ABC boss Mark Scott: The Oz outed blogger Grog’s Gamut because he was on its territory

The Australian’s decision to unmask public servant Greg Jericho as blogger Grog’s Gamut was a reaction to a “civilian” having “sidestepped the gatekeeper” and built an audience of his own, ABC boss Mark Scott claimed today.

In a speech to the 2010 Journalism Education Association Conference in Sydney, Scott referred to the move by The Australian to reveal Jericho’s identity – and its justification that this was because his comments had influenced ABC deliberations.  

Scott said:

“I read with interest the claims made by The Australian about why they outed Canberra blogger Grog’s Gamut. Their public interest defence was that they did this because I had mentioned Grog’s Gamut blog in a speech. I had said we’d discussed his commentary on campaign reporting, saw some merit in it and recalibrated what we were doing during the campaign to improve it.

“I am not sure the public servant behind the blog could ever have realistically expected to remain anonymous, particularly given all the attention his writing was creating, including my reference to it. People did know who he was, he was being commissioned to write more and he did turn up in person to public forums under his blogging nom de plume.

“But personally, his ideas were important to me but his identity was not. I didn’t ask or even wonder who he was. He was a blogger, who seemed to have some interesting and sensible suggestions about campaign media coverage that got people talking.

“Though several weeks had passed since my speech – and it had been referred to only in passing online – The Australian suddenly seemed determined to name him, using my speech as a pretext.

“To me though, it looked more like an objection to his authority, not his anonymity. It was symbolic of a larger unwillingness by The Australian to cede to a civilian journalist the ability to shape the agenda. A role The Australian, and some other mainstream news organisations, have long had to themselves. Grog’s Gamut, like so many citizen blogs before it, had sidestepped the gatekeeper.”

Later in the same speech, Scott pointed to an editorial in The Australian describing Twitter as “the dunny-door graffiti of the digital age”. He also highlighted the fact that The Australian had since removed the comment from its digital archive. He said: “If you want to read that description of Twitter as the dunny-door again, you can’t – except in the text of this speech or in a copy of the paper itself. Perhaps because they regretted the fun they had exaggerating, or felt it might come back to haunt them, it’s been removed from The Australian online.”

It was not the first time The Australian, whcih is owned by News Ltd, had stated its antipathy to Twitter. As Mumbrella reported a year and a half ago, the paper published an editorial headed “Time is up for Twitter” in which it suggested that the social network was “spluttering out”.

Scott used the upbeat speech to point towards the wider opportunities available to the next generation of journalists to get beyond the “elite” of News Ltd, Fairfax Media and the ABC.

He said: “The golden age for Australian journalism is not part of some distant past – it is one of the great possibilities of the present. For the best and the brightest of your student’s extraordinary opportunities remain to uncover a remarkable story and tell it to an interested public.”

He went on:

“When you graduated from a journalism school two decades ago – if you were lucky enough to land a job at News, Fairfax or the ABC – you were joining an elite profession in an elite organisation.

“Courtesy of your employer’s transmission towers and printing presses, you had been granted access to an audience who, in many ways, had little choice but to accept you.

“Since ownership of those presses and towers was limited to the rich, there were far fewer media sources from which to choose.

“They are still elite organisations I guess, and many still aspire to be employed by them. But they no longer exclusively hold the keys – neither to audience connection nor to agenda setting.

“Anyone with a computer or a phone can now connect with audiences by creating compelling content.”

He added: “Media organisations like the ABC and The Australian need to accept that we now operate in a shared space. That the days when we exclusively controlled the agenda are gone. The space is shared by professionals and amateurs, and smart media organisations will embrace the energy and insight of the non-professionals and use it to ultimately strengthen their offering.”


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