James Massola

Sep 28, 2010

Massola raises the stakes

A quick follow-up to yesterday's post by Tobias on the Grog-gate "outing". James

A quick follow-up to yesterday's post by Tobias on the Grog-gate "outing". James Massola has written and had published by News a justification piece in which he spitefully raises the stakes:
Jericho blogged as a hobby outside work hours. But he sent literally hundreds of partisan political tweets out, during work hours, many of which were ad hominem attacks on the side of politics he did not agree with. Is this, of itself, inexcusable? No. But nor is it appropriate. Jericho's decision to "live blog" the Media 140 conference (was it a sick day, a day in lieu, annual leave, did he clear it with his supervisor?) made my mind up.
Massola is a professional, full-time journalist for one of the country's largest media organisations. If he's going to make such implicit allegations regarding Jericho's work performance, surely he should talk with the subject first, and publish his response? Now, applying the journalistic approach James has just apparently demonstrated, I'm not going to bother asking him* what steps he actually took to do so. Instead, I'm just going to speculate on his competence in parentheses (is he too lazy to try to contact the man he's busy assassinating, a man he apparently has communicated with in the past; or does he not want to give him an opportunity to contradict the story before it's even published; or did he in fact actually contact him and get some kind of response but lacked the professionalism to mention that in his piece so readers knew that even a basic level of due diligence had been carried out?) and then unconvincingly clarify that I'm not alleging anything, I'm just asking questions suggested by his writing. For the record, Jericho reveals:
for the record I took a day's annual leave to attend media140
I suspect, but taking a leaf out of Massola's book won't bother checking, that Grog would've been happy to clear this up for the News Ltd bloke if he'd actually asked. *Actually, I'm a wuss - I did actually do the right thing and send Massola an email asking for a comment. None was received. But let's for the sake of making the point pretend I didn't. ELSEWHERE: I reckon this sort of conduct is akin to bullying, and it's quite disingenuous for someone like James Massola to put the issue as "Does he have the courage to put his name to his observations and continue writing?" - because unlike people such as Grog, Massola's a journalist and there is no potential conflict between his writing and his job. He won't have to explain to his family why they can't eat that month because he expressed a political opinion. It's the sanctimony of the immune. ELSEWHERE #2: Similarly to my advice to James Massola above, Christian Kerr might consider shooting through an email first if he's going to publish unfounded allegations of hypocrisy about me. And unforgivably use my shunned first name while doing so.

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30 thoughts on “Massola raises the stakes

  1. surlysimon

    I want to see what happens when a serving officer try to use Rousseau’s worldview to get out of doing something he has been ordered to do? Don’t think I have heard anything quite so silly in a long time.

  2. templemonkey

    Hi Matthew,

    The ‘clanking colonel’ Dr Phelps refers to is Colonel Mike Kelly, Labor MP for Eden Monaro.

  3. Matthew of Canberra

    Can somebody tell me who the clanking colonel is?

  4. Holden Back

    Thanks for the tutorial, Mr Phelps. It’s a beautiful and perfect world you live in.

    He somehow still clanked across the line beat your boss.

  5. templemonkey

    Dr Phelps,

    It’s a little suprising that you feel ‘the left’ has let you down for not defending your right to publicly compare your bosses political opponent to a Nazi guard at a concentration camp.

    What you claim was your ‘right to a political voice’ as a private citizen was practically indistinguishable from an ‘ill advised political stunt on behalf of the man for whom you were employed as chief of staff in a marginal electorate’

    I didn’t really keep track of what happened to you afterwards, but it’s clear you are pretty bitter about it. Did Nairn ‘chicken out’ and distance himself from your Godwin’s attempt?

  6. surlysimon

    Mr Phelps
    You were not pilloried because of who you worked for perse, it was what you said and you know it. You suggested that the candidate for an opposing party had used the “Nuremberg defense” which was both untrue and unconscionable. What you did was try to use you “private persona” for an unforgivable attack and you were called out for it.

    Working for a politician is not covered by the public service act or code of conduct. Your statements were perfectly legitimate in terms of your employment, they just outraged all those thinking members ofnthe wider comunity. Your job was under no legal or code of conduct based threat so that is why you have nothing in common with this case and no one here was or is a hypocrite.

    That you repeat your offensive charge shows you may not have learned from your past.

  7. Peter Phelps

    @ Holden #19 – No, I said Rousseau and I meant Rousseau – see below.

    @ surlysimon #20 – Technically, Grog also worked as part of the Executive arm of Government which, last time I checked, is headed by a politician. But that is beside the point. You made the absolute statement: “To deny someone a political voice simply because of their employment is uncontionable”. Notably, you didn’t add “… unless they work for a politician”.

    @ Holden #22 – Let me put it in simple terms:

    1. Labor says the War was immoral.
    2. If the War really was “immoral”, the clanking Colonel is freed from his obligation to the state (and his service to it), according to Rousseau’s worldview.

    If he really believed the war was immoral he should have resigned his Commission. But he didn’t. Why? Because he did NOT believe the war to be immoral. In fact, he was an enthusiastic supporter of regime change.

    That put him at odds with the Labor position. And rather than defend (or repudiate) his support for the overthrow of Saddam, he chickened out by using the Nuremburg Defence.

  8. MattScudder

    Isn’t it time that someone organised an email campaign to contact any company that advertises in the Australian? If all of us who are disgusted with that paper and its pathetic “journalists” were to email advertisers stating we will boycott them if the continue to advertise, it might hasten Rupert’s media empire’s demise just a little quicker. And it’s important we do so quickly, unless his mouthpieces prevent the NBN.

    After all, the purpose of News Craporation’s support for Abbott is based entirely on delaying any fast internet and thus preserving Rupert’s empire.

  9. Holden Back


    It was the Rousseau gag had me scratching my head. Perhaps it was the passage where J-J has the dissociative episode after a bump to the head which defines a certain kind of Romantic consciousness?

    You know how it is with fading soapy stars: the older they get, the cuter they ain’t.

  10. confessions

    Holden Back:

    No, I mean why is Peter Phelps whingeing about himself and the Iraq war?

    Why is a B-grade actor relevent to the discussion about Grog?

  11. surlysimon

    Mr Phelps
    You worked for a politician, there is a difference.

  12. Holden Back

    @Confessions Can he mean “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. It’s a piece of prose by Evelyn Beatrice Hall usually misattributed to Voltaire. There will no doubt be an orotund exposition.

  13. confessions

    Does anybody else know what Peter Phelps is on about? If so can somebody please clue others in?

  14. Peter Phelps

    @ surlysimon

    [As far as I can see the cases are entirely different.]

    Then one might be tempted to suggest that there is a case of political myopia at play here.

    After all, I attended a public forum on the War in Iraq, to which I had been invited by a general distribution flyer, located in the seat where I lived.

    I attended, on my own initiative, with a view of questioning the ‘clanking Colonel’ (Bob Carr’s words, not mine) about his involvement in a conflict which the Labor Party considered, and I quote, “illegal and immoral” – and how the ‘clanking Colonel’ could rationalise his involvement with both the war and the ALP, with no apparent recognition of these contradictions. For this, sections of the media and the ALP demanded that I be sacked.

    So where is the difference? If, as you state, “[t]o deny someone a political voice simply because of their employment is uncontionable”, then why not my political voice?

    Or is this simply a case of Left hypocrisy? People can only have a political voice if it is the ‘correct’ political voice?

    As a matter of fact, I agree with your principle. But I reject the new-found and highly selective outrage, just because it happens to one of your own.

    Rousseau is not a casual labourer for the Left.

  15. William Conroy

    The problem for News Ltd is that as Colonel Jessup said “You can’t handle the truth” and the backlash is rising. The Fifth estate has come of age Grog keep on blogging

  16. confessions

    Mr Denmore:

    [In his extremely oily ‘why-I-unmasked-Grog’ piece in Tuesday’s edition, reporter James Massola manages in the space of a few paragraphs to praise, patronise and defame his subject. In this, Massola uses the power granted to him by virtue of working for the world’s most powerful media company to essentially trash the reputation of an amateur and very talented writer who had happened to put Australian journalists under a critical microscope during the election campaign.

    The lowest blow came when Massola said what had finally made up his mind about identifying the blogger was his suspicion that Grog was skiving off work to attend a New Media conference in Canberra.”Was it a sick day, a day in lieu, annual leave, did he clear it with his supervisor?” Massola asked rhetorically, between a pair of cowardly parentheses. But why didn’t he clear that up with Grog BEFORE he went to print? Or was the stereotype of the work shy public servant just too delicious to leave out?

    Forget the ethical arguments about anonymity over the web. Forget the manufactured left-right culture wars that The Australian loves to plough to pander to its dwindling and aging Tory readership. At heart, this stoush is an extension of the issue that Grog helped bring to the public’s attention in the first place – sloppy and self-serving journalism from an industry in terminal decline. It’s a point worth keeping in mind next time you hear the “professionals” lecturing the “amateurs” about standards. ]

    Hear, bloody hear!

  17. SHV

    Thanks, Sancho.

    I suppose I was really trying to get a ‘straw poll’ of whether this idea of people clicking on Murdoch because of the outrageous rubbish they write has any merit.

    I’d like to think not, but maybe they really do get lots of extra hits the lower they go?

  18. Sancho

    [I have to guess, for example, what Kerr stooped to today]

    “I work for Murdoch now and not Crikey, so obviously Crikey is a weak parody of its former self and true wisdom is to be found here in the pages of The Australian”.

  19. SHV

    How many people here clicked on one of the links to a News Ltd site in this post (or had already clicked on the stories)?

    I never sully my electrons by giving Murdoch hits. OK, that means I have to guess, for example, what Kerr stooped to today but usually I don’t miss a thing.

    The point is, people like Mr Denmore have suggested that it’s all about getting traffic to News Ltd, but I’m wondering if it really is that much of a guilty pleasure for otherwise decent people?

  20. dendy

    Didn’t you just know, I mean *know* that it would be ‘The Australian’ that would do this. What a vicious, shrill, nasty rag it has become. The sooner Rupert decides he can no longer afford this vanity project that provides a sheltered workshop for the otherwise unemployable, the better. Sheesh.

  21. surlysimon

    Mr Phelps
    As far as I can see the cases are entirely different.

  22. shepherdmarilyn

    Is Hillary Bray having a bad hair day or just insulting our intelligence with his juvenile spray?

  23. Matthew of Canberra

    This does remind me of AB’s “I know who you work for” comment a few weeks back.

    I wonder if this is just a case of journalists REALLY not liking it when non-journalists move in on their turf. I mean … how DARE non-journalists criticise journalists? How DARE they? What’s worse is that so many of us have other skills – we don’t actually need to BE journalists, and we can still criticise them. A few of us, IMHO, could even do their job better than some of them do it. And … we’re not even journalists.

    I think there’s an element of turf outrage at work. I mean … we’re really bringing their profession into disrepute, right? Lowering the standards and all. 🙂

  24. Daniel

    OK, let’s actually go through Massola’s justifications one by one, looking at the evidence and rationale behind each:

    1) Jericho influenced public debate. People that influence public debate should not be anonymous.

    Fair enough. Jericho’s post about the media’s performance during the election did attract a huge amount of comment (probably disproportionate to the actual readership of the blog at the time). However it seems to me that anonymous people influence public debate all the time, we usually call them ‘sources’ or ‘whistleblowers’, the only difference is that they do not influence debate directly as Jericho did, but operate through a filter, usually a journalist. This is probably Massola’s strongest point, and if he stuck to this he would be a-ok in my book.

    2) Jericho is a public servant, but his blog is ‘partisan’ and his tweets are ‘partisan’. These facts, according to Massola, are in ‘the public interest’ as defined by him and his newspaper.

    The assertion that Jericho’s political views have influenced his work in the public service have absolutely no basis in fact, despite the attempts of Massola to link Greg Jericho the part-time blogger to Greg Jericho the public servant. As noted by Jericho, and as evidenced by the blog itself, he has never blogged as an ‘insider’ public servant. Rather his blog was that of a private citizen expressing (generally pretty mild) criticisms amidst movie reviews and other standard blog fare. There is absolutely no actual evidence that Jericho has allowed his political views to influence his work.

    3) Well, Jericho tweets and blogs during office hours! He attended a conference when he maybe should’ve been working perhaps!

    This is probably the most petty and pointless of Massola’s attacks on Jericho. As Jericho himself has pointed out, he used annual leave to attend the media conference, and there is no evidence that he blogs during work hours. Not only that, but as far as I’m concerned the only people who should be worrying about how much work Greg Jericho does are Jericho and Jericho’s boss. If they’re happy with Jericho’s output, then I am happy.

  25. Matthew of Canberra

    Wow. Now the guy is fishing.

    Watch out grog. Make sure your wheelie bins are kept safely in the shed for a few weeks. Keep your curtains closed. This looks like it’s about to get silly.

    The irony here is interesting. On the one hand, we have an attempt to attack a public servant for the possiblity of going something untoward during work hours – while personal attacks and attempted smears are perfectly ok during work hours, provided you’re a journalist.

    ss @2

    “are News Ltd Journalists held to the same standards?”

    I don’t believe they’re held to any standards any more.

  26. Peter Phelps

    [To deny someone a political voice simply because of their employment is uncontionable]

    Oh, you mean like the ALP, certain media commentators and Crikey tried to do to me back in 2007? Thanks for your support back then, surlysimon.

  27. Daniel

    The lame justifications keep coming. First Jericho was accused of being a biased public servant, anonymously blogging to appease his ALP overseers but when that fell through (due to a complete lack of substance or evidence) he’s now a stereotypically work-shy and lazy public servant, tweeting when he should be working and sucking down unfairly on the taxpayer’s teat.

    I personally don’t have a problem with the ‘outing’ of Jericho, however the insinuations of wrongdoing are completely unfounded and without basis. That, in my opinion, is where the problem lies.

  28. surlysimon

    Interestingly Massola doesn’t realise that till he outed him Grogs wasn’t really breaking the APS code, there was no connection between Jericho and the tweets of Grogs. Surely the whole point of the APS code of conduct is that a Public servant does nothing that associates the APS with a political party or stance. If you can’t be identified as a public servant how can you have done anything wrong.

    To deny someone a political voice simply because of their employment is uncontionable, are News Ltd Journalists held to the same standards?

  29. Andos

    As I said on Twitter this morning, this latest on salvo proves that ‘The Australian’s sole motivation for outing Grog is as punishment for being a successful progressive blogger, and influencing debate from that perspective.

    They are just pursuing their own partisan agenda, this time with breathtaking cowardice and dissembling justifications.

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