Twitdef encouraging more forensic scrutiny of The Australian

December 3, 2010

Have you seen Caroline Ovington’s short Media Diary entry on the #twitdef saga from The Australian. It was written one day after Julie Posetti received a lawyer’s letter demanding an apology to Chris Mitchell. Is that significant?

Media Diary | November 30, 2010 | 0 Comments

THE ABC has obtained audio of former rural reporter for The Australian Asa Wahlquist speaking at a journalism conference in Sydney last week.

The tape is here.

Canberra academic Julie Posetti live-Tweeted the event. Her Tweets are a fair summary of what Wahlquist said.

Wahlquist, who left the Oz a month ago, has told Mitchell that her comments have been taken out of context.

The Australian’s editor in chief, Chris Mitchell, says the Tweets are defamatory of him, and that Posetti did not contact him to get his side of the story.

And there it rests.

(There’s some confusion on Twitter as to what `there it rests’ means. It means: that’s all I have. I have no more.)

“I have no more.” What a sad admission for a senior journalist with excellent access to many sources on this story – including Chris Mitchell. Ovington could have consulted any number of independent media law experts. I’m sure Mark Pearson would have spoken to her about defamation, fair report and comment, or possible defences.

Mark has had plenty to say.

So too has another independent media academic: NYU’s Jay Rosen.who did a great Q&A with Woolly Days’ Derek Barry.

Rosen told me he saw it as a critical part of a larger battle.
“As the Murdoch empire faces the loss of the emperor–his lost grip, his inability to master digital, or his eventual passing–it starts behaving erratically and in that state it becomes rather dangerous: to itself, but also to other people and to cultural treasures like freedom of the press,” he said.

But the Empire has an Achilles Heel, according to Rosen: “Murdoch cannot master digital.”

In fact, Ms Overington could have written a cracker of a piece just by reviewing what the blogosphere was talking about. But maybe Jay Rosen’s got a point.

The suggestion’s been made that Overington’s diary note signalled that Chris Mitchell was prepared to drop his legal action and that acknowledging that Posetti’s tweets were “a fair summary” was a sign the paper would back off.

The #twuckup has also åttracted attention on science blogs. The debate has widened into an examination of several issues.

An interesting one, that I’m sure will cause Chris Mitchell some regret, is the focus on The Australian’s climate reporting.

On The Drum Jonathan Holmes also has another go on that score too.

It’s also worth noting that this is not Julie’s first run-in with The Australian. She explains it all in this post on The Drum from 5 October this year.

What appears to have surfaced here is that The Australian actively campaigns against its social media critics.

If the allegations revealed here are true then it’s a national scandal.

If you believe the accounts of several Twitter users who contacted me last week, bullying tactics were employed in the process of trying to manage the criticism of The Australian – and James Massola’s stories specifically – as tweeters reacted en masse to Grog’s Gamut’s outing.

They claimed that a reporter on The Australian had telephoned their employers, asking for action to be taken against employees for comments (some using very strong language) directed at James Massola via Twitter.

One of those allegedly targeted – an employee of a large corporation who asked to remain anonymous – told me:

“(He) contacted someone at my work to complain that I was being unpleasant… on Twitter. My work stated that employees were free to speak their minds on their own time. It did however leave me with a sense of caution – no-one likes having their employment threatened by a major newspaper’s employee merely for expressing an opinion.”

As you can see, there’s certainly a fire burning around here somewhere – just look at all that smoke.

 


On Twitter size doesn’t count (so much)

May 26, 2010

No doubt you’re into Twitter, but what do you do with your tweets?

Here at EM I use Twitter as a channel to promote the content on my blog and I also own up to the very occasional frivolous tweet. But if y0u ever get a tweet from me that says something like: “Enjoying a mochaccino latte frappe at the delightful hole in the wall cafe Moko in Porirua. Baby Bruce was just sick in Skye’s lap. Yuk!”, for f*ckzake shoot me.

Now there’s some academic evidence that being the biggest twit on the block doesn’t necessarily make you the most influential. That’s good news for those of us who wonder why the hell anyone would want to follow Ashton Kutcher or some anorexic stick insect of a supermodel (who may or may not be real), or even Lady GaGa.

According to a paper written by researchers from the Max Plank Institute, those with the largest Twitter following may not be most influential when measured by the number retweets of posts from certain users.

Believe it or not (it is hard to believe) one of the most influential using the retweet scale is a librarian whose messages are regularly retweeted by her followers.

The dataset for this research is impressive.

  • 54,981,152 user accounts
    These accounts were in-use in August 2009. We obtained the list of user IDs by repeatedly checking all possible IDs from 0 to 80 million. We scanned the list twice at a two week time gap. We did not look beyond 80 million, because no single user in the collected data had a link to a user whose ID was greater than that value.
  • 1,963,263,821 social (follow) links
    The 54 million users were connected to each other by 1.9 billion follow links. This is based on the snapshot of the Twitter network topology in August 2009. The follow link data does not contain information about when each link was formed.
  • 1,755,925,520 tweets
    For each of the 54 million users, we gathered information about all tweets ever posted by the user since the launch of the Twitter service. The tweet data contains information about the time of tweet posting.

You can also download a copy of the paper from the researcher’s website.

I’ve just picked out one table from the paper to highlight some of the huge traffic that Twitter generates around news events. This is from last year and it probably qualifies the death of Michael Jackson as news event of the year.

What we talk about on Twitter

The Iran election and uprising is a close second. But I can tell you that from my own work on that event that the noise to signal ratio was very high. I’d guess the same is true too for swine flu and Michael Jackson. They may well be events that grab people’s attention and create the virtual equivalent of water cooler conversation, but what most people have to say doesn’t warrant retweeting.

It’s official: Size doesn’t matter.


Am I paranoid?

March 22, 2010

The last time I visited those great United States, in September 2008, I flew all the way from LA to NYC with a couple of stops on the way and didn’t really have too much trouble. The time before that in 2007 the locks on my bags were broken open by the Transport Safety Authority and Moac & I had to de-shoe in St Louis one time.

But on my way out of the US in the first week of October 2008 – British Airways to London – I was told that my name had appeared on a US Government “watch list”.

Nothing came of it really. I was allowed to travel and the woman who told me really played it down.

But today I got a notification that the United States Embassy in Wellington is following my blog via Twitter.

USA out of my Tweets

I  sent a polite message asking why the embassy wants to follow me and also seeking to know who the embassy staffer is who’s charged with keeping tabs on my blog.

I will block them tomorrow  if they don’t reply.

Am I paranoid?

I really am egotistical enough to think my words are pearls**, but unless there’s some closet radical working in the Embassy mailroom, I don’t think my brand of commentary would be to the Ambassador’s tastes.

This unwelcome attention comes on the first business day after I published my post supporting the Waihopai three.

We should all be self-aware enough to know that our electronic lives are not secure or private, but I do find this a little weird and sinister.

**Dribblejaws alert: That’s a joke, calm down


Whale-watching: Always take the weather (with you)

January 12, 2010

I really don’t know why Cameron Slater (aka Whaleoil) wants to take on the NZ legal system, but my advice to the balls out blogger comes in two parts:

  1. Shut-up
  2. Get a good lawyer

?The first part is easy. Cameron, no matter how much you believe in your anti-name suppression crusade, you are making things worse for yourself by tricks like this:

Police will investigate a blogger for revealing the identity of a former politician accused of an indecent assault on a 13-year-old girl.

Cameron Slater yesterday outed the former MP from the top of the South Island by naming him in a binary code on his blog.

[NZ Herald, 12.01.10]

In a post yesterday Whaleoil said the binary code doesn’t breach name suppression orders:

  1. Firstly I did not defy name sup­pres­sion laws. I cat­e­gor­i­cally deny I did any such thing. I sim­ply posted some Binary Code with a Base64 Title. None of which iden­ti­fies by name, address or occu­pa­tion “in any account or report relat­ing to any proceedings”
  2. The “binary code which, when con­verted”, does NOT reveals the iden­tity of a defendant.

The link in 2. is to a TV3 piece that claims the code does reveal details likely to identify someone subject to name suppression

When converted, the computer coding in today’s post reveals the name of a national figure charged with the indecent assault of a girl aged between 12 and 16.

3news.co.nz had the code analysed by one of our programmers, who confirmed it indeed does reveal the name of the accused and his former role.

Court documents show it is alleged the man touched the girl’s breasts and genitals on December 30, 2009.

[Blogger investigated

Mocks suppression laws]

I don’t know if the code does or doesn’t translate, but both Fairfax and TV3 are reporting that they cracked it.

There’s more coded text on Whaleoil’s blog and I sadly think that this cat&mouse game is a sign that something is wrong.

It seems clear to me that Mr Slater needs some solid and effective legal advice. Maybe he’s getting it and he knows what he’s doing. Or it’s Don Quixote territory.

I’m also not sure Cameron is all that clear about his own motives. He seems naively surprised that his actions have attracted police and media attention.

Slater said he had received many supportive messages from victims of sexual abuse, saying they wished they were able to name their abusers.

And he said he did not name the former politician to attract publicity.

“People say that I’m publicity-seeking but I’m not,” Slater said.

“I didn’t seek for the police to charge me and I didn’t seek for you guys to publish about it.”

[NZ Herald, 12.01.10]

I don’t know what he expected then.  Of course there’s interest. After Cameron’s 1st legal outing last week, any further development was always going to get attention.

The root cause of this binary charade is that Cameron Slater doesn’t like the legal niceties that allow some defendants and convicted criminals to have their identity suppressed by the courts. He has repeatedly said so on his blog. This recent example pretty much sums up Whaleoil’s position:

All the hush-hush that comes with name sup­pres­sion in cases like this [sexual assault of a minor] is sup­posed to be for the ben­e­fit of the vic­tim. the thing is no-one ever asks a vic­tim what they think about it usu­ally because they are too young at the time. This allows the kiddy-fiddlers to get way with it for so long.

Right now one of the cases that I am alleged to have named both the vic­tim and the accused (”The Olympian”) and the case of the “Come­dian”, both of these fel­lows have been ordered to stay away from the com­plainant and in one case ordered to stay away from young chil­dren. The ex-MP with name sup­pres­sion is in the same boat. The thing is this. If we can’t be allowed to know who it is that should stay away from var­i­ous sit­u­a­tions or peo­ple then how can they be reported for breach­ing the court instruc­tion because we aren’t allowed to know who they are in the first place. There­fore we run a real risk of there being more vic­tims, espe­cially as they are all out on bail. If they were known then they would effec­tively be under house arrest as they sure as hell wouldn’t show their faces anywhere.

[Gotcha 12/01/10]

There might seem some logic here, but it is fatally flawed. In these cases, there is an accused and these person’s have a right to the presumption of innocence until the legal system says otherwise. I think the cops have got it right on this one.

“Clearly it attacks the very heart of our criminal justice system in a number of ways; that a person is entitled to presumption of innocence until the opposite is proven, the right to a fair trial, and in this case the breach of that order has the potential to identify the victim – the very reason the order was imposed.”

Mr Winter said he would be liaising with police in Auckland over the previous breaches as well as speaking to a crown solicitor and the judge who issued the suppression order.

“He’s certainly testing the boundaries of the law which doesn’t adequately cover the use or abuse of the internet, so there’s grey areas in both domestic and international law,” he said.

[Nelson Bays police area commander Detective Inspector John Winter @ Stuff.co.nz]

When media outlets get involved in trying cases before the courts they overstep the mark. We call it “trial by media”.

It is not up to Cameron Slater, the Weekend Truth, or anyone else ; either private individual, or media outlet, to prejudge the issues in these cases.

I wrote last week on the emotional pull of vigilantism in sex cases, we clearly see that here.

Bloggers and tabloid media want to be judge, jury and executioner.

I have more to say on this but I’m painfully pecking with one hand due to a large cast on my left arm. More later.


Updating #media140 day two under way

November 6, 2009

An update from the Media140 conference in Sydney where I’ve been for the past two days.

Interesting ideas and discussion and for me very pleasing to see that some journalists and media organisations  actually get “it”, without going overboard to claim that journalism is dead – but doesn’t know it’s a corpse – in the way that many social media evangelists twitter on about.

This is just a holding post with some highlights and a link to Jay Rosen’s speaking notes.

Jay Rosen is a professor at NYU and one of the world’s leading social media evangelists (IMHO). He’s just about to start on a feed via Skype, so I’ll be back with a review when he’s finished.

Rebooting the News System in the Age of Social Media

Here are the ten key ideas I plan to share with the Media140/Sydney conference underway right now in Sydney, Australia. I will be speaking to the conference via Skype in a few hours.  The theme of the event is “the future of journalism in the social media age.”  These ten Twitter-able ideas are my contribution to that puzzle.

1. Audience atomization has been overcome. (Link)

2. Open systems don’t work like closed systems. (Link)

3. The sources go direct.  (Dave Winer)

4. When the people formerly known as the audience use the press tools they have to inform one another— that’s citizen journalism. (Link)

5. “There’s no such thing as information overload, there’s only filter failure.” (Clay Shirky)

6. “Do what you do best and link to the rest.” (Jeff Jarvis)

7. “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; I just don’t know which half.” (John Wanamaker)

8. “Here’s where we’re coming from’ is more likely to be trusted than the View from Nowhere. (Link)

9. The hybrid forms will be the strongest forms. (Link)

10. “My readers know more than I do.” (Dan Gillmor)

Bonus notion: You gotta grok it before you can rock it. (Link)

 

Media140  Blog – background on conference & upcoming events

Mark Colvin’s speech about Twitter and Iran

ABC News report

Barry Saunders’ blog on Malcolm Turnbull’s presentation


Some interesting thoughts on social media for legacy giants

November 5, 2009

I’m at #media140 in Sydney, the keynote this morning was ABC managing director Mark Scott. He outlined some interesting innovations for legacy media wanting to get on the Twitterverse bandwagon.

 

He started with the 4Ts: Telegraph, Telephone, Typewriter, Twitter. An interesting geneaology of communications technologies.

Scott noted that the 4Ts have always been about short, sharp reports of breaking news; particularly the generation of good headlines. He talked about how the ABC is moving quickly to embrace social media with the appointment of a coordinator of social media to formalise the ABC’s presence across all social networking sites.

The ABC is also today releasing its guidelines for staff using social media. The four guiding principles are really about brand protection and like the NYT are designed not to give guidance for journalists using social media as  tool, but more about social media as a distribution network:

  1. Don’t mix professional and personal social media views in a way that will bring the ABC into disrepute
  2. Don’t undermine your effectiveness as work
  3. Don’t imply ABC endorsement for personal views
  4. Do not disclose confidential information

Nothing here about journalistic ethics.

Scott made a good point about sharing information and allowing audiences to distribute ABC content. Setting up a number of widgets for people to embed on Facebook and blogs etc is obviously good business sense.

The ABC’s also launching ABC Open as a “digital town square” and part of this is training UGC providers in 50 locations to generate content.

This is the pro-am model and as Scott mentioned there has to be journalistic leadership, but also recognising that the audience is often closer to the story – at least in the initial stages.

The catchphrases are collaboration; conversation, communication and partnerships.

More later when I’ve had time to digest this and get my hands on some more notes.

Julie Posetti also argued that this is a revolution, not a war, but no doubt there will be casualties.


Twitter for the “peeps”: Celebs keepin’ it real?

October 18, 2009

Well, that’s nice, Miley Cyrus / Hannah Montana is leaving the Twitersphere; now maybe we’ll get some peace.

I think we should all tweet our favourite celebs (or their peeps) and suggest they follow Miley’s unselfish example.

I never could understand why there’s such crush on following the rich and fatuous on Twitter, not even Stephen Fry, though sometimes his jokes are pretty good.

Apparently, Miley and some of her celeb peers have been dissing and bitchin’ each other via tweets, so she’s pulled out along with Courtney Love and her daughter.

Nowhere is safe, it seems, from celebrinfection; I’m all in favour of disinfecelebritizing social media.

“Hey you, get out of MySpace!”

More at Stuff.co.nz


25 years of the broadcasting school: a celebratory gaze into the future of news

July 27, 2009

I spent an interesting 24 hours in Christchurch on Friday and Saturday as a guest of the New Zealand Broadcasting School. I was a speaker at the school’s conference to celebrate 25 years of turning out great Kiwi broadcasters and industry heavyweights.

Some other interesting speakers too, including the head of the Australian Special Broadcasting Service, Shawn Brown, himself a Kiwi; Brett Impey, the CEO of Mediaworks; Rick Ellis, CEO of TVNZ, Jim Mather, head of Maori television and John Follett, the head of Sky New Zealand.

All of them had some interesting things to say about the state of Kiwi broadcasting, but they are also fairly optimistic that the industry is in relatively good shape-if only it wasn’t for this blasted recession. Advertising revenues are down somewhere between 15 and 30 per cent and of course there’s been several rounds of cost-cutting, particularly in news and current affairs, but each of them was surprisingly upbeat about the state of broadcasting, particularly television, in the relatively (in global terms) small New Zealand market.

I was on a panel talking about the future of news and my fellow presnters were TVNZ head of news and CAff, Anthony Flannery, his TV3 counterpart, Mark Jennings and a recent NZBS graduate, Katrina Bennett, who’s now with the Radio Network in Wellington.

We had a lively discussion and again both Mark and Anthony were confident that television will continue to be the dominant news media for some time to come.There were some great questions from the audience too: about the ubiquitous TVNZ live cross that doesn’t seem to go anywhere. Anthony Flannery made the point that he thinks TVNZ news gets it right about 40 per cent of the time. There was also some discussion of how PR is tending to overshadow news to some degree and Katrina made the interesting point that to some extent journalists have just become the re-mediators of press releases. She asked why don’t organisations like the police just go straight to the public and this provoked some interesting responses from the panel and from the floor. Read the rest of this entry »


The revolution will not be Twitter-ized

June 18, 2009

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

Revolutionary black musician Gil Scott Heron released “The revolution will not be televised” in 1971. It was the first track on side 1 of Pieces of Man.

I put it out there because I think it’s important to reign in a little the “Twitter Triumphalism” around events in Iran over the past few days.

I want to paraphrase GSH: The revolution will not be twitter-ized”

I was on TVNZ this morning discussing the Iran-media/Twitter Revolution stuff.
Vodpod videos no longer available. Posted with VodPod

Read the rest of this entry »


Swine flu pandemic infects Twitter

April 27, 2009

It should be obvious by now that Twitter is a useful viral marketing tool – whatever you might think of it in terms of journalism and news.

And, like the Witches of Facebook, Twitter can be a platform for dis-information.

The swine flu pandemic has hit Twitter. The TechCrunch blog is tracking the cyberspace traffic on the pandemic.

Since I started writing this about 20 minutes ago (it’s 4.02 PM in Auckland) another 700 tweets on the pandemic have been posted. That’s one every 2 seconds. Some of it is funny, some links to factual stuff, some is just misinformed and hopeless.

Read the rest of this entry »