Press Council boss in push to regulate reader comments and sign up ‘serious bloggers’

The chairman of Australia’s journalism watchdog is to focus on persuading bloggers and online publishers to agree to be regulated by the organisation, and to demand better standards of reader comments online.

In an interview with Mumbrella editor Tim Burrowes, Prof Julian Disney, who chairs the Australian Press Council said that newspapers and digital publishers needed to boost their online standards.

He also called for reader comments to be pre rather than post-moderated.  

He said: “We’ve had a number of complaints about that. One of our earliest projects… will be looking at to what extent newspapers should be careful about what they allow from readers to go onto their websites.

“There’s an assumption that the rules of the game are the same as for putting it into a newspaper, but realistically I don’t think that’s quite true and certainly isn’t what happens in practice.

“More abusive comments, more incoherent comments, more off topic comments will be put into a comment stream on a website than would ever go into a letters to the editor.”

The APC is funded by Australia’s newspaper publishers, but Disney said he hoped that “serious bloggers” would also sign up.

He said: “We’ll certainly be encouraging the online only publishers to come with us.”

He warned that those who chose not to join might not have access to such journalistic privileges as the shield law around sources and access to press conferences. He said: “The only penalties as it were will be that some of the protections made available for traditional journalists… where we do need some criteria. There’s a risk that if we don’t provide an opportunity for serious bloggers to be recognised as serious journalists…they will be permanently discriminated against.”


  1. Andrew
    22 Sep 11
    1:51 pm

  2. Fully agree with Disney and endorse his policy on blogging and also will be happy to sign up to Council as online only publisher (of )

  3. Peter
    22 Sep 11
    1:53 pm

  4. Sounds like fear of losing control of the marketplace is driving a desire to regulate. What Mr Disney should consider is that many newspapers have lower standards than serious bloggers. And many newspapers use much more negative tactics and content to compete for circulation than commenter’s use in the responses to the poor journalism seen on today’s mainstream sites. But, what else can we expect from his generation.

  5. Bob
    22 Sep 11
    2:07 pm

  6. Peter your post is not just replete with gramatically incorrect, unsubstantiated assertions, it is completely absurd.

  7. Andrew
    22 Sep 11
    2:16 pm

  8. peter – “losing control of the marketplace” ? Explain please. “lower standards than serious bloggers” ? Examples please. When that’s done we can tackle the rest of your assertions.

  9. Bob
    22 Sep 11
    2:18 pm

  10. ps…the creative for the Mumbrella creative review is spinning around furiously while i watch this video …it’s very good, well done…it’s just a pity you wont take my corporate Amex!

  11. DL
    22 Sep 11
    2:26 pm

  12. adnews got it right with their stand last month

  13. willemrt
    22 Sep 11
    2:26 pm

  14. Nice straw man attack bob… anyway..

    Whats the point of signing up to the press council? Bloggers already get invited to press events, and they would be covered by shield laws regardless of whether they paid dues to his organisation or not.

    Old media wanting to put new media into a box.. yet again.

  15. R. Mugobme
    22 Sep 11
    3:09 pm

  16. Whilst I disagree vehemently with everything you say I will defend your right to say it till my death. Obviously not a credo recognised by the Press Council.

  17. Andrew Bolt & Gina Reinharts Love Child
    22 Sep 11
    3:11 pm

  18. Yeah. You old people just don’t get it. Leave the “media” thing up to us kids. We’s making a fortune from our blogs. It’s the future. It’s journalism 2.0. It’s social media. We is the connection between the yoof and you old people.

    We get it you don’t.

    Now. I must sigh and roll my eyes at you dinosaurs.

  19. Ned Kelly
    22 Sep 11
    3:38 pm

  20. One of the only things Australia has in terms of ‘culture’ per se is the Ned Kelly attitude problem. Seriously, enough already with all the regulate schmegulate garbage.

    I have some new catch-copy, just came to me now:

    Australia – the country that does everything in its power to make intelligent and/or successful people NOT want to live there.

  21. Groucho
    22 Sep 11
    5:26 pm

  22. The good Prof seems to have a fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between newspapers and on-line. On-line is not just newspaper without the ink it is a live, dynamic and almost impossible to tame medium. It is not one which can be held back by regulation designed for a previous century. Or by someone who seems to be living in one.

  23. Craig
    22 Sep 11
    6:10 pm

  24. The Professor has no control over Shield laws, which are developed by Federal and State governments.

    I find it inappropriate for him to be making any kind of comment indicating he has any influence over governments in this way.

    Secondly, he has no right to impose standards of manners on the Australian public. It should be up to each individual blogger or organisation to set their own standards as they feel appropriate – then their commenters will vote with their feet.

  25. Pluto
    22 Sep 11
    9:20 pm

  26. Content is king.

    Times change and we re arrange.

    Media is rearranging, fragmenting and being dissected left, right and centre.

    The old skool publishing krew are trying hard to figure out what to do. Their weakness is that their once, pretty safe revenues are beached like a giant whale, (still breathing) but with loads of sharks, crabs and the like, gnawing away, having a good feed.

    The thing is, individuals with true passion and interest about niche subjects are delivering up better content than the big, sluggish old skool. Some people call these vertical live and breathers; bloggers.

    Call them what you want, these content generators are engaging with audiences and delivering up what these audiences want = great content and a pleasant experience.

    It is as simple as that.

    Give the people what they want and they will cometh. Alienate your audience and they will peeece orrrf.

    The user doesn’t have to be the editor (although they can be online, browsing around.) If you know your audience and serve up what they want, they will allow you to still steer…


  27. Kaylen
    23 Sep 11
    12:43 am

  28. Wait, what? You might not have access to the Shield Laws unless you subscribe to the Press Councils’ dominion?



    The “Shield Law” is not a privilege; especially not one that can be doled out like candy to good little girls and boys.

    The fact that someone is trying to misrepresent the Shield Laws like that, and imply that it functions at their discretion is absolutely disgusting.

    “Serious Bloggers”? “Serious Journalist”? Horse manure.

    It’s talked about that if the “Serious Bloggers” don’t come under the Press Council’s Umbrella, then they stand to be “discriminated” against.

    Classifying someone as a “Serious Blogger” or a “Serious Journalist” and implying that those whom don’t meet standards are “inferior” is, surprise surprise: discrimination.

    Bouldermould. Absolute wormnuts.

    To see a person in that position making those comments is horrifying.

  29. Hugo
    23 Sep 11
    4:29 am

  30. I think Professor Disney has his heart in the right place. However his understanding of blogging is very dated. “Serious bloggers”, honestly its not 1998 anymore professor.

  31. Craig
    23 Sep 11
    12:43 pm

  32. Heart in the right place?

    For anyone in the physical press business like the Press Council that would be to have their heart in their throat.

    The level of understanding of the broader media context by the good Professor really demonstrates why newspapers are struggling. They have not yet adapted their thinking to the new media landscape.

  33. Johnno B
    23 Sep 11
    5:32 pm

  34. So what if an “serious” blogger catches a newspaper or newspaper blogger plagiarising, distorting, misrepresenting or misquoting, which happens happens every day in the blogosphere?

    Does that mean Disney will dig out the truth and order apologies from one PC member to another?

    Sheesh. What a dill.

  35. gabrianga
    26 Sep 11
    11:53 am

  36. Watch out “Andrew and Gina’s lovechild” That SOF Disney is after you too

  37. gary
    26 Sep 11
    12:17 pm

  38. So does that mean they will expose the busted climate gate fraud for what it is or what ? Soon nobody will be reading or blogging the papers ,online news is much better .

  39. Pete of perth
    26 Sep 11
    12:18 pm

  40. Chickens on average have two legs.

    Over to you Professor.

  41. Ken
    26 Sep 11
    2:19 pm

  42. “More abusive comments, more incoherent comments, more off topic comments will be put into a comment stream on a website than would ever go into a letters to the editor.”
    SO what if they are not up to the literary standard you set! That’s the point and that’s why print media is loosing ground. Because blogs attract those who agree with or are opposed with the tenor of the blog. it actually becomes an exchange between bloggers about topics of interest to them. unlike a hard copy paper a blog is engaging and allows one to voice an opinion to read others opinions, and have people agree or disagree but that is what happens if one has an opinion which they are prepared to share.

  43. R. Mugobme
    26 Sep 11
    2:47 pm

  44. @ Ken the other great thing that you forgot to mention is imediacy of response that a blog gives. If I agree or disagree with the Press I have to weight for the publisher to publish a probably derogatory response. That rarely happens and never without editing to favour the publisher.

  45. PeterMax
    26 Sep 11
    3:42 pm

  46. Sounds like the Press Council wants to build an empire at the expense of free speech

  47. Shane Dowling
    26 Sep 11
    9:19 pm

  48. Hi all

    I am a serious blogger and I have just written a post on the Media Inquiry.
    It is titled “Justice Finkelstein and a fist full of dollars. This is the clown running the Australian Media inquiry.” and is at:

  49. Bill Posters
    27 Sep 11
    7:50 am

  50. Hi Shane, your incredibly defamatory post, linked above, pretty much proves the point that Mr Disney is trying to make.

  51. R. Mugobme
    27 Sep 11
    10:14 am

  52. I preferred it when he didn’t tell what I can do in the truly free press and he just made cartoons. Except Bambi.

  53. Shane Dowling
    27 Sep 11
    11:29 am

  54. I reply to Bill Posters “Hi Shane, your incredibly defamatory post, linked above, pretty much proves the point that Mr Disney is trying to make.”

    The only thing defamatory is your comment. My post gets a clean bill of health.

  55. Andrew Bolt & Gina Reinharts Love Child
    27 Sep 11
    1:12 pm

  56. Shane your website is packed full of awesomeness.

    Stupid reporters with their fact checking and use of multiple sources. Your opinion on who is and isn’t a dick in the legal system saves me from having to think for myself or rely on all that old skool journalism.

    You clearly get it. I don’t have to roll my eyes at you!

  57. Bob
    27 Sep 11
    1:48 pm

  58. Bill Posters is spot on.

    The link to a ranting post by one fringe-dwelling conspiracy theorist nutter (aka ‘serious blogger’) has proven exactly the point Disney is trying to make and sweeps away the self-serving tripe served up in this comments stream.

    All you self-appointed but anonymous champions of an inalienable right to free speech at all costs might not feel so indignant and self-righteous if it was your real name that was being publicly slagged off.

    Whether old media or real media the distinction is irrelevant when it comes to the purpose of media governance, standards and defamation.

    Educate yourselves and understand a bit about the requirements of the civil society you live in, keyboard warriors.

    Step out from behind Call of Duty 4 and close that online poker account.

    Realise that while you might enjoy writing your blog, vanity publishing has never had any real influence and the 5 people who regularly check what you write already know you and are just doing it to be polite. You aren’t, and will never be, Stilgerrian, Dragonista or Grog’s Gamut.

    Reevaluate the long-term prospects of your job as an Assistant Digital/Social Media Strategist. The little mob you work for are likely to go broke like all the others, anyway.

  59. Pluto
    27 Sep 11
    8:13 pm

  60. I feel that many anonymous comments comments can add a lot of substance to a debate, which can be extremely constructive.

    Moderation of these comments can result in a birds nest of tripe or a great read.

    I do agree that it has never been easier for the peddler nut to have his / her say and find similar nuts, worldwide to all peddle the same message to all their followers.

    Some would label Rupert Murdoch as a ‘peddler nut’, others would not…

  61. Pluto
    27 Sep 11
    8:14 pm

  62. comments comments comments… doh!

  63. Shane Dowling
    27 Sep 11
    10:42 pm

  64. In reply to Bob27 Sep 11 – 1:48 pm
    Bob if you are going to write the dribble that you have at least get your facts straight and do not be afraid of using your real name that you claim others are.

    The fact is my real name is exactly what I posted, Shane Dowling. It is freely available on my Blog, all over the place, which you happy to criticize. Might help if you actually read it before you bag it. There is even a photo of me on there if you look. Hardly someone hiding.

    The people whose (edited by Mumbrella for legal reasons)

    They are all well equipped to seek recourse if what I say is wrong. But none choose to because I have my facts right.

    I am also an author of a book on corruption in the Australian Judiciary. It has been given a five star review by a barrister in England who said that the book “ is a marker setting a future agenda for international human rights and upholding the rules of natural justice.”

    So I think I am well qualified to blog on corruption in the Judiciary. So the only nutter is you Bob or whoever you are.

  65. Ken
    28 Sep 11
    6:49 am

  66. well said Shane, not that you need additional support but my imperfect understanding of all so called “whistle blower” legislation is to ensure anonymity as a desirable outcome not something to be scorned by self-appointed arbiters of what has or doesn’t have value.

  67. R. Mugobme
    28 Sep 11
    8:47 am

  68. So if I’m a Journalist and I print something defamatory and refuse to reveal my source. That’s okay. Even heroic.

    But if I write a blog and publish that same defamatory remark I’m Bad??

    Just trying to make sense of this world. Sorry I just have to go and change the pin on my phone. Mr Disney’s mates are stealing my messages.

  69. jean cave
    21 Oct 11
    1:09 am

  70. Prof Disney may like to have a squint at the comments on this blog. They are truly fascinating.

    @ everybody else. Please have more respect for the olders.

  71. nike free trainers
    21 Oct 11
    5:58 pm

  72. Just trying to make sense of this world. Sorry I just have to go and change the pin on my phone. Mr Disney’s mates are stealing my messages.