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The Age

Jul 16, 2009

Old media vs new media: This time it's personal

We've had plenty of coverage in recent weeks of traditional media bosses and commentators criticising online "new media" sites, including Crikey as well as independent bloggers. Today,

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We’ve had plenty of coverage in recent weeks of traditional media bosses and commentators criticising online “new media” sites, including Crikey as well as independent bloggers. Today, it looks like a more specific stoush between traditional and new media outlets is brewing.

As I noted in today’s open thread, Richard Baker of The Age has alleged that the e-journal On Line Opinion pulled an article by NSW Greens MLC (and Senate candidate at the next federal election) Lee Rhiannon. The article was apparently about Malcolm Turnbull’s political fund-raising; Baker notes that Turnbull’s wife Lucy, along with several current and former Liberal Party members and employees are on the editorial panel for On Line Opinion.

Graham Young, On Line Opinion’s publisher and chief editor, has published two responses today. The first strongly disputes the implication of Baker’s article:

We declined the article because we publish op-ed material, and this was not an op-ed piece. If they have a different view The Age can easily publish the article on their own op-ed page. It is not uncommon for publishers to have differing views, but it is uncommon for these views to arise on the basis of a conspiracy.

We will also be seeking clarifcation from Age Editor Paul Ramedge as to his view on the affair, particularly as a number of matters call into question the integrity of one of his journalists and his editorial process. I would like to think that The Age will be concerned to uphold good journalistic practice and recognise this as an opportunity to lift their standards.

The second is an “open interview” with Rhiannon, which appears to be attempting to clarify her position and distinguish it from Baker’s own arguments.

Although it may have a number of conservatively-aligned people on board, On Line Opinion always appears to have published a broad range of articles and is read by a broad audience. An allegation of partisan editorial bias is serious business, so it will be important to monitor the situation and see what emerges. Graham Young has indicated that he will be posting updates as information comes to hand; I’ll be updating this post with any relevant links.

But aside from the specific allegations in Baker’s report, the publication of these claims makes me wonder where things are headed next in the newspaper vs “blog” wars (forgive me using that term to refer to all online media, but that seems to be how the traditional media describes things). There has been a broad and concerted effort by News Ltd outlets to discredit all bloggers and opinion sites (except, of course, their own blogs and The Punch, which are doing something radically new in “journalism”). The fact that a Fairfax paper has seen fit to publish a story about an e-journal demonstrates again the impact of new avenues for news and commentary, and perhaps is the latest example of the traditional media’s effort to damage the credibility of its new competition. What might they do next?

UPDATE: The Greensborough Growler has let me know that the article in question has been published at New Matilda.

UPDATE 2: Lee Rhiannon’s responses have been added to the open interview, and Graham Young has a follow-up post in response to Rhiannon’s answers. I won’t quote any of it here, because the whole thing is worth reading. Young notes that his next questions will be directed to The Age‘s Editor-in-Chief Paul Ramadge – I’ll continue to update this post.

UPDATE 3: Here at Crikey, Andrew Dodd has written a commentary on the way Young has initiated an open and public dialogue about the dispute.

UPDATE 4: Graham Young has posted his questions of Paul Ramadge.

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