A week’s a long time in the twitterverse: honest opinion and available facts

A week’s a long time in the twitterverse.

I was in the audience for the JEAA // 2010 session where the already infamous and legendary #twuckup occurred.

Declaration of interest: I regard Julie as a good and trustworthy colleague a relatively recent friend I see now and then.

I also fully endorse the statement made by the JEA executive on November 29 and signed by President Anne Dunn backing Julie.

We are concerned when journalists threaten others with law suits. The implications of the situation are serious for the many people who use Twitter to provide “as live” reporting of public comments and for fair report in general. We stand in support of informed debate, including criticism of the media and we support our colleagues’ right to report fairly on all issues in the public interest

I certainly thought Julie Posetti’s comments about well-known Australian journalist Asa Wahlquist, The Australian newspaper and its editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell were innocent enough at the time, but for the past seven days, they have been at the epicentre of a maelstrom of angst and often intelligent argument.

RT @julieposetti: #jeaa2010 Wahlquist:”Chris Mitchell (Oz Ed) goes down the Eco-Fascist line” on #climatechange “I left because I just couldn’t do it anymore”

This is just one of the many RTs of this snappy, instant observation.

Just a few moments aago this latest tweet on the #deftwit and #posettigate feeds:

@crikey_news [Mitchell] not pursuing damages, demanding fulsome apology, offered to attend mediation, Chrissy coming or going? #twitdef #jeaa2010

So, perhaps it’s now safe to talk about this affair of the state of journalism in Australia and the world as 2010 winds down. I think #deftwit is a milestone event and it couldn’t have been more public, or more spectacular.

If Roger and I do a third edition of Journalism Ethics, it will have to be a major case study in a new opening chapter.

Surely Julie’s key defence was honestly-held opinion based on the known facts. I hope Mitchell has backed off as crikey is reporting.

If you are not familiar with this case and want some background, this ABC news story paints an interesting picture of the situation as it stood a couple of days ago.

In the audio, recorded by freelance journalism researcher Jolyon Sykes at the journalism conference in Sydney, Wahlquist can be heard saying that she had worked at The Australian for 14 years as a rural journalist.

“Climate change, of course, was a part of what I covered. It was absolutely excruciating. It was torture. There’s no other way to put it,” she said.

This comment seems to match a tweet made by Ms Posetti which read: “‘It was absolutely excruciating. It was torture’: Asa Wahlquist on fleeing The Australian after being stymied in covering #climate”.

In the audio, Wahlquist then went on to describe Mitchell as taking a “political view” on climate change.

“It took me quite a while to realise that my editor at The Australian, editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell, was taking a political view and he goes down the eco fascist line,” she said.

“He sees climate change as being a political movement that the left has now adopted that will, aims to destroy everything that he loves and values.”

She went on to say that it was “really debilitating”.

Jonathon Holmes’ piece on The Drum ABC blog is also a good read. Holmes’ ends with this and I’m off to the conference ball.

At Media Watch, we’re well aware that The Australian reacts to criticism or challenge with a vitriol unmatched elsewhere in the Australia media. But surely Chris Mitchell – who whatever else he is, is no fool – will realise that pursuing Ms Posetti through the courts (and incidentally risking some devastating evidence from Asa Wahlquist and, perhaps, other former and current staffers at The Oz, if they chose to risk speaking out) will not be in his interest, or The Australian’s; and it certainly won’t foster “freedom of speech and a vigorous and open marketplace of ideas” which, as The Australian argued in an editorial in 2004, “are essential to a democratic society”.

140 characters of legal nightmare

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