Chris Mitchell’s spokesperson says:

Editor in chief Editor In Chief of The Australian newspaper Chris Mitchell has invited Canberra academic Julie Posetti to visit the offices of The Australian newspaper to observe news conference, and see operations for herself.

Mitchell’s offer is contained in a legal letter send to Posetti yesterday, as part of the defamation proceedings that have become known as #twitdef.

Mitchell also seeks a written apology, denying allegations that he had ever “conducted himself in a manner that was coercive, debilitating, excruciating or tortuous.”

Mitchell continues to deny allegations that weren’t, in fact, made. Wahlquist did not say that Mitchell had tortured her. If you listen to the audio, you’ll find that Wahlquist said that writing about climate change at The Australian was “torture” because Mitchell saw it as a political rather than a scientific issue. That is demonstrably true. On The Australian‘s web site, stories about climate science aren’t placed with other stories about science under “Health & Science”, but grouped with political stories under “National Affairs”.

Wahlquist did not say that Mitchell stood behind her and dictated stories to her, but if she mentioned the relationship between climate change and the drought, editors would often remove that from her stories. This obviously wasn’t done for any scientific reason since those editors have no qualifcations to even judge it, but for political reasons.

You can read the letter here.

See also Stilgherrian: Note to The Australian: Twitter is not a newspaper

Update: More comment from Mitchell:

Mitchell responded: “I am amazed to see Richard finally stand up for a journalistic right. For decades he has supported every half-baked lawyerly argument against journalistic professional privilege. Now he supports the right of a Tweeter to tell blatant lies easily proven as such. Only at the (Sydney Morning) Herald, the spiritual home of all twits.”

Imagine if this guy was your boss! It would, dare I say, be excruciating.

Comments

  1. #1 Rosie Redfield
    December 1, 2010

    Um, ‘tortuous’ means twisted, not torturing or tortured.

  2. #2 Tim Lambert
    December 1, 2010

    Yes, but the demand letter uses “tortuous” to mean “likened to torture”.

  3. #3 stopmurdoch
    December 2, 2010

    True, but the adjective from “torture” is “torturous”.

    Chris’ attempts to un-shit his own nest are, on the other hand, quite tortuous!

    Surely such a learned wordsmith as Mitchell used the word he intended? Clever, yes?

  4. #4 Ezzthetic
    December 2, 2010

    Chris’ attempts to un-shit his own nest are, on the other hand, quite tortuous.

    Well, now he’s conducting himself in a manner that’s tortious.

  5. #5 stopmurdoch
    December 2, 2010

    A real ‘new media’ tortoise?

  6. #6 Donald Oats
    December 2, 2010

    And to continue punning, “I tort I taw a tweety bird”, ahhh maybe I’ll stick to my day job.

    Posetti has nothing to gain by walking around an office – she has surely seen a few offices before – so I fail to see why she should accept the oh so generous offer of CM to visit. Besides, if she said anything on-site, you can be sure it would end up in the paper in “tort”ured form.

    Alternative realities, there just isn’t anything else like them!

  7. #7 Paul Murray
    December 2, 2010

    Isn’t a “tort” a kind of legal action? Or a legl term of some kind. No relation to “torture”.

  8. #8 Jeremy C
    December 2, 2010

    Is this going to become dictionarygate?

  9. #9 stopmurdoch
    December 2, 2010

    Yes, “tort” is a legal term roughly translated as “a wrong”, so defamation is a “tort”.

    And to imagine that a friendly invite from News Ltd’s notoriously friendly lawyers to pop in for a visit to see what “really” happens in their completely professional editorial suite, on the condition that you sign this unreserved retraction and apology, would get any self-respecting critic onside is just ignorant.

    Poor old Chris is really getting torte all over his face!

  10. #10 Neven
    December 2, 2010

    She should go there wearing a ‘wire’ (hidden microphone) and try to provoke them into saying something that shows their true colours.

  11. #11 stopmurdoch
    December 2, 2010

    Good idea! She could sell it to ‘News Of The World’, they’re into that sort of gutter journalism.

  12. #12 Vagueofgodalming
    December 2, 2010

    That language is plainly not taut, and is in danger of verging on tautology.

    When Ms Wahlquist resigned due to ill health on September 27 this year. Ms Wahlquist personally thanked Mr Mitchell in writing

    One is reminded of those Private Eye Gnome columns:

    “Rumours of a rift between myself and Lord Gnome are utterly without foundation. In fact, in my resignation letter, which he was kind enough to dictate to me over the telephone, I thanked him for the many opportunities he has given me over the years.”

  13. #13 JamesA
    December 2, 2010

    This is getting silly. Here was me thinking overbearing editorial control was part and parcel of being in the Murdoch news empire. For instance, you hear so many stories about what goes on in the offices of The (UK) Sun, people just don’t care any more, so why bother defending it?

  14. #14 Zibethicus
    December 2, 2010

    8: Is this going to become dictionarygate?

    Twittergate.

  15. #15 Peter Forsythe
    December 2, 2010

    [sorry about the typos at the end - I'm on an iPad on which can't scroll the pane]
    …writing about climate change at The Australian was “torture” because Mitchell saw it as a political rather than a scientific issue..

    So what? I thought “the science was settled”? And I accept that it is, in large measure – past warming, the extent to which it’s AGW, the likely future warming, etc. Now it moves to the realm of what to do about it and you have the Stern and Garnaut Reports, inter alia, which cover both science and economics. Then it’s over to politics: because as soon as you start talking about taxes, ETS’s, incentives, changing building codes, and the whole panoply of suggested mitigating measures, you’re in the heart of politics.
    I went over to the link provided to the Australian, and didn’t see anything too egregious in where they have placed the stories. After all, we’re beyondnthe science, now, aren’t we, and into the realm of National Affairs, which is what politics is.

  16. #16 Peter Forsythe
    December 2, 2010

    …writing about climate change at The Australian was “torture” because Mitchell saw it as a political rather than a scientific issue.
    So what? I thought “the science was settled”? And I accept that it is, in large measure – re past warming, the extent to which it’s AGW, the likely future warming, etc. Now it moves to the realm of what to do about it and you have the Stern and Garnaut Reports, inter alia, which cover both science and economics. Then it’s over to politics: because as soon as you start talking about taxes, ETS’s, incentives, changing building codes, and the whole panoply of suggested mitigating measures, you’re in the heart of politics. I went over to the link provided to the Australian, and didn’t see anything too egregious in where they have placed the stories. After all, we’re beyond the science, now, aren’t we, and into the realm of National Affairs, which is what politics is.

  17. #17 Peter Forsythe
    December 2, 2010

    Oh dear…..apologies for the double post. It’s the iPad thing again…

  18. #18 Wow
    December 2, 2010

    > So what? I thought “the science was settled”?

    So argue with yourself if it’s you that thinks the science was settled.

    But why is what YOU think going on going to inform Mitchell’s actions?

    Are you posting under a false name?

  19. #19 PaulUK
    December 2, 2010

    Peter Forsythe working out what is going on in the climate and reporting about it is SCIENCE.

    Not economics or politics.

    It is quite straight forward.

    If an Antarctic ice sheet breaks away, it’s a science event.
    If the government want to incentivise the installation of solar panels, that is politics.

    If someone says that a scientist is lying about climate change in order to increase taxes, that is a political opinion piece.

    Understand?

  20. #20 Belazeebub
    December 2, 2010

    @Peter Forsythe – re: iPad

    Have you tried doing a two-finger scroll? Works for me.

    http://www.google.ca/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=ipad+two+finger+scroll

  21. #21 Dan L.
    December 2, 2010

    The Australian’s web site, stories about climate science aren’t placed with other stories about science under “Health & Science”, but grouped with political stories under “National Affairs”.

    …thus reinforcing one of the core of lies of climate denialism: politics have corrupted the science. The Australian is relentless in its propagation of these central falsehoods of FUDsterism, as Tim has chronicled so well.

  22. #22 Dan L.
    December 2, 2010

    The Australian’s web site, stories about climate science aren’t placed with other stories about science under “Health & Science”, but grouped with political stories under “National Affairs”.

    …thus reinforcing one of the core of lies of climate denialism: politics have corrupted the science. The Australian is relentless in its propagation of these central falsehoods of FUDsterism, as Tim has chronicled so well.

  23. #23 Dan L.
    December 2, 2010

    The Australian’s web site, stories about climate science aren’t placed with other stories about science under “Health & Science”, but grouped with political stories under “National Affairs”.

    …thus reinforcing one of the core of lies of climate denialism: politics have corrupted the science. The Australian is relentless in its propagation of these central falsehoods of FUDsterism, as Tim has chronicled so well.

  24. #24 Dan L.
    December 2, 2010

    The Australian’s web site, stories about climate science aren’t placed with other stories about science under “Health & Science”, but grouped with political stories under “National Affairs”.

    …thus reinforcing one of the core of lies of climate denialism: politics have corrupted the science. The Australian is relentless in its propagation of these central falsehoods of FUDsterism, as Tim has chronicled so well.

  25. #25 Dan L.
    December 2, 2010

    The Australian’s web site, stories about climate science aren’t placed with other stories about science under “Health & Science”, but grouped with political stories under “National Affairs”.

    …thus reinforcing one of the core of lies of climate denialism: politics have corrupted the science. The Australian is relentless in its propagation of these central falsehoods of FUDsterism, as Tim has chronicled so well.

  26. #26 Dan L.
    December 2, 2010

    The Australian’s web site, stories about climate science aren’t placed with other stories about science under “Health & Science”, but grouped with political stories under “National Affairs”.

    …thus reinforcing one of the core of lies of climate denialism: politics have corrupted the science. The Australian is relentless in its propagation of these central falsehoods of FUDsterism, as Tim has chronicled so well.

  27. #27 Dan L.
    December 2, 2010

    The Australian’s web site, stories about climate science aren’t placed with other stories about science under “Health & Science”, but grouped with political stories under “National Affairs”.

    …thus reinforcing one of the core of lies of climate denialism: politics have corrupted the science. The Australian is relentless in its propagation of these central falsehoods of FUDsterism, as Tim has chronicled so well.

  28. #28 Dan L.
    December 2, 2010

    The Australian’s web site, stories about climate science aren’t placed with other stories about science under “Health & Science”, but grouped with political stories under “National Affairs”.

    …thus reinforcing one of the core of lies of climate denialism: politics have corrupted the science. The Australian is relentless in its propagation of these central falsehoods of FUDsterism, as Tim has chronicled so well.

  29. #29 Dan L.
    December 2, 2010

    The Australian’s web site, stories about climate science aren’t placed with other stories about science under “Health & Science”, but grouped with political stories under “National Affairs”.

    …thus reinforcing one of the core of lies of climate denialism: politics have corrupted the science. The Australian is relentless in its propagation of these central falsehoods of FUDsterism, as Tim has chronicled so well.

  30. #30 Pbserver
    December 2, 2010

    There was a time when I read The Australian regularly because I found it a balanced newspaper reporting the facts, treating scientific issues – including matters relating to global warming and climate change – in a sensible way. That was a long time ago.

    These days one can expect such matters to be treated from a political perspective, with much of the balance of The Australians news covered akin to its commentary, relentlessly right wing and lacking balance. These days, I am very selective about reading the Australian at all.

    The Australian is now the last place I would expect to find sensible reporting on global warming or related issues, or for that matter political events. The Australian is no longer a newspaper I would pay money to read and if it were no longer freely available on-line, I would not miss it.

  31. #31 Mike
    December 2, 2010

    @22, I second that. The Sydney Daily Telegraph is now better than The Australian in some respects. A similar lack of unpoliticised factual content, but much better Sports pages and they don’t pretend to be anything other than a tabloid! ;)

  32. #32 Donald Oats
    December 2, 2010

    Straight from the sphincter

    …Ms Posetti responded with a statement on Facebook: “I can confirm that I have been issued with a letter of demand from the Editor-in-Chief of The Australian’s lawyers. He is demanding a fulsome apology.

    [My link and italics]
    If the letter actually contains the expression “fulsome apology” then, boy, I sure hope they get one :-P Reading it will be a hoot!

  33. #33 Fran Barlow
    December 3, 2010

    Isn’t a “tort” a kind of legal action? Or a legl term of some kind. No relation to “torture”.

    Yes — a tort is a legal term — specifically a wrong, and it is most closely related to the French word for wrong. cf J’ai tort (I am wrong).

    Typical torts involve what comes under trespass, nuisance and negligence. Defamation treets one’s reputation as a kind of property, which can therefore be damaged through the negligent or malicious conduct of others.

    The similarity between torture and tort is not accidental. Torture derives from words meaning “to twist” (L torquere to twist, wring, distort). It’s close to English borrowings like tourniquet and torment. Words with similar etymology include torn and thus tear. Use of tort in relation to civil action dates from the late 16th century.

    The Latin tortum for injustice is the noun form of tortus (wrung or twisted) and is thus a metaphoric or reifying application of the term. Nothing to get bent out of shape over!

  34. #34 sunspot
    December 3, 2010

    Yes…… Climate Tort Change

  35. #35 Ezzthetic
    December 3, 2010

    He is demanding a fulsome apology

    Courtesy of define:fulsome:

    buttery: unpleasantly and excessively suave or ingratiating in manner or speech; “buttery praise”; “gave him a fulsome introduction”;

    fulsomeness – unction: excessive but superficial compliments given with affected charm

    fulsomeness – smug self-serving earnestness

    Can’t wait.

  36. #36 Peter Forsythe
    December 3, 2010

    @18: *Of course* “Peter Forsythe” is my real name. I’m an Aussie living in Hong Kong (30 years), ex Australian diplomat (if that’s not an oxymoron as some might drolly say) and entrepreneur, now retired and following climate issues: science *and* policies.

    @19: I understand your points perfectly well, thanks. It’s just that as I went over to the link to the Oz, in the post above, I see 15 stories and all of them (well, maybe bar two) about issues that are in the political realm of this issue: Rain swamping rural recovery, Nuclear power for Australia (or not), taking issue with Gillard’s energy cost arguments, whether to build more dams or not, and so on. One that is maybe pure science — about this having been the warmest decade, and 2010 the warmest year ever — perhaps should have been in the “Health and Science” section — and so I went to that section and Lo! by the magic of the internet it’s been posted there as well! [and note, btw, that that story is not a denialist one]. The other story that arguably should not have been in this section is about the Ozone hole shrinking. Well, I guess you got the Oz there.

    Sounds like I’m a shill for the Oz, but I’m not. It happens to be the only hard copy Australian paper one can get here and for that reason I buy it once a week; cause, old fella that I am, I just love the feel of floppy broadsheet…. But I also “take” number of other papers in electronic form, from all shades of the spectrum. The Oz has views, its op-eds have views and by no means are all driven by some kind of troglodytic denialism.

    And so that’s the nub of it for me: that it seems that many folk on this board have a real thing against the The Australian, even claiming that it’s a Denialist paper. Graham Lloyd addresses that issue, here, in the top story on that link, pointing out, *inter alia*, that:

      In the editorial of April 6, 1995, the paper said: “The scientific consensus that global warming is occurring unnaturally, primarily as a result of industrial development and deforestation, is no longer seriously disputed in the world.” [my emphasis]

    Note also that in her “off the cuff” remarks, Wahlquist also mentioned that Rupert Murdoch had instigated measures across the whole of News to reduce the company’s CO2 emissions. Add that to the evidence adduced by Lloyd on *The Australian*’s climate stance, and it’s probably not quite fair to label them Denialists (not that I’m saying *you* have, WOW, but there are comment along those lines above).

    @20: thanks for the advice! I’ll try it. The iPad is something “I would not leave home without”, but it’s got its quirks and annoyances…

  37. #37 Wow
    December 3, 2010

    > @18: Of course “Peter Forsythe” is my real name.

    Then why is your perception that the science is settled a factor in Mitchell’s actions?

    > “The scientific consensus that global warming is occurring unnaturally, primarily as a result of industrial development and deforestation, is no longer seriously disputed in the world.”

    And?

    Still doesn’t make you right or Mitchell correct.

    Still doesn’t say “the science is settled”.

  38. #38 anarchist606
    December 3, 2010

    On the subject of media coverage of climate change, I’d totally recommend this post – where one press release generates two totally different stories!
    http://climatedenial.org/2010/12/02/one-report-two-headlines/

  39. #39 Andrew
    December 3, 2010

    The Australian have published [a lame defense](http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/climate-debate-no-place-for-hotheads/story-e6frg6zo-1225965406382) of their climate reporting. They continue to try to justify reporting “alternative” stories by showcasing the occasional editorial comment as though this overrides all the front page stuff like “U.N.’s climate report one-sided”

  40. #40 Mercurius
    December 3, 2010

    @32: I’m sure Chris Mitchell will get out of this hole if he keeps digging long enough.

    The pewling, whiny, defensive editorial is a hoot. It reminds me of someone saying that, over the last the 15 years, they have been faithful to their wife — “on average”!!! :D

  41. #41 Mike
    December 3, 2010

    I note that the last 7 paragraphs of Mitchell’s editorial inform us that communicating the scientific reality of global warming is all part of a communist plot.

    I’m assuming Mitchell still faithfully checks under his bed every night before tucking himself in. You know…..just in case.

  42. #42 jakerman
    December 3, 2010

    Peter Forsythe writes

    >*And so that’s the nub of it for me: that it seems that many folk on this board have a real thing against the The Australian, even claiming that it’s a Denialist paper.*

    Peter, you have to read the [51 previous posts](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/the_war_on_science/) on the Australian’s war on science to see where many of us are comming from. Its overflowing with evidence to support our view of the irresponsible political activist approach of the Oz and its climate delay propagandizing.

    >*I see 15 stories and all of them (well, maybe bar two) about issues that are in the political realm*

    And an employee has just blown the whistle on why the Oz has a strong bias toward framing climate change in political terms (while giving denialist over representation in the editorial pages. The one two punch against a responsible science based national discussion.

  43. #43 jakerman
    December 3, 2010

    Interesting [2nd article](http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/12/03/3084200.htm?site=thedrum) by Jonathan Holmes.

    >Chris Mitchell’s threat to sue Posetti, and all that has happened since, has had one effect that’s been of considerable benefit to The Australian. It’s distracted attention from the central allegation made by Asa Wahlquist, which is this:

    >*”I think my basic problem was that I always wanted to approach (the climate change issue) as a science story and I was in a context where it was seen as a political story instead, and as a journalist, as a news journalist, you’ve got no power in those situations.”*

  44. #44 jakerman
    December 3, 2010

    Quiggin [points out](http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2010/12/03/meltdown-continues-at-the-oz-good-faith-reporting-no-defence/):

    >*In this context, it’s striking that Mitchell has apparently not sued Wahlquist or obtained a retraction (he has received a denial of claims that were never made, such as that he personally called or emailed her).*

  45. #45 jakerman
    December 3, 2010

    Re [the lame defense](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/12/chris_mitchellgate_mitchells_d.php#comment-2974117) by Graham Lloyd in the Australian today. Lloyd witlessly makes Clive’s case against the Oz.

    Lloyd writes (for his boss):

    >*According to the Australia Institute’s analysis during the three-month period, The Australian published opinion pieces or editorials as follows: nine for the government’s position and one against; 10 against Kyoto and one for; and 10 against the consensus view of the science and six for (including one by prime minister John Howard).*
    […]

    And,
    >*The broader conclusion that Hamilton drew from his analysis of the editorial position of the newspaper during a three-month period is not supported by a longer-term view.*

    Lloyd then reaches back 15 years to cite 15 instances where Lloyd claims the editorials contradicted Hamilton’s finding. Put aside the question of how duplicitous some of these editorials were; The problem for the Oz is that these 15 instances over 15 years is no better frequency than Hamilton found in his 3 month sample.

    Compare that with [The Australian's war on science](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/the_war_on_science/), counting 52, from [2006](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2006/07/the_australians_war_on_science.php).

  46. #46 Bernard J.
    December 4, 2010

    A couple of days ago I typed a long post about Mitchell’s behaviour, but it disappeared irretrievably into the æther when the wireless modem I was using at the time dropped out. I’m too annoyed at that incident to bother retyping all that I said, but the subsequent blather from Mitchell’s direction compels me to several observations.

    The terms “pyrrhic victory”, “shooting one’s self in the foot”, and “winner’s curse” spring to mind, as does the aphorism that it is better to be quiet and to be thought a fool, and to open one’s mouth and thereby remove all doubt.

    Mitchell has been his own worst enemy in this. Had he not made a fuss his reputation would be inestimably less damaged than it now is, and than it will be in the near future as this fiasco becomes more prominent in the public domain. He seems to be hell-bent on making himself look as stupid as he can, and for the simple fact that he has been called on the sort of editorial behaviour which is patently apparent to anyone who has half a clue about the mess that masquerades as much of the scientific journalism at the Australian.

    Which leads me to an interesting thought – has anyone determined how much of the climate science reporting and commentary fits into a range of categories such as “very scientifically accurate”, “somewhat scientifically accurate”, “not very scientifically accurate”, or “not at all scientifically accurate”? I suspect that it would be a herculean task to sift through the last decade or so of relevant column inches and assess each climate science article thus, but it would be an instructive exercise nevertheless.

    It would certainly put a context on Mitchell’s hissy fit over Posetti’s tweets, and it would give a good indication of the Australian’s capacity to reliably comment on a subject that will affect the world more than just about anything else will in the coming decades and centuries.

  47. #47 jakerman
    December 4, 2010

    Lets not forget some [honest moments](http://blogs.crikey.com.au/purepoison/2010/09/09/the-australian-announces-that-it-wants-to-destroy-the-greens/) of transparent partisanship from the Oz editors. Then lets not forget [their attempt](http://blogs.crikey.com.au/purepoison/2010/09/16/the-australians-defence-to-criticism-of-its-war-on-greens-stop-oppressing-us/) at bait and switch when called on their stance.

  48. #48 stopmurdoch
    December 4, 2010

    Bernard J, you say “a subject that will affect the world” but you forget:

    1. Climate change is a [hoax](http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/hostages-to-a-hoax/story-e6frg8gf-1111113904342)

    2. Lot’s of scientists don’t agree on [climate change anyway](http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=17&ved=0CEoQFjAGOAo&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailytelegraph.com.au%2Fnews%2Fclimate-sceptics-speak-out%2Fstory-e6freuy9-1225808398590&rct=j&q=scientists%20doubt%20cause%20climate%20warming%20news.com.au&ei=sgL6TPKVI8PIrQfbw7zHCA&usg=AFQjCNEiRxVZmHhXynUelAd5zVQuHMUd0A&cad=rja)

    3. And scientists admit that they have [exaggerated it anyway](http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/warming_scientists_admit_we_exaggerate_on_purpose/)

    4. Anyway, warming is [good](http://www.news.com.au/features/environment/melting-ice-caps-open-up-sea-lanes/story-e6frflp0-1111113181082) because it will open sea-lanes

    5. And besides, sea ice is [increasing](http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/sea-ice-spread-linked-to-ozone-layer/story-e6frg6nf-1225702273297)

    etc….

    But that took about five minutes on Google, I don’t have time to undertake the exhaustive exercise you envisage. On the other hand, that’s surely enough to shift the onus of proof over to Murdoch’s monkeys on the question of their record on climate change.

  49. #49 Shirley
    December 4, 2010

    The following quote from the editorial on the 12 March provides some insight into the editor’s attitude to climate change.
    ‘we make no apologies for reporting the Great Barrier Reef is defying predictions and showing minimal signs of bleaching or that surfers who have frequented the same beaches have reported no increases in sea levels’.

    As I stopped buying the Australian earlier in the year, I am curious as to whether the extreme warm weather events in 2010 were reported with as much glee as the snow falls in the northern hemisphere. I guess not.

  50. #50 stopmurdoch
    December 4, 2010

    And a handy definition from wikipedia:

    Plausible deniability refers to the denial of blame in loose and informal chains of command where upper rungs quarantine the blame to the lower rungs, and the lower rungs are often inaccessible, meaning confirming responsibility for the action is nearly impossible. In the case that illegal or otherwise disreputable and unpopular activities become public, high-ranking officials may deny any awareness of such act or any connection to the agents used to carry out such acts.

  51. #52 Damian
    December 4, 2010

    For me it has always been “The Australian Crook”.

  52. #53 Eli Rabett
    December 4, 2010

    this actually appears to be an instance of implausible deniability. Mitchell is taking lessons from Steve McIntyre

    Remember Yamal

  53. #54 JennieL
    December 4, 2010

    Many modern organisations (government departments, universities, corporations) have discovered the advantages of having someone else (middle managers, ministerial advisors, etc.) act as a barrier between the person in charge and the people at the coalface.

    These barriers can make sure that the place is run according to the wishes of the person in charge, without having to make those wishes explicit, and especially without having to put them in writing. If they are properly selected, the barriers will do this on their own initiative before having to be told. The person in charge can then say that they never told anyone to do that.

    At the same time, the barriers make sure that inconvenient or unwelcome information from the coalface never makes it past them to the person in charge. Certain things just cannot be reported, or put in memos. The person in charge can then say that they were not told these things.

    At the same time, there often doesn’t need to be anything so blatant. Organisational culture and general workplace environment can result in people self-censoring. Either way, the end result tends to be that employees have no freedom, but all responsibility.

    The implication being made here that lack of explicit coercion from an editor means that a reporter is completely free to do her job as she sees fit, is laughable on its face. So is the idea that observation of the Australian‘s office might be at all useful in showing that there was no inappropriate editorial influence.

  54. #55 john
    December 7, 2010

    Surely Posetti would have the defence of fair report of a proceeding of public concern. NSW Defamation Act 2005 (NSW), s29 (1): ‘It is a defence to the publication of defamatory matter if the defendant proves that the matter was, or was contained in, a fair report of any proceedings of public concern.’

    ‘Proceedings of public concern’ means ‘any proceedings of a public meeting (with or without restriction on the people attending) held anywhere in Australia if the proceedings relate to a matter of public interest.’

    Whether her misreporting in the last tweet – wrongly implying that Wahlquist said that Mitchell had directed her *in person* – makes the report unfair, in context of the whole, would be a matter of argument.

    Wahlquist’s later comments are irrelevant. Posetti was entitled to fairly report what Wahlquist said at the time (providing she did it ‘honestly for the information of the public’ – s29(3)). **

    Or does Mitchell claim that the conference was not a ‘proceeding of public concern’ which attracts the defence? That seems to be the implication of his letter where it says ‘The fact is [the tweets] were published by you on an occasion which does not attract a defence.’

    But if the conference was not a proceeding which attracts the defence, then the ABC, which published the audio of Wahlquist’s comments, also does not have the defence.

    And the ABC, by publishing the complete audio on a national broadcaster’s website, has in practice defamed Mitchell far more seriously than Posetti did (if anyone did).

    So will Mitchell also sue the ABC for publishing the audio of Wahlquist’s comments? Waiting with bated breath.

    ** It would seem commonsense to have a qualification, ‘if person A is obviously off their rocker, and makes statements that are obviously false, person B might still be liable for even an accurate report, because person B ought to have known that the statements were false and arguably was motivated by malice in reporting them anyway.’ I don’t know whether this is so, and there is nothing in the Defamation Act that suggests it. It would depend on case law on the meaning of ‘fair report’.

  55. #56 Marion Delgado
    December 7, 2010

    The only reason I’m not flying down there to go in on a class action suit against the Australian for intentional infliction of distress and various forms of torture – all of which uses the euphemism “their coverage” – is that like many of the tens of thousands of claimants I would have to name Tim Lambert as an accessory for introducing us to their “science reporting.”

  56. #57 Philip Machanick
    December 8, 2010

    The bias of the Oz against the Greens (@jakerman #39) is not only open but ineffectual. After the Greens beat Labor in every booth in the recent Brisbane Walter Taylor city council by-election, I looked at numbers in booths coinciding with the ward in every election going back to the last city election, and the trend is consistently up, even in Liberal strongholds.

    What they do not get is that many people switching their vote to the Greens do so after careful consideration, and being told they are idiots is not a very good way of persuading them they’ve made a mistake. This is not another Pauline Hansen movement targeting populist fears, but a movement based on more intellectual rigour than the country’s only national daily can identify with.

    They also fail to get that obvious bias and reporting at odds with reality is undermining their credibility. I personally stopped buying the paper a few years ago despite the ridiculously cheap subscription open to anyone with a university ID because I don’t have a bird cage, and can think of no better purpose for it.

    Tim, I hope you don’t tire of debunking them.

  57. #58 jakerman
    December 16, 2010

    Clive Hamilton’s piece on this is [now out](http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/11/29/mitchell-on-defamation-neither-the-paper-nor-i-would-ever-sue/) from behind the paywall.