Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The judge is not helping

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  • Ian Dalziel,

    Super nova (callowfragilelistingegotist) ...

    a news medium: a medium for the dissemination to the public or a section of the public of news and observations on news

    How about: "a medium for the responsible dissemination to the public or a section of the public of news and relevant observations on news"

    Whaleoil is all about his (or clients) opinions, isn't he?
    More hucksterism than 'just the facts'...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7944 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to ScottY,

    How does that usually work? My understanding was that the truth defence was quite hard to beat, that the plaintiff had to actually prove the statements were untrue, which can be quite difficult.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Eric Rowe,

    I have a difficult time calling someone who has as their Rule #1 that 'Explaining is Losing' a journalist. To me Journalism is about explaining things, not doing things.

    New Zealand • Since Mar 2013 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • Greg Dawson,

    Any rule determining whether new media are "news media" based on a proportion of content being "news" is bound to come back and bite the older news organisations.

    How much advertorial stops a newspaper being news?

    How many PR-provided angles prevent an article being called news?

    Which currently-existing news organisation would pass the tests being proposed for blogs?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 294 posts Report Reply

  • ScottY, in reply to BenWilson,

    How does that usually work? My understanding was that the truth defence was quite hard to beat, that the plaintiff had to actually prove the statements were untrue, which can be quite difficult.

    It's actually the other way round. If a defendant wants to claim truth as a defence then the onus is on the defendant to prove that what was said was true, or not materially different from the truth. This isn't always easy to do.

    West • Since Feb 2009 • 794 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to BenWilson,

    I think this is the same in NZ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_defamation_law#Burden_of_proof_on_the_defendant but a lawyer will no doubt clarify [and one did, cheers Scott]

    I would think that also, if one is defending a libel action based on the defense of truthfulness, one would be unlikely to win unless the sources who provided the information were willing to testify.

    This will probably become more relevant if the HDC Bill is enacted - introducing "libel-lite" where cases can be pursued without a filing fee.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    I don't think Slater is acting as a journalist. I mean, I think it is very clear that Slater has no sense of professional ethics, or any real adherence to standards of behaviour other than his own idiosyncratic (and often repugnant) principles.

    You haven't read the DomPost recently then...

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2933 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to ScottY,

    It’s actually the other way round. If a defendant wants to claim truth as a defence then the onus is on the defendant to prove that what was said was true, or not materially different from the truth. This isn’t always easy to do.

    This.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2933 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    How about: “a medium for the responsible dissemination to the public or a section of the public of news and relevant observations on news”

    There's an awful lot of subjectivity in 'responsible" and "relevant" however .

    If a defendant wants to claim truth as a defence then the onus is on the defendant to prove that what was said was true, or not materially different from the truth.

    Am I wrong in recalling also, that truth is not an absolute defence either (and once was)?

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I'm getting the impression from comments elsewhere that this litigation concerns a business dispute where Slater weighed in on the side of one of the parties and received benefits in the form of overseas entertainment for his "work".

    If true, then that isn't journalism.

    It would be reasonable for Slater to, as part of any claim for journalistic privilege, deny these facts. If they later turned out true, he'd be in deep shit, however - the case of Jonathan Aitken comes to mind.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to ScottY,

    It’s actually the other way round

    Ta for the correction. So Slater is pushing the proverbial uphill!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    A lawyer has pointed out to me that Slater had previously tried to get a decision that bloggers were not publishers for the purposes of disseminating suppressed names -- and now he's trying for the reverse!

    Amusing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie, in reply to nzlemming,

    I'm pretty sure the DomPost doesn't publish the kind of actionable nonsense Slater makes a habit of.

    People who don't read Slater have, I think, this image of a far right ideologue, with, perhaps, a tendency towards extremity of speech. (A sort of mirror image of I/S, but more evil and with a direct line to various figures in the Nats.) And if that's what he was, I would perhaps have some sympathy with his claims. But he's also a blatantly mercenary serial slimer who'll quite happily say hugely inflammatory and flimsily backed, if at all, things about various people for various other people for various reasons, allegedly including chunks of cash. That's not activity I think deserves protection

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Ben McNicoll, in reply to Russell Brown,

    A lawyer has pointed out to me that Slater had previously tried to get a decision that bloggers were not publishers for the purposes of disseminating suppressed names -- and now he's trying for the reverse!

    Was his previous argument successful?

    And if he lost that argument, shouldn't he win this one?

    (OUCH. That hurt my brain to type... too close to almost sticking up for him)

    Grey Lynn • Since May 2007 • 115 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams, in reply to Ben McNicoll,

    A sort of mirror image of I/S, but more evil and with a direct line to various figures in the Nats

    Keir, I think you do I/S a disservice here.

    And if he lost that argument, shouldn’t he win this one?

    I suspect you know the answer is no – that it depends on the facts etc, however I entirely get your point (edit: subsequently I see it is a slightly different question and answer)

    I’m pretty sure the DomPost doesn’t publish the kind of actionable nonsense Slater makes a habit of.

    That was kinda my point previously – the legal protections enjoyed by the media exist for a public purpose, namely to ensure the public can scrutinise the issues of the day, particularly where the parties have privileged or powerful positions. It should be a serious undertaking, with established and transparent accountabilities, including some expectation of consistency.

    I think Graeme and Steve Price are debating this in parallel elsewhere.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Ben McNicoll,

    Name suppression is an offence based on publication of a suppressed name.

    Protection of sources applies to journalism in news media.

    The concepts are not identical - publication is making content available to the public, and Slater was convicted of violating name suppression for publishing the identity of rape victims on his blog. ISTR his failed defence was that the blog was a private communication rather than a publication.

    Journalism is a subset of publication.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    And if that’s what he was, I would perhaps have some sympathy with his claims.

    It's more the judge's reasoning I'm alarmed about. If he'd used a better argument to uphold the disclosure order I wouldn't have much to say.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Ben McNicoll,

    @Rich & @Paul

    Yes I can see the difference.

    I was rather clumsily trying to respond to the idea that he shouldn't (morally) be allowed to argue whatever point suits him in the courts - it's the nature of an adverserial system that he's pretty much obliged to - with about the same amount of tongue in my cheek that I suspect Russell had (ETA: who is free to correct me on that score).

    ETA: my position, to be clear, was that it's not *necessarily* hypocritical to make both arguments, and that even if it were, he gets a pass because you get to defend yourself on technicalities exactly like you'd be convicted on them.

    ETA2: And also, I genuinely wanted to know what his argument was previously, so, thanks.

    Grey Lynn • Since May 2007 • 115 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    the idea that he shouldn't (morally) be allowed to argue whatever point suits him in the courts

    Sure. Mostly, I agree. Ultimately, though it might be in all our interests that he does appeal, even allowing for the fact that his is an hypocritical argument, so that we get a better judgment.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Yeah, but mind you, it’s a District Court Judge making a pre-trial ruling on a pretty grim case, and apparently without the benefit of decent argument. It would be nicer if it were more developed and clearer but I think he’s gesturing towards a reasonably good principle that if you’re an abusive unprofessional dickhead, you can’t shelter yourself and your sources behind a profession you aren’t part of.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    I think he’s gesturing towards a reasonably good principle that if you’re an abusive unprofessional dickhead, you can’t shelter yourself and your sources behind a profession you aren’t part of

    That seems entirely reasonable.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Ben McNicoll, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    gesturing towards a reasonably good principle that if you’re an abusive unprofessional dickhead, you can’t shelter yourself and your sources behind a profession you aren’t part of.

    One mans abusive unprofessional dickhead is another man's....?

    Nope. Got nothing.

    I think that the subjectivity element of the argument is troubling... plus the fact that we're discussing old oily really gums up the old thinking gears.

    Grey Lynn • Since May 2007 • 115 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Paul Williams,

    Ultimately, though it might be in all our interests that he does appeal, even allowing for the fact that his is an hypocritical argument, so that we get a better judgment.

    Agreed.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    How about: “a medium for the responsible dissemination to the public or a section of the public of news and relevant observations on news”

    Well, Ian, find me a tabloid scumbag who won’t argue until the heat death of the universe that that fits them like a bespoke Saville Row suit.

    It would be nicer if it were more developed and clearer but I think he’s gesturing towards a reasonably good principle that if you’re an abusive unprofessional dickhead, you can’t shelter yourself and your sources behind a profession you aren’t part of.

    You know, this could be a fascinating precedent. So, how many times does a journalist or media outlet have to (say) end up issuing a partial or full retraction of a story before they don't count any more? How about a newspaper that ends up sacking a reporter for printing stories that were entirely fabricated -- that's about as abusive, unprofessional and prick-like as a journalist can get in my book.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Ben McNicoll, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    You know, this could be a fascinating precedent. So, how many times does a journalist or media outlet have to (say) end up issuing a partial or full retraction of a story before they don't count any more? How about a newspaper that ends up sacking a reporter for printing stories that were entirely fabricated -- that's about as abusive, unprofessional and prick-like as a journalist can get in my book.

    Yeah. What he said.

    Grey Lynn • Since May 2007 • 115 posts Report Reply

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