Dead tree columnist prejudices public’s perception of bloggers?

pixelated Irish News mastheadAllison Morris made a number of contributions to this morning’s Irish News. As well as the front page article about the alleged security breach when a police officer’s personal mobile fell into the hands of dissident republicans (and its contents were subsequently passed to the Irish News), she also writes a curious opinion piece on page 19.

Trapped behind a paywall, it only seems fair that her column gets a wider reading.

Rambling online twits prejudice trials at will

Kicking off with premiership footballer Joey Barton who “risked making legal history as the first person to be charged with contempt of court in relation to a comment posted on Twitter” Allison Morris moves on to mention the “Guardian newspaper journalist who tweeted the name of a juror during the Harry Redknapp tax-evasion trial”.

A modern thirst for instant information means we can no longer wait more than five seconds for news updates, even if it means a dilution in quality – the vast majority of tweets being irrelevant snippets of useless information.

small sample of Allison Morris' tweetsFor the record, Allison tweets and like many of us contributes “irrelevant snippets of useless information”.

The column’s laugh out loud moment comes when she tackles Eamonn Mallie.

The indefatigable journalists Eamonn Mallie holds the unchallenged title of king of Twitter in Northern Ireland. Last week he tweeted 140 characters that included the words ‘discombobulating’ and ‘deleterious’. Just reading it pushed other useful information from my head. I can no longer remember my Pin number as a result.

However at this point the pendulum swings without warning from Twitter users to bloggers.

Bloggers or ‘citizen journalists’ as some like to be known are a mixed bunch, their writing ranging in quality from humorous and informative to crazy and dangerous. There are, unfortunately, people who believe that a high-speed wireless connection coupled with too much time on their hands makes their rambling thoughts and conspiracy theories somehow relevant.

People with no legal or libel training regularly pass off misinformation as fact, prejudicing trials and defaming others at will, while the rest of us set out to write and publish correctly, subject to the laws of the land.

I’ve had one blogger, a person I’d never heard of in my life, email me a list of questions in relation to some half-baked tin-foil hat conspiracy theory they’d cooked up, giving me a ‘deadline’ to respond or else they would publish.

[Ed – Anyone’s ears burning? Can think of a couple of candidates!]

Meanwhile back in the real world I hit the delete button and carried on working for a living.

I don’t see the local evidence to support Allison’s claim that bloggers “regularly pass off misinformation as fact, prejudicing trials and defaming others at will”. My experience is that libel and defamation most often occur in the comments under blogs – an ever-present risk on Slugger – but rarely in the actual posts written by the bloggers.

It takes time to write a blog post. The act of having to form and edit a series of sentences allows your brain to mull over the content. Just because people don’t have formal legal or libel training doesn’t preclude them from understanding the concepts and applying them to what they write. Shuffling words around a screen – much like Allison Morris’ daily occupation – means that there is an interval in which to have second thoughts and to ponder the wisdom of putting your name to what you’ve written.

Still, all this doesn’t prevent badly written and ill thought out blog posts from being published online. But then, formal legal and libel training doesn’t always help the newspaper editorial chain from spotting libellous content. At least a blog post can be corrected as soon as a mistake is spotted. It takes longer for newspapers to put right their wrongs.

Allison’s column then reverts back to social networking, asking how a juror could be prevented from “checking out an accused’s Facebook profile” or how a witness could be prevented from “tweeting details of a crime … in direct breach of due process”.

She finishes:

As the use of platforms such as Twitter becomes the norm, can the flow of information be monitored to prevent the derailing of legal cases or in this information-driven society is it already too late to prevent the twits from taking over?

Some interesting issues raised about the contemporaneous and throw-away nature of modern communications as well as some less justified jibes at bloggers. Though as a humorous/informative/crazy/dangerous* blogger, I’m not sure I’m qualified to respond. (* delete as applicable)

And just in case Allison ever Googles herself, I should also mention her fear:

I’m sure that somewhere out there in cyberspace a blog accusing me of eating small babies for breakfast exists but I just can’t be bothered wading through pages of verbal excrement in order to find it.

It does now!

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  • Comrade Stalin

    I do feel some sympathy for these journalists who have put a lot of work into building up experience and training discovering now that they are being systematically undercut by people with no such training or experience, but at the same time Alison’s argument reads, to me, a bit like that of the people who thought way back when that opening out democracy to the general public would lead to mob rule. If people can do good journalism and write well, it is a good thing that there now exist simple and low cost means by which they may disseminate their views.

    I am not quite sure about the implication in the quotations above that “real” journalists don’t (accidentally or otherwise) break the law due to their training. I can think of several occasions where print and even television journalists have committed libel or have prejudiced legal proceedings. The solution is now as it was then, ie the law, and this does seem to be working well enough given the number of court cases recently which have been brought on the basis of things that individuals contributed on twitter or facebook.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    Given Morris’ (alleged) role in the Boston College tapes affair, she has some nerve lecturing anyone about journalistic ethics.

  • Mark

    was wondering would anyone mention that …

  • Been some day for hypocritical local rags. First the Indo spiel on sewing the seeds of fascism and then Morris lecturing on journalistic ethics. Sweet Jesus… The only thing to be said is Dolours Price, Ciaran Barnes and Boston College.

  • HeinzGuderian

    May I just say,I have never Emailed a journalist from the irish News,(or any other Tabloid),and I never will. 😉

  • John Ó Néill

    I’m thinking I can guess whose ears are burning. As to libel and defamation and lack of policing – I think Mick’s sent items box is bulging with advisory e-mails regarding ill-considered comments.

  • andnowwhat

    Alan Crosbie shiting it at the brighter days ahead for trees:

    http://www.examiner.ie/ireland/give-part-of-broadcast-funds-to-print-media-182925.html

    How it went down on P.ie:

    http://www.politics.ie/news/opinion-libel-vulgar-abuse-new-media-threat-humanity-says-examiner-chief-71.html

    And a rant from Ruiri Quinn and the reaction on P.ie:

    http://www.politics.ie/news/ruairi-quinn-calls-internet-threat-media-69.html

    In the words of Corporal Jones, they don’t like it up them.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Guy deserves a knighthood, and to have it taken away.

  • John,

    I’m guessing you like a few others think I’m the swivel-eyed loon blogger?

    I’ve given my own view on Morris’ nonsense, where the Irish News has no influence

  • Im glad Alan-inBelfast brought this up.
    I nearly choked on my corn flakes when I read the article this morning and I have already received dogs abuse for noting the Irony of it all.

    Perhaps the worst aspect of the article is that appears (to the casual reader) to be about one thing but is (to the smaller group of informed readers) about something else.

    Somewhat ironic that today Bloggers took centre stage at the Leveson Inquiry…..with a nice lady called Carla from Huffington Post.
    A chastening day for me as I discovered that Guido Fawkes the right wing blogger…….is actually Irish and therefore not nearly as bad as I thought he was.

  • cynic2

    When you lose a monopoly (or duopoly) on information or anything else it is always painful;. The market will act to cut out the middleman and we can call think and assess for ourselves rather than rely on others to do it for us – or rather to do it to the extent their proprietors will allow them.

    I know. its shocking isn’t it.

  • cynic2

    “Given Morris’ (alleged) role in the Boston College tapes affair”

    … what – you mean that she helped expose evidence in a heinous murder case? Give the girl a medal!

  • The post wasn’t intended to turn into open season on Allison Morris, or game of guess the blogger. As many of you have already articulated, discussion on the issues she raises is welcomed.

  • Dec

    I’m already looking forward to Ciaran Barnes’ take on this topic in next week’s Sunday Life.

  • Alan,

    Hardly credibly to ask people not to speculate when you include the line:

    [Ed – Anyone’s ears burning? Can think of a couple of candidates!]

    The tone was set in the article, it was encouraged by your blog – at least have the nerve to stand over what was inveitable as a result!

  • John Ó Néill

    Lol. Not you Mark (would you bother to mail her?). I assume the ‘someone I’ve never heard of in my life…’ is a calculated dismissal of someone else. Best bit is that they are a mere blogger not a journo (i.e. they have an area of expertise beyond journalism to inform their opinions). And it’s not me either.

  • John Ó Néill

    Alan – to get on topic – a valid criticism of southern media during various crises has been the preponderance of journalism grads with no other prof experiences (meaning they aren’t able to provide critiques of detail, like during bank crisis). Limits capacity of press to analyse complex issues.

  • Pete Baker

    Lift your gaze, gentlemen.

    As andnowwhat points out, the real conversation on this topic is taking place on another territory.

    And, as Fintan O’Toole suggested in the Irish Times

    Nevertheless, it remains sadly undeniable that the web shows us that decency is enhanced by rules and boundaries. And, conversely, that the absence of formal and informal sanctions (the law on the one side, and shame on the other) allows people to indulge their worst selves.

    The lovely, blossoming, self-regulating anarchistic commune that many of its pioneers dreamed the web would become is a Garden of Eden from which we have long been banished.

    That myth persists, though, and is now actually a big problem for online freedom. In resisting rules and boundaries, the online anarchists actually invite others – governments and corporations – to impose them.

    They will impose them stupidly and hypocritically. Governments will try to crush dissent or, at best, do more harm than good. Corporations will play both sides of the idea of private property – your information is ours, but our content is not yours.

    So who can make legitimate rules for the online world? Surely the vast but connected online community itself.

    This is, after all, the basic principle of democracy: we obey the laws because we make them.

    The time is right for a new social contract for the online republic that exists somewhere between naive anarchism on the one side and cynical control on the other.

    If online citizens don’t want to be subject to bad laws, they must collectively make good ones.

    Now, on Slugger, we’d prefer that to be a voluntary code of conduct…

  • Mick Fealty

    Quite so Pete. I’ve a piece to write myself tomorrow now, not least because I was there when Alan Crosbie gave that speech. I’ve an idea what questions he was trying to raise and some he unnecessarily avoided.

    It was cogent honest and passionate. It lacked some basic grounded understanding of the beast, but then what enrages journalists is that people too easily sneer at the potential loss of papers.

    Their tight coverage of local politics just is not being replaced. That’s a problem still looking for a solution.

    But more tomorrow…

  • To some extent the piece written by Ms Morris today was a “blog” rather than a newspaper column.
    The Irish News has a circulation of around 40,000 but it is hard to think that the target readership of the article was 40,000 or even the man on the Glen Road Omnibus.

    More accurate to draw the conclusion that a blog is for a smaller, more targetted readership.
    It strikes me that allowing a newspaper journalist to write what is effectively a blog…..is a luxury or indulgence.

  • Mick Fealty

    Why?

  • “Why”@ me???

  • Mick Fealty

    Yep. I don’t follow your logic. Why is hit like a blog? And why is that not acceptable?

  • OK….
    You might recall about 18 months ago I was “outed” as a well known journalist on this very weblog. Indeed I was bemused and amused as this notion took hold.Especialy when I was named.

    Leaving aside the inaccuracy, the thrust of those who outed me was that as a journalist, I should not post in an anonymous manner. One sluggerite even took me to task…addressing me as “Brian”.

    I am of course not a journalist……..I am a blogger/blagger with few delusions that I am important. On my best day ever my blog is read by comparatively few people.Throw in 35 followers on Twitter and about 60 on Facebook. And while I have no idea how the figures for Slugger or any other website stack up, I dont suppose that I approach any more than 0.2% of the 40,000 available to Ms Morris.

    Of course not all 40,000 would have read Ms Morris.

    Certainly on other websites, there is an occasional “flame war” as they were known some years ago. Good craic to be honest. Been burned a couple of times but careful choice of idiot (Tinternet has an endless supply) means a clever blogger can have a good day.
    Power without Responsibility…..except of course that theres no Power at all.
    At heart I am a swivel eyed loon typing with two fingers in a converted bedroom.
    Yet 40,000 readers does give a journalist a certain power and a certain responsibility.

    If 20,000 people read yesterdays piece, its likely that 19,750 took the story at face value…..but perhaps as many as 250 saw another context. As the Editor to the thread notes “ears might have been burning”.

    Now my point here is that the story is a story on two levels. One for the majority of readers and the other under the radar for the benefit of fewer people. Perhaps a minor flame war, conducted thru the papers of a national newspaper.
    In that sense its a blog.
    Now you pose the entirely legitimate question as to whether this is acceptable or not.
    My own view is that it is not.
    Others might well disagree.
    Alan-in-Belfast has chosen to highlight this story.
    I cant second guess his reasons.
    The first reason might well be that there is the Main stream Media versus New Journalism…angle.
    A second reason might be that it is not unrelated to a controversy in which Ms Morris has (with bloggers)been a central figure (and the “ears burning” comment seems to confirm this).

    Now in coming down on one side or other of the “acceptable” argument, I think its important that commenters are not influenced by the words “Boston College”.

    For the record…..as a lover of History……I have only a passing interest in that story.

  • FJH – The mental decision to highlight the column came at the moment I burst out laughing at the effect Eamonn Mallie’s tweets had on Allison. It was a priceless description.

    A few seconds later my eyes drifted left and I noticed the ‘go’ at bloggers, which in the context of at least one previous opinion piece by Allison deserved a wider airing (impossible to achieve by linking to the article on twitter or facebook due to the Irish News not being freely online).

    I like you observation that Allison’s article reads like a blog. The lack of sub-editing and discipline does mean that some blog posts can ramble, switch subjects mid-post, and disguise their real point in the middle of rafts of other text.

    Oh, and the final straw was a mischievous desire to get the last link in. Google delivered on that one. 30 seconds after the post went online, it was the top result for the pre-scripted query!

  • Thank you.
    Ms Morris is not of course responsible for the content of the Irish News.
    That is a call for Noel Doran and it is a lapse of standard. I described it above as a form of indulgence.

    It reminded me rather of Tony Parsons-Julie Burchill or Rod Liddle-Rebecca(???) Royce….a spat dressed up as principle in the pages of national journalism.
    Not journalism at its best.

  • Skinner

    I know several “traditional” journalists that had no journalistic training whatsover, other than that which they picked up on the job. Just like a blogger.

  • Local hack

    In the film Contagion, blogging was described as “graffiti with punctuation”

    Never a truer word spoken looking in this comment thread – quality and excrement all in the one place – just as Allison described!

  • Drumlins Rock

    hack,
    your mixing up blogging and commenting on blogs, although the comments on Slugger have a better balance of quality versus excrement than most political site, they are still just that, comments, the same as discussing the headlines round a pub table.

  • Ah local hack……..in History we learn the value of sources.
    Not being familiar with the movie Contagion I had to look it up on that impeccable source Wikipedia. Seemingly its a disaster movie featuring the talents of Ms Winslett (whose talents I have oft admired), Mr Damon and Mr Fishburne.
    And I am indebted to you for this quote. If I took Blogging/Blagging seriously or indeed myself seriously, Id probably agree that blogging/blagging is a complete waste of time.

    But a handy little book beside me has numerous quotes on journalism ………from Mr Kipling (not the cake man) and Mr Wilde among others. Arguably greater minds than Scott Z Burns (per Wikipedia the writer of Contagion).

    Indeed very few of the quotes about Journalism are flattering.
    A quick look thru Tinternet shows a page with 69 quotes, including a new one on me.

    History largely consists of saying Lord Jones is dead to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive.
    (GK Chesterton)

    There we have it………Kipling, Wilde, Chesterton…….and Scott Z Burns

  • ayeYerMa

    She was right on one thing – Twitter is for twits and a thorough waste of time.

  • She has a Twitter account. 🙂

  • Local hack

    FJH – In Contagion – which I referenced because I read of it in a newspaper column at the time of its release and subsequently went to see and wouldn’t highly recommend – the point was that bloggers often have a personal stake in the pieces they are writing about – therefore before you even begin there will be bias from start to finish. Check out the title of this blog.

    The difference between real journalism as opposed to citizen journalism is that reporters often unearth information because they continually ask questions – bloggers/citizen journalists tend to verge into vile rants which can leave them blinkered to all sides of an argument.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Local Hack, I think in this instance it was Ms Moris who was on the verge of a vile rant, blinkered to all sides of the arguement, also she has a very personal stake in writing the piece, ie. her job, can you show me the “unearthing of information” in that article?

    There is much trash in the blog sphere, I don’t comment on or contribute to many sites apart from slugger, and politics.ie is the only other one I would check daily, although I get disgusted with it pretty quick. As for twitter, I loath it, but have one confession, I have followed #ianpaisley over the last few days.

  • Oh I certainly rant…….but have never launched a vile rant.
    And indeed my Blogs are highly personal.
    Which is a raeson I suggested that Ms Morris’ article was “blog-like”.
    There appeared little newsworthy in the article…Ms Morris………to this blogger/blaggers way of thinking was using a news story (Joey Bartons twittering being cleared of any contempt issue) as a convenient peg for a thinly disguised attack on bloggers of her own acquaintance.

    To quote yet again from my favourite journalist……..flamboyant Sky weekend guy Peter Spencer
    “The death of journalists is not, as conventionally supposed, alchohol, but self importance”.

  • Local hack

    DR – If you read her page one article on the same day then you will she her “unearthing of information”. One in a long line of series of big stories that have set the news agenda in NI.
    What she has done has built up confidence and trust among sources over years of hard graft, probably getting steared down dead ends and led merry dances.
    She has won critical acclaim for her work and as such been allowed the freedom to express her opinion in a newspaper which has bucked a considerably declining trend for over a decade of dropping newspaper sales.
    And as she states, some one with an internet connection can jump on the WWW and immediatly question her reputation.

    And I know people will jump on the “papers are always in the dock” with libel actions and contreventions of codes of practices etc… BUT the law is not a black and white issue which is why papers end up in court.

    And it would be interesting to know, as Morris has eluded to in her opinion piece, just exactly how many bloggers/citizen journalists can rhyme of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 or what constituents a defamatory statement WITHOUT googling it.

  • Perhaps there would not be an ongoing enquiry into journalistic ethics if more journalists and newspapers had ended up in court over the past 10 or 15 years.
    So I dont think papers are always in the dock over libel and breaches of code. In fact they seem to spend a lot of money to keep out of court. Ask Mr Gordon Taylor.

    Miss Stanistreet has just finished giving evidence. Derek Webb is a journalist.
    Alas this blogger/blagger cannot quote anything about Contempt of Court. But then nobody has ever doubted my ethics.
    Doesnt seem much point in knowing all about Contempt of Court and then casually ignoring it. Just ask Mr Chris Jeffries.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Hack,
    Thats her job, i’m sure she does it very well and gets paid well for it too, fair play, not an Irish News reader so cant judge myself but accept thats the case. I can only judge on the one article I see reported here, and it certainly isnt up to such a high standard of journalism I’m sure you would agree. As Alan highlight she made a pretty sweeping statement “People with no legal or libel training regularly pass off misinformation as fact, prejudicing trials and defaming others at will” I think he was right to ask that she back up such a statment.

    You are of ocurse correct to say I don’t know the law on Contempt of Court and Defamation, ( although I presume and hope Mick does! ) but as was seen recently comments on court case even when concluded are tightly controlled on this site, and dare I suggest using a good pinch of common sense and manners should keep you out of litigation courts, that and a dash of obfuscation occasionally!

  • Indeed Drumlins Rock……..one might add that mainstream journos use the internet a lot and certainly seem to benefit from stories deliberately leaked on Twitter which oddly circumvent Court Orders.
    Obviously Drumlins Rock we bloggers need a professional body to safeguard our interests. National Organisation of Bloggers but the acronym is unfortunate but accurate

  • Local hack

    “a good pinch of common sense and manners should keep you out of courts”

    And here maketh the point – you would be very surprised at the amount of material that regularly does not make the pages/websites/broadcast news because it could lead to a “perceived” libel.

    To be defamatory the defendant only has to prove that a statement is damaging – not that it did do any damage!

    And Morris did back up her her statement when she referred to Joey Barton and his tweets in relation to Terry court case!
    If you had bothered to read the actual comment piece rather than selected quites repreoduced above, you may be in a better position to comment????

    AND FJH – the national dailys pay no regard to laws – they swoop in a create havoc and leave – I myself have had to mend numbers of bridges because of the work of national hacks shipped in to get the “juicy bits” and get out.
    I dare say you would be hard pressed to find a local incidence of similar behaviour among our own papers.

    Leveson is very much a concern for daily newspapers based in England, but will hit every paper that has behavioured properly very hard.

    As Ian Hislop stated- practices that went on was not just wrong but blatently illegal!

  • Exactly my point Mr Hack.
    There should be journos with criminal records.
    Trying to convince me and others that journos are victims is a hard task.
    While Leveson is certainly an issue for England, it is probably in some part due to the cosy relationship between politicians here and the local press.
    Still……if Ms Morris’ boss Mr Doran felt the same, he and the other Belfast editors should have declined the invitation from Leveson (18th January 2012)

  • Local hack

    At what point did I say Journos where victims? And you will find that most journalists that deserve criminal records will be from the likes of the national dailies.
    Most local journalists at the Belfast Telegraph will have undoubtedly have gotten their scoops through hard graft and a lot of work.

    The local media went along to have its say in Leveson because what it determines will have a massive say in the way they are allowed to operate in the future.

    “While Leveson is certainly an issue for England, it is probably in some part due to the cosy relationship between politicians here and the local press.”
    This – I have no idea what point you are trying to make

    And as for Ms Morris’s – her point was that she along with many other journlists walk the tightrope of the legalities in publishing each and every day – while bloggers publish away and suffere no consequence.

    Joey Barton could have seriously damaged a trial – one that he could be a star witness in – with his tweets.
    The AG should have come down hard on him and used it as a case to tell people – esp those with millions of followers on the likes of twitter, that spouting off an opinion about court cases can be very very stupid – but he didn’t.

  • “Joey Barton could have seriously damaged a trial – one that he could be a star witness in – with his tweets”
    au contraire…..he did not do anything of the sort.
    He COULD have said………..anything………but he didnt.

    Unless of course you and Ms morris know the law better than those law officers who say that he did not.

    You appear to be confused Mr Hack. At 4.40pm you tell me that local papers dont indulge in excess and at 5.19pm tell me that Leveson will have a massive say in how they operate in the future.

    I have no idea how the Befast Telegraph gets stories. I never read it (which hardly makes me unique).
    I happily accept your assertion (like me) that journalists are NOT victims. The present Inquiry is about the intrusion and illegality of members of your profession into “ordinary” people.
    There is no Inquiry showing abuse of the media and journalists by the Blogosphere.
    Im glad you think there is no need for one.

  • Mick Fealty

    FJH,

    “then nobody has ever doubted my ethics.”

    Except that time described yourself as a ‘man without ethics’?

  • Indeed Mr Fealty I have oft described myself as a man without ethics.
    This is either a true statement on my part.
    Or an untrue one.
    It might even be tongue firmly in cheek.
    Or it might simply be a case of an unethical man (myself) lying about his lack of ethics.
    Or it might be a statement that I (no longer) belong to any organisation which requires me to be “ethical”.

    My attitude to “ethics” is conditioned by a conversation that I had with an older colleague who chastised me for accepting something someone had said to me.
    My colleague advised me never to trust a man with ethics.

    Essentially its not for me to judge whether I have ethics. Whether I light-heartedly state that I dont actually have any ethics is totally irrelevant to me.
    Thats for others who know me to judge.
    What I do know is that membership of any profession is no guarantee to the integrity of an individual.

    As that former colleague now deceased would have it.
    The Middle Class have “ethics”
    Civil Servants have “red tape”
    And the average working man has “restrictive practices”.

    For almost two years now you have taken me literally on this issue of a man without ethics. And its always amused me. Long may this be the case.

  • Mick Fealty

    It doesn’t really matter which it was. It betokens a sort of insincerity that ill-fitted for your exchange with local hack (who I take to be quite sincere in his contributions).

  • Youre absolutely right …..it doesnt matter.
    Although it would also betoken a sort of insincerity about everything I have ever said for over a year and a half.
    I am happy to let anyone judge whether none, some or all of my contributions over that time are sincere or insincere.

  • Mick Fealty

    Except this site is for genuine conversations, not trolling.

  • Then let me assure you that eveything said above was genuine.

  • Local hack – you thought Allison was saying

    > journlists walk the tightrope of the legalities in publishing each and every day – while bloggers publish away and suffere no consequence.

    Plenty of consequences.

    I don’t think Allison’s point was that there were no consequences for bloggers. Being in contempt of court can lead to a blogger being summoned like anyone else. Neither ignorance nor amateur status brings any form of immunity.

    If anything, by not having a legal brain in the background, both unwitting and boundary-pushing bloggers are possibly more vulnerable to receiving a shot across their bow from an allegedly damaged party … or an irate departmental press officer in my case a few years ago.

  • Certainly Alan-in-Belfast has a similar thought to me.
    Guided by little more than common sense and occasional job related appearances in a witness box, I would always err on the side of caution.
    As a general rule the Media is more powerful than MOST of the people who claim to be offended by the Media.
    As a general rule the Blogger the converted bedroom is less powerful than the people or Organisations who claim to be offended.
    As we know McDonalds has a fairly aggressive policy to anyone who offends it.

    I actually think in my case that knowing “something” about the Law is actually worse than knowing “nothing at all”.

    If there is a real point of contention…..that journalists believe they are being held to a higher standard than bloggers, then that would be a difficulty.
    Is it really fair to say that Joey Barton was judged in a different way to a Blogger? I honestly dont know and frankly I would not even speculate as Id see that as potentially defaming to the Attorney General.

    Likwise I would not say that Barton damaged the prospects of a fair trial…..as in the light of a decision that he did not……it would possibly be defamatory.
    Again I emphasise that Id have to err on the side of caution…….not merely because I know too little but because the consequences of getting it wrong would be catastrophic.
    Ultimately the Sun and Daily Mirror faced fines in respect of Mr Jeffries (others paid out settlements) but were there any real consequences ..loss of job, income, property?
    As Alan-in-Belfast points out an irate departmental press officer wont blacklist a newspaper but will possibly take a sledgehammer to squash a nut (sic) like me.

  • Mick Fealty

    One, if no one reads your blog, then there’s no point in sueing you.

    Two, if a lot of people do read you, damage can be curtailed by a prompt take down.

    Three, big media are easier targets precisely because they have resources and the means to settle.

    Four, in my experience most papers do generally err on the side of caution in most cases. Cases that get settled are often settled because it’s considered too expensive to pursue it to court, even where there’s a good chance of winning.

    Five no one is above the law. Not even Guido actually believes that.

  • Mick –

    > One, if no one reads your blog, then there’s no point in sueing you …

    Except that if it’s not taken down, they can claim that anyone searching Google may be mislead by the search result and thus seek damages for that?

    More generally, casually casting 140 characters into the stream of twitter is often less thought out than a longer facebook update, and certainly distinct from the kind of thought process that goes into crafting a couple of paragraphs of thought (or more) in a blog post.

    Tweeting may be referred to as micro-blogging, but it’s a different beast, with a different risk. Lumping Barton in with bloggers is like lumping a cyclists in with motorocycling road racers … different sports, varying risks.

  • Local hack

    FJH – Barton, for what he said, only escaped the wrath of the AG because John Terry’s case is to be heard in a magistrates court – therefore no jury. AND judges are deemed – in the eyes of the law – and less likely to be swayed by things written.

    WIth Leveson will takes the deeds of the minority ie the Sun/Times/Guardian and apply them to everyone – ie BT/Irish News/News Letter

    And Alan – think your analogy is slightly off – lumping twitter in with bloggers is like lumping cyclists in with the likes of Cavandish – not much difference.

    There is a problem that the law has yet to get its head around and that is what angers journos!

  • I think what youre saying is that Joey Barton committed no offence.