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Fines For Journos Getting Stories Wrong?

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Friday August 24, 2012 )

This is perhaps something to strike fear into the hearts of Aussie bloggers who consider themselves journalists.

“Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story,” says the old saying, often attributed to Mark Twain. Whether he actually uttered these words I’m not sure; but there is talk in Australia of introducing penalties for journalists who get stories wrong.

Federal Labor backbencher Steve Gibbons is the Member of Parliament pushing for the punishment.

According to an ABC news item, Mr. Gibbons said:

“When a media outlet, journalist or redneck shock jock deliberately broadcasts or publishes a statement that they know is factually wrong, and it is subsequently proven that they knew it was factually wrong, they ought to be subject to an appropriate penalty”.

I don’t think this is such a bad idea – with the important bit being “they knew it was factually wrong”.

The published word has a lot of oomph and you don’t need to be a media personality to create waves. I’m not a journalist or even a well known blogger, but I’ve published stories that have had a significant knock-on effect – one in particular played a role in boosting a company’s share value; something I had no idea would happen. The incident was a little frightening actually (I don’t play the stock market BTW).

Australia’s Liberal Party (usually considered conservative) doesn’t like the concept of penalties though and stated the suggestion was a public sniff test concerning increasing control over the media in this country.

Whether this comes to pass or not, I am sensing a change in the wind concerning not only bloggers and journalists, but the many Joe Surfers of the world that litter the web with poisonous comments. These irresponsible people have seen many good companies and people with their reputations shattered.

A week or so ago, I mentioned Australian companies are now liable for comments on their Facebook pages and must zap false and misleading comments – a move that that has pros and cons.

It’s time the web being such a cesspool came to an end and that we all started to really respect that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from accountability.

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