Stephen Mayne says he learnt how to say sorry from the tumultuous first five years of Crikey‘s life, which included a defamation case that eventually claimed his house.

“The secret that I learnt with the Steve Price litigation and the Nick Bolkus litigation, the former Labor senator and we paid him $25,000, was that at the first sign of trouble, apologise, bow and scrape and mitigate the risk.” Mayne says he didn’t always have that policy, and that is what landed him in hot water.

“The thing I did with both of them is I provoked them, I further antagonised them.”

As part of Crikey‘s 15th birthday celebrations, we spoke to Mayne at his Templestowe house, the final Crikey bunker before the website was sold to Private Media in 2005. Mayne was sued for defamation by Steve Price in 2001, resulting in a payout of $50,000 to Price after the injunction of the sale of Mayne’s house.

“It was absolute war, it was civil contempt of court, it was seeking exemplary damages, it was an injunction on the sale of the house, it was suing me personally, suing Crikey, so it was a massive piece of litigation.”

“Justice Bongiorno, the former DPP in Victoria, heard a separate hearing just on the freezing of the sale proceeds, and he chose to freeze $40,000 out of $110,000 of equity, and we settled for $50,00 the next week.”

The court cases meant that early in Crikey‘s life, Mayne was forced to develop a “generous corrections policy” to avoid landing in more legal hot water.

“Subsequent to that I had a policy of that, when I had a little whisper that someone was upset, I would write something that would try and neutralise their feelings. It’s just a risk-management thing — I say that always have a very generous corrections policy. Sometimes people said ‘oh Crikey‘s not very accurate’ and that was partly because I was so busily over-correcting, or being far more honest with corrections as a litigation-mitigation strategy, and I think that’s the key lesson I learnt.”

This video is the first of a series of three in which Stephen Mayne talks about the history of Crikey.

Peter Fray

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