Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Statement on Salient news editors: Spamming done in Salient offices

Students 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.

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.
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.




Anonymous Michael Oliver said...


No hard feelings. It was an awful mix up, and I'm glad we can both put this behind us.


Michael Oliver
Salient News Editor

April 30, 2009 at 12:17 AM  
Blogger Swimming said...

Perhaps Oliver, you`d like to publicly advise why you refused to make a comment on this blog when requested.

April 30, 2009 at 12:33 AM  
Anonymous Michael Oliver said...

I resented the fact you said you'd only publish it if you felt it was "good enough." Perhaps it was just the heat of the moment, I don't know, but being told my only recourse for a defence would be to comment upon the very post that had me on trial, and even after doing so, that defence may have been wiped for not meeting some arbitrary standard of quality, was a little bit rough.

I, for one, am sorry for the way I talked to you on the phone last Tuesday. That was rude of me; you had every right to be upset about what happened. Like I said, no hard feelings.

April 30, 2009 at 1:02 AM  
Blogger Swimming said...

An explanation is not a defence. All comments on a blog are automatically published. Thats how blogs work. You know that.Some make it onto a blog post if they are good enough. If they are bad enough they get deleted and has happened a lot from people in your office lately.

April 30, 2009 at 1:18 AM  
Anonymous Sean said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

April 30, 2009 at 1:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael - you need to understand the stress you have caused Dave and his family by threatening legal action. Not good enough

April 30, 2009 at 7:08 AM  
Blogger Madeleine said...

Paul Chisnell... where have I heard that name before...?

Oh yes, he is the official VUWSA lawyer, assuming Salient can be relied on to report such things accurately.

So VUWSA/Salient how much did your frivilous, poorly drafted, legal action set student who are forced to fund you back?

Do you think spamming websites is a legitimate use of resources and staff paid forcibly paid for by all students?

Once again a shining example of how compulsory membership and funding of student associations doesn't foster accountability or responsibility.

An equally shining example of the levels proponents of compulsion will stoop to personally attack and abuse another person whose politics they disagree with.

Anne Tolley, I hope you are reading this.

April 30, 2009 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Libertyscott said...

Yes student associations have the level of accountability of your average third world state. Students forced to pay for a bunch of amateurs who waste their money, engage in threatening behaviour, and then say "oh sorry, no hard feelings".

The fool who engaged in the spamming will just have been told off, that's all. Salient just feels silly, but nobody pays back the money wasted on this frivolous legal threat.

Madeleine is spot on. It's about time that the government pulled the comfort blanket of compulsory membership out from under all of this lot - then students can judge for themselves if they want to continue wasting money on such doggerell.

April 30, 2009 at 11:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Perhaps Oliver, you'd like to publicly advise why you refused to make a comment on this blog when requested."

Grow up and just apologise Dave. You were busy defaming Michael, why would he want to legitimise your soapbox by engaging with you on your ground on your terms. The law certainly doesn't require him to.
I normally quite like what Public Address has to say on the topic of blogging, but I think he's mostly wrong on this issue. Blogs (authors and commenters) have a really bad habit of making defamatory statements and then smugly sitting back and demanding the victim do all the work to defend their reputation. That's not how defamation law works. The responsibility is (I think rightly) on the author to be sure of the facts before stating them. In this instance you had a hunch, but you presented it as a reality. Now just say sorry.

April 30, 2009 at 11:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go and say that in Public address, "Sean".

May 1, 2009 at 5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and defamation is not about whether you publish facts or opinion on a person, it is about whether facts defame the person. That person has to be able to prove they were defamed by applying the legal test.That's is how defamation works, Thicko.

May 1, 2009 at 5:04 PM  

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