Statement on Salient news editors: Spamming done in Salient officesStudents Association threatens Big News with defamation
Salient is the newspaper of Victoria University. Its news editor is Michael Oliver. Oliver was a sports reviewer under former editor Steve Nicol, and, as I was a sub, I had to sub his stories.
Readers will know that someone left multiple comments on this blog, under different names earlier this week, including the names of some well known journalists such as Mike McRoberts, Mark Sainsbury, and Carol Hirschfield, as well as under Salient news editors including Steve Nicol, Jackson Wood - and a “Janet Sampson”. I can now reveal that those comments on this blog were done in the offices of Salient, and a Salient volunteer has taken the rap. I doubt whether this volunteer was alone. I was advised today, after being threatened with a defamation suit by the Victoria University Student's Association(VUWSA) two days earlier, that current editor Jackson Wood was "aware of it" and knew "who is responsible" after initially writing to me denying any knowledge of the spamming. Perhaps others were also aware of it. A statement denying any involvement in the spamming of this blog from anyone in Salient was also posted on the Salient Twitter page by Jackson Wood. It has now been deleted.
It was my reasonably held opinion that Oliver was the person who left the comments. This was based on similar comments, names and phrases on the Salient website, some of which Oliver wrote. So I spoke to Oliver and offered him the opportunity, on this blog, to refute my claims, but he refused to do so. Instead, Salient (actually to be correct, it was VUWSA ), threatened to sue me and I received a letter from barrister Paul Chisnall. As it transpired, it was not Michael Oliver who spammed this blog.
The lawyers advised that Salient and Oliver considered statements I made were defamatory. But this afternoon, just as I was about to shoot off a letter to the lawyers telling them why they weren't, VUWSA and Salient called off the legal action. However, this was not a sudden move, it was the result of an ongoing – and helpful - dialogue with one Salient representative over the previous 24 hours. Wood emailed this to me and his lawyers:
I would like to formally apologise on behalf of Salient for the comments that were posted on your blog on 20 April 2009. As discussed, I have talked to the volunteer responsible to ensure that they understand what they did was wrong and I believe that they are genuinely sorry for their actions. I will ensure that they do not do this again.I'm tired. It's a pity that those who use VUWSA computers to spam or write comments like this are not told at the time to "understand what they did was wrong"; rather, wrongdoing is only understood when grownups get involved.
This happened in my office under my watch and so I would like to extend my personal apology to you as well. Once again, I'm very sorry about what happened…all legal proceedings will be terminated…I hope that this can be the end of issue, and that there is no ill feelings between us.