Now that’s what I call journalism!

Huh. Almost nine months later, after a huge amount of media reportage, both local, regional and national, in the US and elsewhere, a grassroots campaign, and the recognition and championing by a number of journalistic and other media organisations — including something called a “union” — with regards his case, The Age finally reports on the trials and tribulations of vblogger Josh Wolf. Well, sorta… it’s republished a massively edited version — a little over 100 words — of an article in the Los Angeles Times by Joe Mozingo, which, among other things, notes his release.

Clap clap.

Blogger free after deal
The Age [Los Angeles Times]
San Francisco
April 5, 2007

A VIDEOGRAPHER who spent 7½ months in prison for refusing to turn over footage of a San Francisco street demonstration to a federal grand jury has been [“was”] released from custody after striking a deal to publish his outtakes on the internet [“Web”].

Under the deal [“agreement”], Josh Wolf, 24, will not have to testify or identify people shown in the video.

The US Attorney is investigating who hit an officer on the head with a pipe [“the wounding of a police officer, who was struck in the head with a pipe”] during the demonstration, as well as an alleged attempt to set fire to a police car.

Footage released on Tuesday on Wolf’s website [“The video footage Wolf released Tuesday morning on his website”] did not show either incident.

The blogger stepped free after 226 days at the federal prison in Dublin, California.

[The LA Times article continues:]

On Tuesday afternoon, Wolf was released after spending 226 days at the federal prison in Dublin, about 30 miles east of San Francisco. He served a longer term than any journalist in U.S. history has served for refusing to reveal unpublished material or sources.

[A key fact, completely unremarked upon by The Age or any other Australian infotainment source.]

“I feel really good, a bit overwhelmed,” he said in an interview via cellphone, as he drove to a news conference in San Francisco. “The pace of life is so slow in prison, I feel like a kid from the country coming to the city, even though I live here.”

All along Wolf had insisted that the video did not contain anything that would be relevant to the investigation, but he also said he had a constitutional right as a journalist not to cooperate with authorities and become “an arm of law enforcement.” Several media advocacy groups, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, supported his stance and called for his release. The U.S. attorney argued that Wolf was not a journalist and did not have that right.

In November, with his appeals exhausted, Wolf agreed to release the video as long as he did not have to testify. But the U.S. attorney wanted his testimony, he said.

On Feb. 12, Wolf was interviewed by the syndicated left-of-center radio program Democracy Now and said he received hundreds of letters of support. The next day, U.S. District Judge William Alsup referred the case to a magistrate for mediation. On Monday, Wolf and the government came to the current agreement.

Wolf released the video and answered two questions under penalty of perjury. He was asked whether he saw anyone throw anything at a police car and whether he saw the person whom San Francisco Police Officer Peter Shields was trying to take into custody when he was struck in the head. Shields suffered a skull fracture. “My answer is no,” he replied to both.

In court papers, the U.S. attorney requested that Alsup release Wolf from confinement but said the government would not be precluded from issuing another grand jury subpoena to Wolf in the future.

Wolf continued to insist that he was acting as a journalist, not a participant, on July 8, 2005, when he set out to film the anarchist demonstration. “The purpose of me going out that night was to go out and document a protest that would be ignored by the establishment media,” he said.

Wolf’s incarceration came as a spate of journalists faced prison time for refusing to comply with jury subpoenas. Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify in the CIA leak investigation. And two San Francisco Chronicle reporters were facing prison time for refusing to testify about who leaked confidential documents to them in the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative sports doping probe. The threat was dropped when a defense attorney admitted that he had been the source and pleaded guilty to contempt of court and obstruction of justice.

Although California has a shield law to protect journalists from testifying in state court, there is no such protection in federal court. The federal government prosecuted the Wolf case on the basis that the victim — the San Francisco Police Department — received federal funding.

Wolf said he kept his sense of humor in prison. He said that he gained muscle mass by working out with Barry Bonds’ personal trainer, Greg Anderson, who has been in prison on contempt of court charges for refusing to testify in the BALCO probe. “He had everyone working out.”

News media advocates hailed Wolf’s release. “I give him a lot of credit,” said Kelli Sager, a media attorney in Los Angeles. “Without the backing of a major news organization, he went to jail to stand up for a principle that should be important for all reporters.”

This question of political principle and journalistic ethics, and their general absence in the state/corporate sector, is one of the issues which has been raised by Wolf’s case: in the US, by Wolf’s imprisonment; and in Australia, by both his legal and political persecution and the non-coverage his story has received.

Corporate radio and TV, which dominates the market, only very rarely pretends to provide consumers with something other than ‘entertainment’, while the ostensibly ‘public’ or state sector — with a small number of exceptions, principally in the community sector — often functions as little more than a less well resourced version of its corporate equivalent/s. As for press, Melbourne — with a population of around 3.7 million people — has just two dailies: Fairfax Corporation‘s The Age, a ‘liberal’ broadsheet principally published for the benefit of and as a marketing vehicle for yuppies, and News Corporation‘s Herald Sun, a reactionary tabloid published for the benefit of the lower end of the market. Both have until now scrupulously avoided making any mention of Wolf’s case.

In the case of the Herald Sun, given its overall market and political orientation, this is not surprising. But Wolf’s stance on the issue of active collaboration between the police and the fourth estate highlights The Age‘s own engagement in a political witchhunt following G20, an endeavour which actually trumped that of its downmarket competitor in terms of the fervor with which it was pursued. Thus the photos of ‘Melbourne’s Most Wanted’, of which only The Age and Crimestoppers published the full assortment, have remained in circulation on The Age website since their initial publication two and a half months ago, on January 18. And while since then Crimestoppers has removed the majority of images of ‘persons of interest’ police provided to the media (and as, in the words of The Age, the police “tighten the net on rioters wanted over the violent G20 protests in Melbourne”), The Age has not. In fact, The Age continues to publish all 28 images of the really interesting people police wish to have a yarn with.

Oh, and speaking of protest, Peter Gordon of Slater & Gordon has written a defence of his business’s conduct in relation to S11, claiming, among other things, that the business received less than half what was originally attributed to it in legal fees. And speaking of money, Slater & Gordon has released its prospectus, and The Age [AAP] reports that the business is interested in persons willing to invest $35 million: “Of the capital raised from the IPO, $15.4 million will go to an acquisition program and marketing and advertising. Slater & Gordon is forecasting revenue of $58.7 million for fiscal 2007 and a net profit after tax of $9.1 million. The offer opens on April 11 and closes on April 27.” The Australian, on the other hand, reports that institutional investors have flocked to Slater & Gordon. Further, “The prospectus reveals that Mr Grech, rather than senior partner Peter Gordon, has the largest stake in the company. Mr Grech holds 16.5 per cent of the firm, followed by Mr Gordon on 16.3 per cent, Paul Henderson on 15 per cent and four others. The firm predicts revenue growth of 28 per cent this financial year followed by 12 per cent next year. This is based on several factors including the recent acquisition of eight smaller firms, diversification and 20 per cent annual growth in non-personal injury fee revenue.”

So as someone once scribbled on a wall in Paris:

Quick!

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2020 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
This entry was posted in Anarchism, Media, State / Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Now that’s what I call journalism!

  1. I guess it’s better late than never. I would have thought that a story like this would have had alot more news value. Especially when you consider the issues that it raises.

  2. lumpnboy says:

    Good post @ndy – your ongoing coverage of Josh Wolf’s persecution and the absence of media coverage in Australia has been excellent, the kind of blogwork all too rare at the radical end of the political spectrum, at least, again, in this country. (Though I can understand why Right-Thinking People might feel efforts to expose crappy corporate media practice are only ever going to be drops in a swimming pool the size of the MCG… and if understood as efforts to pressure these fearless advocates of truth, futile for so many reasons… which is why it is good that there are several other very good reasons to pursue and circulate such information…)

    And speaking of: I once wrote an article detailing how The Age ran an article, about a demonstration in which I was involved, which was, barring one uninteresting sentence, word for word identical to a Police Media Liaison Unit media statement condemning us all as violent anarchists etcetera. (I was offended at the time: only a few of us were violent anarchists, and I was a violent Left-Communist thank you very much.) The student newspaper which ended up receiving attention from The Age‘s lawyers had illustrated my article with images of The Age article next to a reproduction of the cop media statement, to demonstrate the journalistic standards involved. The editors were threatened with legal action for plagiarism/theft of intellectual property for reproducing The Age article, and also with a defamation suit because I had described this practice as

  3. lumpnboy says:

    [Something seemed to go wrong.]

    …The editors were threatened with legal action for plagiarism/theft of intellectual property for reproducing The Age article, and also with a defamation suit because I had described this practice as shoddy journalism. Faced with the lawyers of a massive corporation, the editors folded. I understood the decision but was disappointed: I thought it would be fun to make The Age go public defending themselves and claiming to own the text in the first place, since surely some cop hack had intellectual property rights. They were also basing their threats on the fact that I had said The Age article and cop statement were identical when there was in fact one added sentence – not one changing the line run by the cops or adding any dissenting views, I should note. Of course, “going public” might have meant very little if no-one reported the case, esp. in those primitive days before The Net had become omnipresent (1992, I had just turned twenty).

  4. @ndy says:

    lumpnboy,

    That is a pity, as I imagine it would’ve been extremely embarrassing for the hack responsible… I mean, not exactly Walkley Award winning stuff is it eh? As such, I’d be surprised if the lawyers for ‘The Age’ had bothered actually pursuing the claim, esp if the initial response had been to tell them, politely, to piss off. Plus, as you point out, I don’t imagine whichever PR firm was engaged to produce the ‘article’ in the first place would’ve been terribly happy that their hard work was being claimed ownership of by a lazy hack / his/her employer.

    As for Wolf, obviously, criticism of ‘bad journalism’ does nothing to change the institutional mechanisms which produce it, but then again, as you also allude to, that’s not the point, which is: to publicise Wolf’s case (and by so doing, in part, to prepare some background material for the next). On the other hand, sales of print media in general, and newspapers in particular, is declining — and the audience for web-based journalism increasing at app the same rate. Partly as a result, pro journos are paying increasing attn to the blogosphere — which, at its best, does allow citizens (/captives of the state) access to a broader range of materials and opinions than was avail previously, as well as conduct more immediate forms of critical scrutiny…

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