Outing an amateur

The decision to publish the name and workplace of the blogger Grog, author of Grog’s Gamut, by The Australian’s James Massola has been dominating not just conversation on twitter and on many Australian blogs, but has continued to generate pageviews for the national broadsheet. There’s a lot of back and forth about the ethics of unmasking an anonymous blogger, but I think a lot of it is talking at cross purposes because most of the journalists genuinely do not understand why a blogger would use a pseudonym and therefore begin with the attitude that there is something that needs to be uncovered.

The first thing that needs to be dispelled is that this is about anonymity. Like most bloggers who choose to use a pseudonym, as I originally did, Grog created a consistent persona that he presented via his blog and on twitter, which is nothing like the type of anonymous hit and run trolling that often shows up in comment threads. While the majority of his readers couldn’t tell you who Grog was there were a number who did know, including James Massola, so it’s fairly clear that he wasn’t actively trying to completely hide his identity. So then why use a pseudonym at all? I think that this is the key issue that many of the media professionals don’t understand and why so few of them have a problem with Massola’s decision to make Grog’s life a misery.

One of the reasons that so many bloggers choose to use a pseudonym is that when decide to start publishing their thoughts they have no idea what the consequences might be. Until you dive in you have no way of knowing whether your desire to start publishing will have an effect on your life, there’s no shortage of examples of people’s jobs being threatened or of people being stalked because they’ve written things online that someone disagrees with. When I began blogging my decision wasn’t about me wanting to avoid being held accountable for what I wrote, there were plenty of hints in my writing for people who may have known me in real life, but wanting to ensure that my wife, and especially my young children, wouldn’t end up being harassed by some random nutjob on the internet who’d taken a dislike to me. It was for this reason that the kids are always referred to by their nicknames, Buster Boy and the Troll Princess, and for a long time my wife Rach was simply known to my readers as Mrsdave.

There are plenty of other reasons for wanting to use a pseudonym too, it can be very difficult to discuss intensely personal topics openly if you have to operate under the assumption that someone could use it against you at a later date. For many people blogging provides one of the few outlets that they have to share their thoughts with other people in an open manner and it’s only by using a pseudonym that they can take advantage of this.

In Grog’s case it’s fairly obvious that he was using a pseudonym not so he could hide the fact that he was a public servant, in fact he referred to it more than once, but to ensure that the arguments that he made would not be used mischievously to undermine his professionalism as an impartial public servant. The things that Grog wrote about were all on the public record, which is in stark contrast to the journos who would deny him the ability to separate his professional and personal life, who regularly feel free to base their work on unnamed sources, so a pseudonym removes the angst of having to continually restate the boundaries between private opinion and professional life.

For a journalist this problem simply doesn’t exist, what they write is their professional life and the reality is that they strive for the chance to add their by-line to stories as it’s seen as a way of improving their professional capital. Journos are in some ways in an inverse reality to bloggers as they are rewarded for doing the type of writing that many bloggers fear they may be punished for, either professionally or socially. I think this is a big part of why so few of the journalists on twitter have had much sympathy for Grog and why they fail to understand the hostile reaction that so many people have had to this incident. I can’t imagine the anguish that Grog and his family must have felt when he found out that Massola was going to out him, even though he clearly believed that he was abiding by the APS code of conduct, how frightening must it have been to wonder whether or not this could end up with him costing his livelihood? This is something that most of the journalists do not seem to understand, or perhaps they simply do not care.

I eventually decided to blog under my own name when I began writing for Pure Poison because I figured that there was less chance of running into trouble compared to having people with nothing better to do spending their time trying to out me and pore over the details of my private life, however that was after more than two years of establishing this blog and getting a feel for what the consequences might be of using my own name. The critical thing is that I was able to make that decision at the time that suited me, as I’d seen Possum Comitatus and others do before me, which is completely different to having your details splashed across the pages of The Australian. Perhaps at some point Grog would have made the same decision, perhaps not, but it should have been his choice.

The excuse used by the Australian that Grog deserved to be exposed because he was influencing debate is pathetic, it was the strength of his argument that was making an impact, not who he was or what he does during business hours. It is telling that nowhere throughout this fiasco have the Australian engaged with any of Grog’s arguments, instead they have maliciously insinuated that he shouldn’t have the right to express himself because of his job as a public servant. The reality in this case is that pseudonyms provide the opportunity to speak truth to power and the traditional gate-keepers are unhappy. I think that there is also resentment coming from some of the professionals as they see amateurs and outsiders having more of an impact than they are in important circles.

If nothing else, most journos reaction to Grog being outed highlighted something that perhaps some of us had forgotten amongst all of the twitter banter over the last year and a half. Most professionals in the traditional media feel threatened by the emergence of new media contributors, they don’t see us as colleagues or as a resource to improve their own work but as competitors. They don’t understand why we want to contribute or why we chose to do so in the manner that we do, and they certainly don’t care if our participation ends up making our lives difficult. I think that the ABC’s Jonathan Green summed it up best

so folks just remember green’s golden rule of media: the journalist is not your friend.

43 thoughts on “Outing an amateur

  1. Hear! Hear! Attitudes like those of Massola and his string-pullers merely serve to exacerbate the differentials between MSM and amateur publishers. Seemingly, so it will always be.

  2. Excellent stuff.

    It’s great to see such a coherent take on the reasons why bloggers use pseudonyms, and how difficult this might be for others to understand.

    Of course, it doesn’t answer the question of why The Australian felt it necessary to ‘out’ a blogger, while maintaining anonymity and pseudonymity for some of their more controversial pieces … but I suspect that’s got nothing to do with a lack of understanding.

  3. Really well written and thought out. And none of the hysterics and abuse hurling that could have had an adverse affect – and put journalists off side immediately. Even if they still don’t agree with what you have written, it will give them pause for thought – and a good perspective of what being on the ‘other’ side of such an ‘outing’ could feel like.

    As you say, it’s not about being anonymous, it is about using a pseudonym to have the freedom to express your opinion without risking those near and dear to you copping the fall out. I have often contemplated starting a blog and saying exactly what I think – but I do worry that someone will misinterpret a comment, or take it personally, and decide to make life hell.

    I agree with Jeremy – this would be great to have on The Drum.

  4. Beautifully put Dave.
    You’ve nailed the core issue beautifully.
    There seems to be a strange disbelief from the MSM, that someone might actually *prefer* remaining an “amateur”.
    The fact that Grog could blog as a hobby, and so clearly outshine most of them, has obviously hit a sore spot.
    Let’s just hope he can continue to both work and blog.

  5. Excellent article Dave.

    I think the last paragraph really goes to the heart of the issue, and is the real driver behind most of what happened. I’m concerned that this “outing” may in part have been driven by the hope that it stopped GrogsGamut from further blogging, or even to cause him problems with his employer.

    It also concerns me that, as a professional journalist, James Massoli has not been able to argue his posited reasons with any real conviction or clarity. Either he doesn’t believe it and is just running his employer’s line, or he’s not good enough to do it. Neither possibility reflects well on him or his abilities as a journalist.

  6. Very well put. I’m glad to see that someone can illustrate so well why some bloggers prefer pseudonyms, as opposed to the ranting and raving some of us have been doing. Ahem.

    The point you make about it being about protecting your personal interests, rather than escaping accountability, is what is at the heart of this matter, and I am quite surprised so many journalists fail to see this.

  7. ” Journos are in some ways in an inverse reality to bloggers as they are rewarded for doing the type of writing that many bloggers fear they may be punished for, either professionally or socially. ”

    This is my favourite part of the article. I used to work in Queensland’s Public Service Union as an industrial officer – and even though I believe and am quite certain that he was completely in his right, he probably has to front an internal investigation due to the high profile coverage of his blog alone. This process is long – often goes for weeks. When I represented people in the internal process and we knew they were completely free of wrongdoing – it was still pure hell for those involved. Mainly because until someone says you’re okay – you are under such cross-examination. Colleagues are asked if they knew, or if they can verify they didn’t know, did it effect his work etc. Pure utter hell.

    I’ve heard the attempt at competing victimhood by Massola who has undoubtedly come under heavy fire, but he has support online by journos but most importantly AT WORK, his workplace is behind him to protect him. His grievance is only with those who attack him on twitter and even then we have the amazingly robust colleagues taking us to account on Twitter and in their publication. Grog potentially, went to his workplace to answer questions, Massola complains but when he enters his workplace he gets “you’ll be right mate” and pats on the back.

    Thanks for your wonderful piece Dave.

  8. Well put. As a scientist working in a government department, I have to be very, very careful what I say in public in my own name. I can’t say anything that could be seen to criticise government or opposition policy (without being very careful to ensure that nobody implicitly or explicitly links my comments to my employer) and I can’t say anything that could be seen as a comment on science related to but outside my field of expertise. While for a journalist, a well-thought out, thought-provoking, controversial opinion piece should enhance their standing and career, for me such an opinion piece under my own name might jeopardise my career prospects, unless I had it thoroughly vetted for possible offense by my employer before publication – a process that takes weeks. So my options if I want to have an online presence? a) Use a pseudonym. b) Tread very carefully and in fear, under my own name. c) Don’t contribute my professional and informed opinions to public discourse at all.

  9. Masterful as ever, Dave. Expect an investigative scoop to be published in some rag, outing the infamous Buster Boy and Troll Princess in retaliation.

  10. Yeah good piece, but only as far as it goes. For instance, what I don’t get is why if this blogger in question really wanted to remain anonymous, he didn’t. Apparently he went to a media conference wearing a name tag? Why do that? He knew he was interesting to journos, he aleady did an interview with the Australian a little while ago which I read. After that I was interested to know who he was. From what I read his real identity was actually made a joke at the conference. A journo who gets an interesting piece of info is always going to want to pass it on as that’s his job. But that said the way it was handled by the Australian was ridiculous overkill IMO.
    And yes I would prefer this comment remained anonymous!

  11. You’ve nailed it. And I can speak as someone who has been on both sides of the fence. I spent 25 years as a professional journalist, the last six or seven at the coal face of the intersection between the web and traditional media distribution. And I can tell you that many journalists’ heads are still spinning at the pace of change.

    A few of them get it and realise that working with the more expert bloggers as sources can make their journalism richer. The ones who don’t, though, are circling the wagons and treating the entire blogosphere/twitterverse as enemy territory.

    The anonymity issue which drove this debate over the first day or so was a red herring. The Australian’s journos, like many people in the media, are not particularly reflective or intellectual. It’s just easy to get up on the soap box and beat their chest about the public’s right to know. But the fact was it just wasn’t in their interests to explore why Grog’s Gamut and others (including myself) choose to use a pseudonym. It just suited them to say the unmasking was in the spirit of openness. And it spared them the task of tackling the actual substance in the criticisms made by Grog’s and others.

    But what’s most striking to me in this whole episode is the superiority of the writing and analysis on the unpaid blogosphere, including your own contribution, relative to the once-over-lightly, self-important prose of the supposedly “professional” practitioners.

    I’ve written about this over on The Failed Estate:

    http://thefailedestate.blogspot.com/

  12. Thanks for all of your comments, I felt that this was an area of the #groggate discussion that had been completely missed, especially by the journos discussing the story.

    Marcus, I have some thoughts on what you’ve bought up, but it wasn’t what I wanted the post to focus on. I can’t speak for Grog, but when I used a pseudonym I was happy to share my identity with people who I formed relationships with, but I didn’t want random strangers having the option to put my name into google and cause trouble. It’s a fine line, I admit, but many bloggers try to walk it. Grog’s ultimate problem was he produced excellent content which got him noticed, by which time it was too late to attempt to become anonymous.

  13. I don’t know why public servants should be political eunuchs? You just lose your right of expressing an opinion because you are employed by the government? Of course there should be limits on how ‘political’ a public servant should be, especially if they are in senior positions and if their public opinion would show that that person is unable to perform a balanced advisory function. If Ken Henry started a blog saying that Joe Hockey is a dickhead we would have a problem, but as far as I can discern Grog wasn’t in that position.

    You can take the apolitical public service too far. In Victoria, when Jeff Kennett was Premier I was an active member of the ALP and a public servant. I hated that government with a passion. It was arrogant, it had a disregard for communities and of course the public service. I actively worked for its demise, even got a couple of letter published in the paper, so was I breaching some sort of code? I was situated in such a low level in the Public Service that it really didn’t matter (I think that my position description was ‘shit kicker’) but if we extend the ‘apolitical’ public service dictum to its extent then even Joe at filing cannot say anything publicly about a Premier or a Prime Minister.

  14. I like Paddy’s comment about many journalist’s disbelief that anyone might prefer to remain an amateur. Again it points to a lack of understanding about blogging as a distinct form from the kind of writing that professional journalists do. Many journalists seem to think that blogging is some kind of stepping stone to a professional career, and no doubt this is why many feel so threatened. Sure, some bloggers have ended up being paid for their comment, but it seems to me that this isn’t their primary goal when they begin blogging. Many journalists just don’t get that blogging is a way of participating in the public sphere in a way that isn’t circumscribed by the professional constraints of the working journalist, whether that’s pressure from a corporate employer or simply a deadline that allows them only to interview the usual suspects or, indeed, no-one at all.

  15. Yep I get that. I definitely think there is a place for anonymity, and not having it would cause fewer viewpoints to be expressed, make the conversation less interesting, have a chilling effect on debate etc. I believe absolutely in privacy and freedom of speech.
    BUT I also believe in accountability. If you’re out there mixing it with journos, publishing, giving interviews, participating at conferences, etc, basically inserting yourself into the media, then I think you should make yourself fully accountable for it unless there’s a really compelling reason not to — like your safety or livelihood is at risk. Which doesn’t seem to be the case here. Plus as I said before as someone who has done journalism I strongly believe it isn’t a journo’s job to keep secrets but expose them, again unless there’s a compelling reason not to. This blogger’s identity was obviously a bit of a clubby bloggy secret — why shouldn’t the rest of us know? Although whether this one was worth exposing is arguable, especially the heavy-handed way that they did it.
    So, umm, actually I’m still thinking it out. But it isn’t that b&w to me.

  16. Great post and clearly an issue overlooked thus far in the debate. I wonder if Massola did actually do the right thing (as he surely had a duty of care to an interview subject) and say to Grog, ‘Look, you may disagree with my decision to do this but I feel it is in the interest of truth. Still, I appreciate that there might be some repercussions for you *and your family*. I’m publishing this next week. Take whatever precautions you need to.’

    So far, Massola has been pretty silent on whether or not he breached journos code by outing an interviewee.

  17. Hi Dave,

    I’m with Marcus on this: It’s not a black & white issue. Maybe when Grogs became ‘the news’ he should have seen the inevitable interest in his identity that his sudden fame had thrust upon him and outed himself, with an appropriate disclaimer on his blog? That would been about the end of it, I reckon.

    Anyway, GO SAINTS.

  18. In my view Massola’s article is one of the worst pieces of destructive journalism in recent time. It smacks of personal retribution presumably out of one-upmanship in Canberra’s crowded media fraternity. On equal terms at a media event with a rival critic lauded for his views on below par election coverage, Massola chose to unleash all that had irked for months. That the blogger was the father of a Down Syndrome child who for any number of legal or other reasons may have needed anonymity mattered not. Of course nothing justifies the nation’s leading newspaper mounting a personal attack simply because the person’s views prickled a particular member of their organisation. In fact I think the journalist used his employer to settle a personal score. Which is why the editorial department of The Australian should further inquire why the story ever made to print.

  19. @Marcus I’d like to pick up on a factual error. I spoke with Grogs at the Media140 conference. His nametag had his first name but not his correct surname on it. He was in no sense going around identifying himself nor making a joke of his anonymity.

    Everyone else: well said.

  20. The thing that has most amused/appalled me is the various journalists on twitter complaining that people responded to Massola’s utter douche move with harsh language. Because apparently threatening someone’s job (and if you really think that’s not what they were doing, I have a bridge to sell you) is not as bad as saying some mean things.

    In order, the most amusing parts of this whole event:
    1) The Australian, still in court to attempt to suppress the OPI report, claiming “right to know” as a defense.
    2) Christian Kerr attacking pseudonymous/anonymous bloggers
    3) Journalists realising that interacting with us common folk (or “their customers”) might involve more than us retweeting their words of wisdom from on high.

    It must be hard for them. In the past, the worst that might happen was a mention on Media Watch.

  21. Wait, damn, I forgot number 4. The Australian comparing blogs to a vanity press. The Oz has never, ever made money. It’s the absolute classic example of a vanity press.

  22. Your third par really captures a lot of the issues that have prompted people who have practiced journalism to rise to the media’s defense on this… or at least appeal for a little more balance on the issue.

    “When I began blogging my decision wasn’t about me wanting to avoid being held accountable for what I wrote, there were plenty of hints in my writing for people who may have known me in real life…”

    This is the problem right here. Contrary to your claim, the fact of the matter is that you didn’t want to be held accountable. What you’re saying doesn’t even make logical sense.

    You wanted the platform and to be heard but you didn’t want to acknowledge it as a public act which carries responsibilities. I’m sure that if Massola’s by line wasn’t on his piece you’d be up in arms. I’m sure the blogging community would be keen to out on of their own if they were the ones that did it to Greg Jericho.

    I’m sure that losing anonymity is a much scarier proposition when you don’t have a large news organisation backing you, but nevertheless, does that make the responsibility in public acts any less onerous?

    This issue that has dogged the web since it began; we’d all been waiting for the day that a blogger would get sued and they were – over an intellectual property issue. That blog wasn’t so anonymous but its author was behaving as if it was untouchable.

    The EFA was automatically all over it claiming it was a great blow to freedom of speech and expression.

    But the situation really proved that blogs are no longer in some separate privileged category of media, separate from the so called MSM and without its responsibilities. Since then we’ve seen many examples of that borne out.

    Once bloggers start kicking the ball around and saving the odd goal they can no longer claim to be on the sidelines. So they have to be subject to the same penalties.

    The distinction between the so called MSM and the so called new media is now distinguished only by prominence and audience, and the more you move to the latter the greater your responsbility becomes.

    To be fair, this issue is of course less salient for less frequented blogs that attract little attention and I’m with Marcus in wondering about the worth of outing Greg Jericho and the manner it did.

    But I’m fed up with bloggers …BIASED bloggers… framing this squarely as one-dimensional “oh the MSM is getting jealous of us” or “This is abuse of power” or “They wanted revenge” -style arguments.

    When Greg started influencing the ABC and THEN paraded around at a Media conferences he started, or should have started, to feel more of the responsibilities that go with media publication. Of course there was going to be curiosity. Of course there was going to be questions. It’s a compliment of the highest order really.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, you need to ask questions when someone primarily in the employ of the govt is stepping into public debates. We’ve seen companies abuse web publishing to their own ends and we like to see them discredited.

    And, yes, you’re probably right that there is probably some degree of resentment from journalists driving this sort of coverage. And the reasons should become clear from what I’ve already written. But alongside all of that, anonymous bloggers and social media critics would have little to write about if not for the steady stream new news fed up by professionals facing an army of spin doctors without the luxury of hindsight, time and freedom from accountability.

    And they enter this risky career with low financial reward because they believe in something.

    And what do they get here??

    “The journalist is not your friend. ”

    Damn straight – the friendship is very much under strain.

  23. @Ben Err but Greg is part of his name, right? So he was at least showing willing to put his real name out there. The fact his identity was made a set-piece joke organised by his friends is in his own blogpost Sept 27
    @Amos Hmm almost think you might be a real-life MSM journo with all this talk about unimportant “red herrings” like accountability! But nah none of those idiots know enough about new media to be able to participate in a blog debate, right?
    @ Everyone else well said because we all totally agree with each other and it’s great that we can come on here, hate on the MSM, reinforce each other’s prejudices and not challenge our thinking in any way. Which err is exactly what we accuse the MSM of doing. But hey let’s not spoil our good time by challenging any of our OWN assumptions and prejudices. *Back slaps all round*

  24. Also it would be really great to see everyone who has commented here go to YouCommNews.com and contribute $500 – $100 – hell even $50 to community funding an investigative story. Because someone has to pay for reporting and if we want an alternative to MSM we ‘re actually gonna have to do something about it ourselves, not just complain and blog opinion about what we have but put our money where our mouth is.

  25. Dave, thanks for your post. I think your salient point has been missed by much of the press and several of the comments.

    People might choose to use pseudonyms or anonymity, for reasons legitimate to themselves. In so doing they create an onus of credibility that they must live up to, establish their worth in that “voice”. Grog managed to do that with his cogent writing and his arguments.

    His unmasking, as has been pointed out, has done nothing except lead to his disappearance from twitter and his blog since. As an APS employee myself (on annual leave today), I expect he has had to explain himself over his personal views more than once. He has probably be put on notice, and whilst it seems clear he has not breached the APS Code of Conduct, there will be the perception that in being unmasked that it has brought the APS into disrepute.

    What the Oz has achieved here is to put every APS employee on notice that they will unashamedly pursue any APS employee who states personal views that they don’t like. That is deeply concerning. It also pitches to the crowd who believe that because they paid some tax once, they own every public servant and every welfare recipient.

  26. “whilst it seems clear he has not breached the APS Code of Conduct, there will be the perception that in being unmasked that it has brought the APS into disrepute.”

    All the more reason that Greg should have unmasked himself when his blog (accidentally) became big news. By doing so he’d have avoided the spotlight being cast on him and his employer. Well, I guess there might have been some mention of it but hardly to the degree it became.

  27. Amos, you said:

    “When Greg started influencing the ABC and THEN paraded around at a Media conferences he started, or should have started, to feel more of the responsibilities that go with media publication.”

    What responsibilities?

    Grog’s only responsibility was to abide by the law. He’s not somebody’s play thing. He’s not some Paris Hilton famewhore, he’s a dude writing content about politics.

    And spare me the accountability spin – what people fail to understand is that top line bloggers, especially political bloggers, are accountable to their audience in a way no journalist writing under a masthead is. If the quality of their content falls, their audience disappears – end of story. There’s no masthead to hind behind and the work of others to prop them up.

    A bloggers audience comes to read their content and their content alone.

    If you make a mistake, not only will every man and his dog nail you for it in the comments section, but every blogger and his dog will nail you for it on their own sites. We just arent talking about random hillbillies here either holding you accountable, we’re talking about people that are professionally qualified on the topic at hand, whom have often worked in the field for decades, and being the internet, have a natural predisposition for slamming rubbish.

    That is the ultimate accountability.

    As someone that was anonymous for years, I was held accountable for the accuracy and quality of my content by my audience and by the blogosphere well. I had shitfights with The Australian and the News Ltd tabloids in public and print, and was cited by the SMH, the Age,the Fin Review, the 7:30 Report, Lateline, Ten News, Channel 9, Channel 7, SBS – and we won’t even get in to radio.

    That’s the full media spectrum. If that’s not accountability in action, who knows what is!

    All while being completely anonymous.

    So just what sort of magical accountability are you talking about?

    As for:

    “anonymous bloggers and social media critics would have little to write about if not for the steady stream new news fed up by professionals facing an army of spin doctors without the luxury of hindsight, time and freedom from accountability.”

    Some of us manage quite fine thanks.

  28. Possum Comitatus

    Obviously, I’m talking about the accountability that comes with not being able to hide behind anonymity. That’s the point.

    And what responsibilities? There are plenty of things that aren’t inscribed in law which are responsibilities.

    For a start, taking on accountability for risks that one becomes responsible for when entering the public conversation which Dave pointed to in his blog.

    The responsibilities of making public acts and having influence which Jericho embraced at a media conference…and which I’ve already pointed to:

    “You wanted the platform and to be heard but you didn’t want to acknowledge it as a public act which carries responsibilities. I’m sure that if Massola’s by line wasn’t on his piece you’d be up in arms. I’m sure the blogging community would be keen to out on of their own if they were the ones that (outed)* Greg Jericho.”

    *small edit there from the original for sense.

    Again I’m of two minds about the nature and value of outing Greg Jericho but I just want to see more balance in the view of the events.

    For professional media operators there’s the possibility of being a target for defamation suits and other claims for commercial damage against your masthead (and that’s far more likely if it has the coffers to plunder), and the general risk to livelihood and reputation. Not to mention losing access to sources.

    (And I would include bloggers who derive their income from their work in that group and not a separate branch of media from “MSM”. As I said the only distinction these days is prominence and audience.)

    And make no mistake about it – there are journalists out there that have police following them and their children to school because they’re being shutdown and made too dangerous for whistleblowers to approach.

    Jesus, if all journos had to worry about was a few comments (and journalists are subject to that as well) the quality of content would plummet. On top of all that they also risk losing audience and audience of quality. Why would they be immune to that?

    I also note that your own blog sits under the well-established Crikey brand so I wouldn’t be getting too righteous about journalists being “propped up” by colleagues.

    These responsibilities, which seem to have escaped you entirely, have been built up over decades of litigation and media practice. Of course, the technology has streaked ahead of that and this half the reason we see these frequent conflicts between what is perceived as new media and established media.

    “As someone that was anonymous for years, I was held accountable for the accuracy and quality of my content by my audience and by the blogosphere well. I had shitfights with The Australian and the News Ltd tabloids in public and print, and was cited by the SMH, the Age,the Fin Review, the 7:30 Report, Lateline, Ten News, Channel 9, Channel 7, SBS…etc etc etc”

    Well, were exactly where Dave was when he started out. Not wanting to be accountable. You enjoyed the protection of anonymity. If your biggest worry was the blogosphere then you were no more accountable that a 13 yo on Facebook really.

    You were able to walk away without too many consequences if it all fell in a heap.

    All that said I don’t know if you were under the Crikey banner when all this was happening because that changes things a bit.

    As for your last point – exceptions prove rules.

    After all what was it that finally elevated Grog to Greg during the election?

  29. Amos, you said:

    “You wanted the platform and to be heard but you didn’t want to acknowledge it as a public act which carries responsibilities.”

    Again, I ask, *what* responsibilities?

    Grog said something, people thought it was important – so what?

    What responsibilities was he avoiding by being anonymous? Not what things he was avoiding, what *responsibilities* was he avoiding?

    You said:

    “For professional media operators there’s the possibility of being a target for defamation suits and other claims for commercial damage against your masthead (and that’s far more likely if it has the coffers to plunder), and the general risk to livelihood and reputation. Not to mention losing access to sources. ”

    Anyone can be sued for defamation, whether you write under your real name or a pseudonym.

    Grog wasn’t a journalist, wasn’t pretending to be, he didn’t have “sources”, he was a bloke with an opinion.

    You say:

    “I also note that your own blog sits under the well-established Crikey brand so I wouldn’t be getting too righteous about journalists being “propped up” by colleagues.”

    Everything I talked about was between 2007-08 when I operated under a free wordpress blog, completely anonymously, before I moved the blog across to Crikey’s blogging network. I can get as righteous as I want.

    You say:
    “These responsibilities, which seem to have escaped you entirely, have been built up over decades of litigation and media practice.”

    Yes, not only do they escape me, just how they apply to amateur bloggers escapes me as well!

    You say:

    “Well, were exactly where Dave was when he started out. Not wanting to be accountable.”

    My content was held accountable by every man and his dog, from old media to new. My person was held accountable by virtue of being able to be sued.

    What other forms of accountability I was not wanting to be held to, again, escapes me.

    So let’s skip forward to today, where my name is now known.

    It hasn’t changed the content of what I write one little bit.

    But, according to you, I’m suddenly now *more* accountable than I was before people knew I was Scott Steel?

    How?

    You say:

    “You were able to walk away without too many consequences if it all fell in a heap.”

    Are you suggesting that anonymous bloggers shouldn’t be able to do that?

    If not, what has it got to do with the price of tea in China?

  30. @Marcus Thanks for your response. It may be worth revisiting your conceptualisation of what happened at the Media140 event as it doesn’t necessarily match up with the percetions of those who were there.

    I have already made a commitment on the YouCommNews site on what I think is an important story:

    http://youcommnews.com/tips/17-code-red-for-seriously-ill-aussie-kids

    Perhaps you’d be interested in making a contribution to this story yourself? Perhaps you’d like to put up a pitch instead.

  31. @Possum Comitatus

    My gosh. It’s hit me, you’re right.

    There are no responsibilities for public acts and holding influence.

    Why are we even arguing? Why was this blog even written!?

    After all News Ltd had no responsibility to anyone but its shareholders. So who cares if they outed Greg Jericho. right? They weren’t beholden to any journalistic responsibilities.

    Seriously, why did I bother with all these carefully constructed posts? I feel like such an idiot.

    Dave you might as well tear down this post. It’s to no avail because the media doesn’t have any responsibilities. Oh and pass that along to social media experts bitching about inequity of power and bullying. Everything is fair game now as long as the hits keep coming in.

    Hell, we might get a few legal letters but I’ll just refer them over to Possum’s advisers so they can wipe their arses with them.

    Oh and tell Jonathon Green to reinstate Marieke Hardy’s post and withdraw the apology. Might as well stop wasting money on Media Watch as well.

    From now on I think we should just let the journalists take cash for comment and let the media hold the top story slots for the government that gives them the best tax breaks.

    It’s all so simple now.

    Thanks possum, you’ve saved me so much intellectual horse power mulling over these tough ethical questions. I can avoid having any expectation of the web at all now. I’ll just keep “stolen sex tape” on permanent RSS alert and spend the rest of my days masturbating myself into a stupor.

  32. @Possum Comitatus

    And here you go… just for you:

    When entering public debate anonymity affords:

    *Hiding motives for publishing;

    *Distancing of personal reputation from public acts (okay, I acknowledge that throughout history that has been necessary and desirable in some instances);

    *Possible to avoid legal liability and make it easy to avoid altogether because identities can be disguised easily;

    http://techcrunch.com/2009/05/22/cryin-aerosmiths-steven-tyler-fails-to-sue-anonymous-bloggers/

    & for interest:

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100806/04331910526.shtml

    *Possibility to avoid scrutiny on links to other parties either commercially or politically motivated;

    *Possibility to avoid ethical requirements normally applied to media. How does the Press Council deal with you?;

    *Possibility to use the net for racial vilification;

    *Easier to run vendettas without detection;

    *Possibility to disseminate propaganda with greater ability to avoid detection;

    *Possibility to hide religiously motivated propaganda (okay that’s a controversial one);

    *Possibility to hide previous poor character or criminality.

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