So, todayâ€™s big news is that Chris Mitchell, the editor-in-chief of The Australian, is going to sue journalism academic Julie Posetti for defamation over a twitter tweet in which she quoted a former The Australian journalist, Asa Walhquist, speaking at the Journalism Education Association Australia conference, as saying Mitchell had increasingly told her what to write with regard to environmental stories. Hereâ€™s the tweet in question:
Walhquist has reportedly denied that the Posetti quote is accurate, but it mustnâ€™t be that hard to check with a conference full of journalists â€“ surely someone was recording the conversation? Julie Posetti is a prolific twitter user and a journalism academic at the University of Canberra and I suspect sheâ€™d know a lot better than to misquote someone, even in a tweet. For the record, hereâ€™s a screenshot of the tweets surrounding the one that offended Mitchell:
Beyond the question of whether defamation has actually occured, the big story here is the recognition implicitly made by Chris Mitchell that commentary on Twitter is now a big deal!
Update: Andrew Doddâ€™s report covering the same talk in Crikey tells the same story and thus supports Posettiâ€™s position.
Update 2 (Monday, 29 Nov 2010): An ABC story reports that audio recorded at the conference demonstrates that Posetti accurately quoted Walhquist in the contentious tweet! (You can follow developments via the #twitdef hashtag on Twitter. You can hear an mp3 recording here (on the ABC website).)
Update 3 (Tuesday, 30 Nov 2010): Jonathon Holmes has posted â€˜140 characters of legal nightmareâ€™ on The Drum at itâ€™s well worth reading as it highlights some of the legal complications that come from Twitter, real-time â€˜reportingâ€™ and the challenges of context and the way contexts shift.