

I wonder how many people at Fairfax Massola discussed his move to The Australian with at length?

Calls to Dorling’s mobile today met with no success. The number had been disconnected.

Surely that seals it. Has anyone you know changed their mobile phone number when they changed jobs? If you do, perhaps they’re a spook too? — Dave Gaukroger of Crikey blog Pure Poison

Is Julian Assange the person of the year?

“WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may be cooling his heels in a London jail, but he will likely be heartened by the news that with four days left in the voting, he is atop TIME’s voting for Person of the Year.” — WebNewser

Roy Greenslade: the romance of foreign reporting is gone

“He accepts that the old model of a foreign correspondent working from a fixed overseas bureau is no longer relevant in today’s world, and he observes: ‘All news organisations must ask where the risks and the opportunities are. And against this background, where does the primary public interest rest in bearing witness’?” — London Evening Standard

Aaron Sorkin on ‘deranged’ Palin’s TV show: ‘truly awful’

“So I don’t think I will save my condemnation, you phony pioneer girl. (I’m in film and television, Cruella, and there was an insert close-up of your manicure while you were roughing it in God’s country. I know exactly how many feet off camera your hair and make-up trailer was.)” — The Huffington Post

Time Out launches backpackers’ bible in Melbourne

“Entertainment, food and lifestyle title Time Out has launched into a second city, with a Melbourne website to accompany its Sydney website, monthly magazine and iPhone app.” — Mumbrella

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2 comments

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2 thoughts on “Posetti to fight defo claim … greenies head for Walkleys … Fairfax staff walk …

  1. klewso

    Is there to be fighting fund set up to finance Posetti’s defence – and, to add value for one’s money, will the case be covered in the national news, with all the attendent PR?

  2. Frank Campbell

    Asa Wahlquist’s environmental features for the Oz were invariably insightful and well-researched. Her most telling criticism of the paper is not the idiotic imbroglio over climate change, but her relegation to story-chasing and eventual resignation.

    Chris Mitchell’s use of defamation against Posetti is ridiculous: he’s in a powerful position to reply in the Oz. He just looks like a thin-skinned tweet-killer.

    As for the climate cult, the Oz is schizophrenic. So is the public. Both sides of the cult are ferociously intolerant. The Oz does everyone a favour by exposing the excesses and hypocrisy of both sides. Inadvertent fairness.

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