Fresh developments in the stoush with News Limited. See the Crikey email for the news, but in the interests of completeness, here is the latest correspondence. Also, The Australian’s media diarist Caroline Overington has taken a shot. Not much there worthy or response, but I’ll write a bit more about that here later today.

From Greg Baxter:

Margaret, I don’t know why it is that you publish your allegations about News on Crikey but publish my responses on your blog which has a much much smaller readership. Actually I do know why but let’s not go there. That aside, you are in error on several fronts in your response to me as per the link you sent.

It is disingenuous to suggest that Crikey has not yet had time to create and publish a code of conduct. Crikey has been running for what, over a decade? Secondly, Crikey exists only online (leaving aside T-shirts and coffee mugs) so where else could it publish such a code. Thirdly, Crikey sets itself up both as part of the media and as a scrutineer of the media. But it clearly holds itself and its contributors to different standards than those it expects of the rest of the media.

Our code will be added to our masthead websites. There has never been any attempt to withhold it from the public. We simply have never been asked for it to be published in this way. We also honour the codes of the MEAA and the Press Council. Given that you and many others have had access to our policy for years and could have made it public at any time, the attempt to make us look shabby is facile.

Our policy is included in what we call starter packs which are information packs given to new employees before they start. They must sign an acknowledgement that they have received and read this information. In the wake of your item yesterday I had several emails from senior journalists describing you in unflattering terms. One confirmed that he was given a copy of our code when he joined us from Fairfax but that he had never received a code of conduct at any of the three mastheads he worked for in the Fairfax group. I know of two other recently hired senior people who have joined us from Fairfax who have had similar experiences.

You have criticised us for not making the code available. Clearly that is wrong. You have criticised us because a handful or two of our staff claim never to have seen it. I am sure you could find 10 or 20 people at the ABC and Fairfax and any of the FTA networks who haven’t read their codes if you look hard enough. Our code is freely available within the company and provided to all new employees, not just editorial staff. You then claimed our code wasn’t on Google. It is. It comes up on the first page including on the Media Watch website.

So, apparently, our sin now is that we have different policies in different states. You will find the policies are all essentially the same and I guess when we have nothing better to do we could assimilate them all into one policy that applies everywhere to satisfy the pedants who are concerned about a word here or a word there that is different depending on whether you are reading the HWT policy or the NWN policy.

You will be sent the new HWT policy today. It is being released today and editor in chief Phil Gardner is conducting two briefings for staff. These were planned to occur last week but Phil had laryngitis. As you rightly point out, the HWT code has been expanded and updated in a process that pre-dates the NOTW scandal. I am not aware that you have asked questions about it and not received answers but please send me your questions and I will arrange to have them answered today.

Greg Baxter| Director, Corporate Affairs

My response.

Dear Greg, when people respond to my stories, I try to publish that as soon as possible. Your first correspondence to me was sent on Friday afternoon. I put it on the blog because the next edition of the Crikey email was not until Monday lunchtime. I have posted all your correspondence to me as soon as practicable after receiving it, and then have also either published or hot linked to it in the next edition of the Crikey email. While the email has a bigger readership, my blog is free to view, which is not always the case for the email content. Also, your correspondence does drive up traffic.

I in no way excuse Crikey’s failure to develop a code. That was clear in what I wrote in response to you last time. But for News Limited to excuse its own failure to make its code easily available with reference to Crikey is ironic, to say the least.

As for awareness of the Code internally at News Limited, the material I have published tells its own story, and I am content for people to make their own assessment.

I am very glad that News Limited will now publish the Code on all its mastheads, and congratulate you on this decision.

This correspondence will also go on my blog, so you will have the benefit of both audiences.

Yours, Margaret Simons

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