So, today’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. Here’s the tweet in question:
Walhquist has reportedly denied that the Posetti quote is accurate, but it mustn’t be that hard to check with a conference full of journalists – 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 she’d know a lot better than to misquote someone, even in a tweet. For the record, here’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 Dodd’s report covering the same talk in Crikey tells the same story and thus supports Posetti’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 ‘140 characters of legal nightmare’ on The Drum at it’s well worth reading as it highlights some of the legal complications that come from Twitter, real-time ‘reporting’ and the challenges of context and the way contexts shift.