On Greg Jericho, groggate, and the public service.

johnboy 28 September 2010 39

An inordinate amount of media attention has been spent on the outing of Canberra Public Servant Greg Jericho as the blogger behind the Grogs’ Gamut blog which had hitherto escaped my attention but was apparently much loved by the narcissists of Twitter.

A great problem with many bloggers is that they love doing it until such time as people start reading what they’re doing. If you can’t handle that then keep it in your diary.

I don’t have a problem with Jericho, his comments seem saner than most.

But the twit storm demanding a right to blogger anonymity seems to be self interested and partisan rather than rooted in any principle.

It’s also worth noting that the “blogosphere” supposedly outraged is the small incestuous clique of self-identified lefties, with readerships composed mostly of themselves, who were more than happy to out other bloggers a few years ago with whom they disagreed.

Here at RiotACT I always thought it was asking for trouble to try and maintain anonymity. My employers in the past were always made aware of my activity to similarly head off trouble.

To do anything else while writing in a medium readable by all the world was always, in my opinion, both cowardly and stupid.

I hope Greg Jericho continues to blog, but if it’s contrary to the conditions of his employment (and that’s a big “if”) then he really shouldn’t have been acting contrary to those conditions hoping to not be found out.

That’s my 2c.


John “johnboy” Griffiths

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39 Responses to On Greg Jericho, groggate, and the public service.
PM PM 3:26 pm 29 Sep 10

johnboy said :

Well there’s never been a shortage of malice in the media.

You forgot the pithy insult at the end of that sentence there 🙂

Jim Jones Jim Jones 3:13 pm 29 Sep 10

So the decision to ‘out’ Greg wasn’t illegal or unethical, it was just mean-spirited.

    johnboy johnboy 3:18 pm 29 Sep 10

    Well there’s never been a shortage of malice in the media.

astrojax astrojax 3:06 pm 29 Sep 10

i don’t buy that ‘choice of action’ is enough to justify the outing. i could ‘choose’ to take a kitchen knife, go out into the street and thrust it into anyone passing by. that doesn’t justify that as an action, just because i could choose it…

if the action has deleterious consequences, as per my knife scenario above, then don’t we, as a society, want to have some moral, or legal, code to enforce that those choices are not enacted?

    johnboy johnboy 3:07 pm 29 Sep 10

    No, but the choice you have described is illegal. And the one being discussed is not.

Growling Ferret Growling Ferret 8:49 am 29 Sep 10

Would any of you want Crazychester dropping by for a cup of tea?

I doubt 95% of the current RA readership would remember Crazy Chester, or my all time favourite Ralph.

facet facet 7:40 am 29 Sep 10

Skidbladnir agree but I don’t take much notice of the Nelson Muntz haw haw types who operate with room temperature IQs (Fahrenheit not Celsius). Don’t find name calling or schadenfreude very amusing.

Skidbladnir Skidbladnir 11:16 pm 28 Sep 10

NickD said :

I ignore most bloggers (snip)

And that is where it should have ended.

But beyond that, you’re kind of suggesting that having a verifiable background or work history in whatever the issue is before being able to discuss it is what you demand from your authors.
Most journalists in most fields and publications don’t pass that test (Canberra Times or The Australian, think about the qualifications of their journalists in legal affairs, science, public policy, arts, education, finance, etc. They studied Journalism at uni instead of something productive or insightful…), so why are you asking your non-established-media sources pass?
I’m not suggesting that having internet access qualifies anybody for anything in itself, but all you should really ask is that their statements or ideas are based on critical reasoning and they can withstand the criticisms of a public arena and engage in a reasonable debate to defend the ideas or statements. Bias is always going to be part of it.

Again, your statement is at its strongest when its just I ignore most bloggers.

Incidentally, I have now been offered paid work based on a RiotACT article I wrote after reading up on a subject, but I’m still not about to put my real name on the article itself.
By definition, half of the internet’s inhabitants are below average, most of them are easily manipulated, and at least 99.9% of them are people I wouldn’t want visiting my house or calling me at work.
(Would any of you want Crazychester dropping by for a cup of tea?)

facet facet 10:10 pm 28 Sep 10

Couldn’t care less about the issue of “outing” or the trash way News Ltd operates, what I value is the neat way Greg (Grog) put into words my gut reaction to recent political/ media behaviour. His insights have obviously resonated in quite a few people and this is a good thing.
I have viewed with alarm, the ease with which traditional media has been able to define news coverage and the sphere of legitimate debate. When the story becomes about Gillard’s earlobes or her carrying a handbag, our democracy is in deep trouble.
Thanks also Greg, for the references to other interesting stories such as “PressThink by Jay Rosen (http://archive.pressthink.org/2009/01/12/atomization.html).
It will be a cold day in hell before I will pay for online content when gems like Grogs Gamut are available for free.

NickD NickD 8:53 pm 28 Sep 10

I ignore most bloggers who don’t put their name to what they write as a) there’s no way to know if the author is informed about what they’re opining about and b) the fact that they’re not prepared to put their reputation on the line in a meaningful way raises serious issues about their credibility (I apply the same rules for newspaper columns without a byline or which rely heavily on unnamed sources).

That said, The Australian’s justification for this outing is lame; it’s widely known that there’s no problem with APS staff actively engaging in politics as long as they keep it separate from their specific area of work at all times, and the APSC guidance on this is very clear, practical and easily accessible. Hell, APS staff are able to be preselected by poltiical parties and don’t need to step down from their jobs until the election is called, and even then they’re guaranteed their job back if they lose.

sexynotsmart sexynotsmart 7:44 pm 28 Sep 10

eh_steve said :

APS employees are encouraged to do this sort of thing so long as its done properly. Chapters 3 and 15 of APS Values and Code of Conduct in practice has been updated to reflect this.
The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) Web Publishing Guide (available at http://webpublishing.agimo.gov.au/) helps Australian Government agencies to manage their websites and to identify their legal and policy obligations. The guide includes advice on using Web 2.0 technologies.

Both Grog and Greg have done the right thing here. And Stevo has nabbed the policy statement in one go.

I had the (mis)fortune of attending one of Dr Gruen’s “Gov2.0” gabfests. If the powers-that-be are looking to implement recommendations in the report, they should issue a statement clarifying the rightness (or wrongness) of Greg’s actions. And damn quickly.

Otherwise that pretty “Gov2.0” report will not be worth a tinker’s cuss, because there is no clarity about whether an APS member can participate in a democracy.

moneypenny2612 moneypenny2612 6:42 pm 28 Sep 10

Out of curiosity – do newspapers now identify the writers of their daily editorials? (I don’t read them much these days)

How is an ‘anonymous’ expression of opinion in the form of a newspaper editorial any different from Grog’s pseudonymous expression of opinion on his blog?

(For the uninitiated, editorials in a newspaper have over the years infrequently been written by ‘the editor’).

I look forward to the byline appearing henceforth on The Australian’s editorials…

    johnboy johnboy 6:58 pm 28 Sep 10

    To be fair the publisher of the newspaper is identified in all print publications and they are held to be responsible for the editorial, even if the name doesn’t appear on the editorial.

screaming banshee screaming banshee 5:48 pm 28 Sep 10

FFS, the whole Nixon thing happened after events at Watergate, so thats how the scandal became known as the Watergate scandal, NOT THE WATERGATE-GATE SCANDAL!

sirocco sirocco 4:47 pm 28 Sep 10

johnboy said :

The point is that if someone else becomes aware of an identity they are free to accurately attribute it should they so choose.

Absolutely. This is all about choice of action. But many of the ways journalists do things have nothing to do with legislation, rather a self-prescribed code of ethics. And while I understand that Massola was free to out GrogsGamut and that if GG wanted to keep his anonimity he might have been a little more careful with his identity, I do not believe that Massola should have outed GG given the lack of any clear benefits in doing so.

Also, I do not believe Massola’s suggested motivations – and if a journalist doesn’t have the public’s trust in their reporting then what do they have?

(other than their health, of course 🙂 )

astrojax astrojax 4:08 pm 28 Sep 10

johnboy said :

But the idea that there’s a right to blog anonymously? It’s silly.

silly? why, jb? why is blogging any different to any other anonymous publication? which has been rife for aeons. please explain?

one wonders if there is, or should be, legislation to protect the identity of anonymous publications where there is no demonstrated public interest at stake. it should be up to the australian to demonstrate the asserted ‘public interest’ here (as opposed to ‘of interest to the public’, which sirocco has cogently differentiated above) lest they be liable for damages akin to defamation.

    johnboy johnboy 4:10 pm 28 Sep 10

    The point is that if someone else becomes aware of an identity they are free to accurately attribute it should they so choose.

Growling Ferret Growling Ferret 3:18 pm 28 Sep 10

Massola is a complete pussy for outing Grug. Typical NewsLimited thug trying to bully an opponent into submission.

But look at the publicity his blog has had today.

Knowing the author, but not realising it was his blog, I find the episode amusing.

And if NewsLtd are going to maintain standards of naming everyone, the next time an ‘anonymous source’ is not named after leaking a story that makes the front page of teh UnOz, I expect Massola to perform a witch hunt to out that source.

Its only fair.

sirocco sirocco 2:37 pm 28 Sep 10

Johnboy, it seems Massola outed GrogsGamut after GG’s criticism of the media and if so it’s just petty

Massola’s supposed motivation for it was that it was “in the public interest” – exactly how was it in the public interest to know GG’s identity? I think both you and Massola are confusing “in the public interest” with “of interest to the public” (and of mild interest at best).

There is a difference between these two concepts.

    johnboy johnboy 2:54 pm 28 Sep 10

    The day you let some dour consensus govern “the public interest” you have no media freedom.

    Massola wrote the story, his editor chose to publish it. If the Australian consistently misjudges the public interest then they’ll go out of business.

    But the idea that there’s a right to blog anonymously? It’s silly. The blogger in question was courting publicity and failed to secure their identity, it’s not the job of any other outlet to preserve their anonymity.

    Frankly with ~1,000 visits a day serving a national market I wouldn’t have bothered. But that’s a different choice.

PM PM 2:28 pm 28 Sep 10

I’d have thought being hysterical was a requirement to posting.

tom-tom tom-tom 2:09 pm 28 Sep 10

I find it interesting that this discussion and the one about Andrew Barr’s facebook page have both appeared within in a small space of time. Both deal with content published online using an understanding of privacy that was not shared by those who reported on this content.

This raises the idea that perhaps media organisations have not yet designed/implemented appropriate guidelines for what constitutes appropriate reporting standards for online content. And likewise raises the issue of what on earth these guidelines should be.

For instance the traditional method of determining if a story is newsworthy, is it true? is it in the public interest? etc is perhaps not so useful now. Take for instance the Andrew Barr story. Is it true? Yes, he certainly did post it. Is it in the public interest? yes, he is a minister expressing an opinion about a matter which is of community interest and which is currently under public consultation. So yes, using the old standards it is newsworthy. BUT the comment was made in a forum which has an implied level of privacy, as an earlier poster has alluded to Barr can decide who he does or does not share this comment with. As a minister Barr has many avenues to make these comments publicly should he choose to, however he chose to only share them in a more private forum, as is his right.

The question then becomes whether the public interest outweighs Barr’s right to a level of privacy. I think in this case it does but it is a slippery slope, would the same hold true for a school child posting about a newsworthy event (say a lockdown) at school, for a nurse who writes about patients who have been involved in a car crash etc. Where exactly is the line?

The Massola/Grog debate presents another example of this. Is the unmasking of Jericho true? yes. Is it in the public interest? Not unless you by the Australian’s argument that any derivation from their idea of ideological purity is a punishable offence. Likewise Jericho wrote under a pseudonym, making a clear statement that his work was anonymous and that he wished to maintain a level of privacy, however he also made his work public and to an extent even publicised it. So again, where is the line?

Massola’s defence of his story also alludes to the fact he came to know Grog’s real identity when interviewing him for an unrelated story. As Massola did not name him at the time it is not unreasonable to assume that the interview was given under conditions of anonymity, which makes Massola’s decision to unmask Jericho ethically very questionable, especially from a man who has built his career off the back of quotes from anonymous sources.

So rioters, where is the line? Does privacy exist online at all, and at what point does the public interest override any level of privacy which does?

Jim Jones Jim Jones 1:57 pm 28 Sep 10

Thumper said :

And Jim, you do get a bit hysterical at times.

I love how you resort to this sort of line when you’ve been told to get back in your box. It’s sweet that you’re so genuinely concerned about others.

If being well-informed about this sort of thing and pointing out the nasty motivations of a national newspaper is ‘hysterical’, then I’ll gladly accept the sobriquet.

At the risk of sounding ‘hysterical’, I must say that it does mystify me that someone who is such a regular poster on RiotAct can’t distinguish between the journalism of a national newspaper and opinions offered on a blog.

pajs pajs 1:40 pm 28 Sep 10

The Oz hardly covered itself in glory with this one. At least Jack the Insider outed himself in solidarity. The editorial they ran today is near-breathtaking for righteous hypocrisy from a paper running Henry Thornton and other columns without bylines.

Grog, as George Megalogenis observed, had a good election campaign. He wears his personal reactions somewhat on his sleeve, but it was refreshing to see real analysis of policies on his site. That just highlighted to me the lack of such rigour in other places.

I hope that Grog can keep blogging. The Australian public sphere needs people prepared to think and write like he does.

PM PM 1:20 pm 28 Sep 10

Just saw this on the ABC news website:


What if it’s something about the ABC??

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