Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Truth to Power, etc

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  • Emma Hart,

    Related: Pitchforks hurt!

    Dude, come on, we did lick it better afterwards.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Gen,

    No I can't see a plot either Russell. I just think the way it's worded is unfortunate.

    Craig I interpreted that point as such people being afforded a higher level of ethical and legal protection than everyone else.

    I think all journalists should be careful about defaming people, regardless of who they are.

    Having truth on your side doesn't necessarily mean a good story will get published. Especially when your employer thinks that the subject of your story is litigation happy and has deeper pockets than they do. Which is a shame.

    Since Nov 2009 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • dubmugga,

    the back of your mind • Since Nov 2006 • 257 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    No I can't see a plot either Russell. I just think the way it's worded is unfortunate.

    Fair enough. I'm less bothered, but it's clearly a point on which reasonable people might disagree.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22811 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    disbarment proceedings, or charges of facilitating tax evasion or fraud on behalf of one of her clients

    Not sure they have those in Hong Kong, unless you forget to make the regular payments to General X?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Having truth on your side doesn't necessarily mean a good story will get published. Especially when your employer thinks that the subject of your story is litigation happy and has deeper pockets than they do. Which is a shame.

    Like Lyndon up-thread, you don't want to get me started on what's wrong with defamation law and (IMHO, of course) vexatious litigants who use the courts to try and bully their critics into S-ingTFU. Unless, that is, you have a lot of spare time and a spittle shield.

    I'm sure Guardian editor Alan Rushburger wouldn't be terribly upset if the entire staff of Carter-Ruck died in a tragic super-viral outbreak caused by poor kitchenette hygiene. Who would blame him?

    But, like Russell, I'm just not seeing anything sinister here. As Helen Clark used to say, the road to success is under-promising and over-delivering. Cathy Odgers got that the wrong way round.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    'people who are more inclined to sue if they are the subject of adverse publication'.
    I've never seen that sort of thing given to journalists before. Not even in my days on provincial newspapers.

    I've heard of them and I'm not a journo. Elton John, Mohammed Fayed, that sort of person. ISTR reading that the computers at one London newspaper were set up to automatically forward any proposed article mentioning such names to the lawyers.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Gen,

    Tom Cruise, Keira Knightley, Posh Spice - depending on topic.

    Craig I think we're broadly in agreement. (I’ve always liked Private Eye’s pet name for Carter Ruck btw). Virtually every Friday when I worked in the UK, a fax from Schillings would roll out at 5.30pm, warning all UK publications not to print photos of this or that so called celeb (remember the furore round Britney’s nipple exposing dress/photos taken on the street/the infringement of her “privacy”? I don’t think many publications ran that pic, despite the dubious basis for any restraint).

    The company I worked for had in-house legal so could make a call immediately without any discernable effect on budgets. The cost of getting external advice on these faxes would very quickly make huge holes in the viability of smaller outfits.

    An interesting tangent is how this sort of bullying contributes to the oligarchisation (I think I just made up a word) of a few powerful media organisations to the detriment of smaller independent companies, but that’s a rant for another day.

    Since Nov 2009 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    An interesting tangent is how this sort of bullying contributes to the oligarchisation (I think I just made up a word) of a few powerful media organisations to the detriment of smaller independent companies, but that’s a rant for another day.

    Of course, one of the more delicious ironies of British legal history is how many libel lawyers had their sons put through Eton by... litigious press barons. When Robert Maxwell took his fatal skinny dip, he had over a hundred defamation actions in train -- a good number of those against people asking inconvenient questions about the state of the Mirror Group's pension funds.

    And while you mileage may vary, I found this from the 'Media Law' page on Carter-Ruck's website truly sinister:

    Where consulted before publication under its MediaAlert service, Carter-Ruck is often able to persuade a publisher or broadcaster to change its intended story or even to decide not to publish it at all. If this does not prove possible then the option of obtaining an injunction to prevent publication will be considered. The firm has an excellent record over recent years of securing injunctions prohibiting publication, particularly of private information. We are often able to secure injunctions in a matter of hours. We also have considerable experience of working (often alongside PR agencies) for blue chip corporations and other clients facing sustained and hostile media interest.

    Where defamatory or intrusive material has already been published Carter-Ruck has vast experience in providing swift and clear advice on the legal options available. Our forceful approach and reputation in both the libel and privacy fields commands the respect of editors and programme makers, which in turn means that claims are often resolved by negotiation and without the need for formal action. If, however, litigation is necessary this is pursued in a robust and determined manner with a constant focus upon our clients' ultimate objectives.

    The firm's has a dominant presence in the media litigation sector and, in a given year, it can be involved in more than half of all the libel and privacy claims issued in the High Court. Our lawyers have secured many of the highest ever damages awards in those fields, as well as unprecedented front page apologies in national newspapers.

    I've heard of ambulance chasing, but this smells more like a firm of pyromaniac fire-fighters.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The company I worked for had in-house legal so could make a call immediately without any discernable effect on budgets. The cost of getting external advice on these faxes would very quickly make huge holes in the viability of smaller outfits.

    The one time I've actually been sued (by Telecom!) I was astonished at how much money our law firm took to drop some legalese into the detailed briefing I prepared for them, and then turn up in court for a case that was settled fairly early on. About $20,000 iirc.

    And we weren't a very small firm. I've always been grateful for the fact that my boss, Martin Taylor, never reproached me for the story and wrote off the cost to "the excellent publicity" generated by the whole scrap. I'm sure it helped that the story, while provocative, was true, and we never admitted fault.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22811 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    Dude, come on, we did lick it better afterwards.

    The pitchfork? I'm sure it appreciated that.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    if Catcus is amoebic then be very afraid.. Ascerbic she may be , but she has one of the finest intellects in the blogzone

    In that case I feel that at this late stage of the year it would be appropriate to nominate CK for the "Best Use of a Bushel - 2009 Award".

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1645 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Lyth,

    you don't want to get me started on what's wrong with defamation law and (IMHO, of course) vexatious litigants who use the courts to try and bully their critics into S-ingTFU

    No, wouldn't want to get Craig started at any time. But would you consider talking about possible new approaches?

    Steven Price over at Media Law Journal proposes An Alternative to Defamation, saying in part:

    What about an ACC-like trade off where we dump defamation laws in exchange for a statutory reputation complaints tribunal with a first-tier mediation arm? The primary remedy would be a speedy mediated correction, clarification, or agreed statement.

    Stephen Franks on the other hand blogs and has a draft bill to ensure, he says:

    People who inflict cost on others with meritless threats of legal action should know before they start that they’ll wear those costs as well as their own, if they don’t or can’t substantiate their claims.

    What views on these alternatives? Asking because a few people are knocking around the idea of a possible Members Bill on the matter in this Parliament.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2009 • 458 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    No, wouldn't want to get Craig started at any time. But would you consider talking about possible new approaches?

    Indeed -- and after a quick skim though both Price and Frank's posts, they both make good points, and their alternatives aren't free of fish-hook but worth serious consideration.

    And as Steven says it's not as if any alternative could be worse than the status quo. I'm reasonably confident that Margaret Pope would quietly wish that so much of her husband's time and energy (and God only knows how much money ) hadn't be consumed by his legal actions against Joe Atkinson/North and South and the ABC. Lange himself said that the relentless stress for years on end really didn't do his fragile health any favours.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Hosking,

    After all, isn't truth still about the only complete defence against libel out there?

    From memory, malice can trump truth but there's a fairly high bar to jump (on behalf of the plaintiff) to prove that.

    Truth though is, as noted, not just (usually) effective legal defence, its also a damn good defence agaisnt getting fired, not to mention against breaching the Ability To Look Oneself In The Mirror Act.

    A question for the other journos here: have you ever had an employer, or a journalism tutor, give you a list - verbally, let alone in writing - of types of people who are most likely to sue?

    I haven't. And I'd have been astonished if I'd ever been given such a list.

    South Roseneath • Since Nov 2006 • 830 posts Report Reply

  • Jake Pollock,

    the Ability To Look Oneself In The Mirror Act.

    Amazingly, Michael Laws wasn't on the select committee for that one.

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

  • dubmugga,

    a list of types of people who are most likely to sue? .

    ...prolly be the same names as on hones raping muthafuckas list

    the back of your mind • Since Nov 2006 • 257 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Lyth,

    Mr David Cohen at the NBR writes in his column this is not a blog post about the Hong Kong-based blogress and finds Mr Russell Brown to be "surprisingly miffed"

    Wellington • Since Apr 2009 • 458 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    Spoke to a Herald person yesterday.

    Great! If it's anything like their writing, it could be misconstrued. ;)

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Mr David Cohen at the NBR writes in his column this is not a blog post about the Hong Kong-based blogress and finds Mr Russell Brown to be "surprisingly miffed"

    I'm not at all surprised that Russell got ever so slightly (but most graciously) "miffed" at being told that he doesn't know jack about the industry he's worked in for most of his adult life.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    i'm with colin on this one...

    Glad I looked, thought you meant Colin the Brown household cat for a minute there. I have fond memories of how accommodating that cat is :)

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    if Catcus is amoebic then be very afraid.. Ascerbic she may be , but she has one of the finest intellects in the blogzone

    In that case I feel that at this late stage of the year it would be appropriate to nominate CK for the "Best Use of a Bushel - 2009 Award".

    IIRC a Bushel has the same capacity as a Firkin.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • ScottY,

    Meanwhile CK lashes out at Russell's "ego".

    West • Since Feb 2009 • 794 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Mr David Cohen at the NBR writes in his column this is not a blog post

    Phil Lyth: I've really got to thank you for the gift that keeps on giving. In the comments we not only get Odgers in full-on victim mode (poor darling, abused by the eeevil PA "troll farm"), but this wonderfully clueless contribution from Cameron Slater:

    The fact that Tim Murphy reacted so quickly to try and shut the story down is really rather Corporal Jones like. His "Don't panic, Don't Panic" trolling all over various blogs smacked of a desperate attempt to shut down a real story.

    Because, of course, Murphy shouldn't have responded at all to serious allegations about his professional and ethical probity. (Though ignoring the post where Slater called him a liar was probably a wise move.)

    As for "trolling" to "shut down" a real story, has Murphy been in contact with the local equivalent of Carter-Ruck and I haven't noticed? No, he just had the gall to disagree with Whale Oil and Cactus Kate, brave speakers of... whatever.

    Meanwhile, as I noted on David's post, isn't it funny how thin-skinned the most lively practitioners of what Auberon Waugh called "the vituperative arts" often are?

    Meanwhile CK lashes out at Russell's "ego".

    Yeah, because there's nothing egotistical about her random prosecution of a (one-sided) feud in the comments to a totally unreleated post on a third party's blog. As I said, the gift that keeps on giving...

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    brave speakers of... whatever.

    truthiness?

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

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