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Back in da hood | Oct 21, 2005 03:03

Went down to Parliament yesterday to try to "catch the vibe" of the new Government. All I caught was the scent of tequila, and that was coming from me.

There really isn't much happening down there at the moment. It's been a bit of a ghost-town since the election, outside of those (metaphorically) smoke-filled rooms, and even that's done now. All the Ministers have gone home reading up on their portfolios ("Is immigration the one with an 'e' or an 'i'?" "Whaddya mean the Minister of Racing don't have any powers over boy-racers?"), and all the staffers are busy brushing up their CVs for the upward game of musical chairs.

Will be interesting to see who takes over as Labour Whip, after Jill Pettis stood down. As my learned tequila-buddies were saying this afternoon, there will be a lot of big egos in the Labour caucus this term, and a lot of maneuvering - subtle or otherwise - in preparation of the Dear Leader's ascension from the Beehive. Caucus discipline will become an issue and the Whip could be the key to the stability, and/or a strategic rallying point for the leadership battle.

When everyone gets bored with picking the next National leader, I'm sure it'll be ripe time to start putting odds on the next Labour leader. Heard David Parker's name mentioned twice today. Never met him myself, and don't know much about him, but as one of the new Favoured Ones to be brought into Helen's loving embrace, I understand he's going to get a fair bit of the spotlight on him soon enough.

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The hills are alive with the lack of politics | Oct 17, 2005 00:25

Ah, the sun is bright and warm, the air is clean and crisp, the politicians are consensus-building and commentless. New Zealand: what a country!

The dark clouds will gather over Wellington again before long, no doubt, but until then, there's absolutely nothing political that we need to concerned ourselves with. Except for the coalition negotia-


Nope. Nothing at all.

I saw on the news the other day that, apparently, the election is now over. I guess that means I should probably stop with the whole election commentary thing. I doubt that there will be anything to say even when a new government is formed, because every permutation will be unstable, and that instability will be the new Government's salient feature. It'll certainly be interesting to see whether this Government can wobble its way to a full third term, but for now, I'm signed up to a three-month unilateral moratorium on giving-a-shit.

None of the particular coalition permutations worries me too much. Not even Winston Peters. I may live to eat these words, but I think he may be the most docile of the centre-pack. Sure, he's made his reputation as "Nobody's Poodle", but that was before he got mostly-neutered. He's already lost Tauranga (aka "Lefty") and the NZF Party Vote (aka "Righty") is dangling by a 0.72% thread. One wrong move...

Anyway, this is more a pointer post than anything else. With a sentimental sob, I have officially left student media, my home for the past five years (with a 2-year exile in the middle, admittedly). Russell has invited me to stay on with Public Address for a bit longer, so I hope to blog a bit more over these coming months and perhaps reinvent the blog under a different name, with a different, broader focus.

In the near future, I'll be (finally) posting my interview with Tom Scott and resuming the Maori seats debate I was having with Che before we were interrupted by the injunction. At the risk of getting too introspective, I also want to blog about some of the lessons I've learnt this year about political journalism in general and blogging in particular. It'll be a good way to get some closure on Poll Dancer.

As for closure for my time in student media, I don't think I could have done it any better than the last story I wrote for Salient, about the injunction. This is the final paragraph:

In a post-modern statement juxtaposing the institutional authority of the university and the under-resourced informality of student media, Salient drew penises all over the confidential papers. These have now been returned to their original owner, Professor Pat Walsh.

The paragraph had a little trouble getting past Salient's legal department. Graeme noted a particularly thorny legal issue: since the penises were on the confidential documents, they may well have been covered by the injunction and the subsequent settlement, too, making their release illegal. In the end, it was decided that Salient would "release the penises".

It's been, however, an uphill struggle trying to convince people that it really was a post-modern exercise in contextual art. It was originally intended for the courtroom, so that when the documents were presented in the High Court, we would see the judge reviewing, as evidence, a simple yet elegant illustration by Salient Designer Dave Batt entitled: "Pat Loves the Cock".

Our legacy for student media.

[Also of interest: Salient sums up the year with a line-up of celebrity columnists, including Jane Clifton, Alan Duff, Bill Manhire, Jon Johansson, Chris Knox, Sean Redmond, Lauren Pyle, Uncle Russell, Michael Appleton (former Salient Editor and more recently of frogblog), outgoing Salient Editress Emily Braunstein and incoming Editor James Robinson. Phew that's an awful lot of linking.]

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Salient Sells Out for Media Freedom | Oct 10, 2005 13:42

Salient's fight to overturn the High Court injunction blocking its publication last week has left it with around $8000 in legal fees and lost advertising revenue. The first copy that was liberated from Victoria University is now being auctioned off on TradeMe to help Salient recover its costs.

It is hoped that this auction will help demonstrate the strength with which New Zealanders believe in freedom of the press and transparency in our public bodies.

This gesture will also underscore the lesson for any future organisations that would consider using a similar tactic.

Oh, and it's a great read!

Auction can be found here.

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We will now return to your regular broadcast. | Oct 06, 2005 01:21

As per the terms of the settlement between Vic and Salient, I can't comment on the case. I'm pretty sure that what I would have said wouldn't come as a surprise, anyway.

The settlement allows me, however, to talk about everything but the case.

Now that we've settled, we'll no longer be a test case for media law. However, we have done our best to demonstrate what happens when an organisation tries to injunct a media outlet - however small - and we have spared no effort or expense in doing so.

We've done our little bit for press freedom in New Zealand, now I hope that you, dear Public Address readers, will be willing to help us cover the cost of fighting this battle. Anything you can spare would be greatly appreciated.

If you are able to help out, please write out a cheque to the Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association and send it to Salient Defence Fund, C/O VUWSA, PO Box 600, Wellington. Or deposit the money into VUWSA's account, 06 0606 0008285 00.

[UPDATE: Generous contributor Stephen tells me that donations to VUWSA are tax deductible.]

A special thanks to those who have already contributed!

Anyway, now that the scythe has passed over our collective heads, I think it's safe to reveal that I was only a co-writer of the story. The other writer was my able deputy, Nicola Kean, who I hope will take over my job next year. The story was uncredited for her protection while the legal shitstorm approached, though I was pretty happy to revel in the chaos.

A lot of people have asked me why we didn't just go ahead and run the story without checking with the university. We were aware of the consequences of seeking comment from the university, and we were aware of the option of bypassing it altogether. We chose not to.

I'm generally not one for doing things the hard way when there's an easy way. But this wasn't about doing things the hard way, this was about doing things the way we wanted them to be done, and if anyone was to get in our way, well, we'll fight that battle on that ground.

And I have absolutely no regrets. As it is, I can stand by our article as a solid piece of reporting on a good story, right down to our attempts to balance the glaring numbers with the context that the university could've offered (but didn't). Hell, we even presented the university's case reasonably, in their absence.

We did our jobs. The university management and their lawyers did theirs. The issue came to a head. The outcome, which I can't comment on, speaks for itself.

And it's good to finally see the full version of the article bask in the light of day. (Or at least what was left of a very cloudy late afternoon today.) Still, I'm feeling a bit sheepish, since the hype had overtaken the substance of the story a long time ago, and the story has become a bit of an anticlimax as a result.

Seeing the MSM pick up on the question of whether there's a widespread trend of fee-rise around the country, though, made me feel that the article had done its job (even before it was published).

Strange, crazy world.

I'd also like to take the opportunity to thank Salient's in-house counsel, Graeme Edgeler, who has guided us through some pretty treacherous legal waters, and has had the perseverance and tenacity to restrain me from breaking the law on many, many occasions. He got us through those crucial first few days, before we even hired a lawyer, and his tireless work and level-head advice (poised against my sound strategies of total mayhem) since then has been a critical part of Salient's multi-pronged attack/defence.

We couldn't have fought the juggernaut without him.

He's currently looking for a more lucrative post than Salient, so if there's a law firm looking to hire, just drop me a line and I'll pass his details along.

Now, all we have to worry about is putting out next week's magazine...

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It makes you think. | Oct 04, 2005 13:33

I got a letter today from Victoria University's lawyer saying that:

We understand that you are the primary contact person for the Aotearoa Student Press Association and further that you provided the confidential material which had been supplied to Salient to the other members of ASPA, notwithstanding the injunction which has been issued.

The supply of that information to other members of ASPA is clearly a breach of the interim injunction and potentially contempt of Court. We seek an immediate undertaking on behalf of ASPA and its member organisations that the information will not be published by any of them so long as the interim injunction remains in place.

Should this undertaking not be forthcoming immediately, we will seek an extension of the interim injunction to cover ASPA and its member organisations. In seeking to extend the interim injunction we will be obliged to advise the Court that you had the opportunity to provide us with an undertaking not to publish the material but declined to do so.

Unless we have a satisfactory response from you by 9.00am tomorrow, Tuesday 4 October 2005, we will proceed to seek further High Court Orders.

The letter is dated 3 October. I called the courier, who informed me that the letter was delivered at 8:51am on today, 4 October.

For the legalese-adverse, that third paragraph was a threat to put a gag order on ASPA and all the student magazines that are members of ASPA. Here's a list of all 13, for the University's convenience (I like how it looks so long in a column):

Caclin (Lincoln)
Canta (Canterbury)
Chaff (Massey, Palmerston North)
Craccum (Auckland)
Crew (UCOL)
Critic (Otago)
Debate (AUT)
gYRo (Otago Polytech)
InUnison (Unitec)
Magneto (Massey, Wellington)
Nexus (Waikato)
Salient (Victoria)
Satellite (Massey, Albany)

So, to rephrase, Victoria University threatened to put a gag order on every single student magazine in New Zealand. (Slight hyperbole. I suspect there might be a few polytech magazines that are not part of ASPA.)

I'll leave the comment to others.

But I do feel like repeating myself.

Victoria University threatened to put a gag order on every single student magazine in New Zealand.

Perhaps Otago should replace "Get Over It!" with "We won't gag you!"?

I'm also a bit peeved that they are trying to say that we've breached the terms of our injunction by putting the story-that-we-can't-mention on the Aotearoa Student Press Association newswire.

We put the story on the ASPA newswire on Thursday, as we always do, because that's when everyone goes to print. Vic filed the injunction, ex parte (i.e. they didn't tell us), on Friday, and it wasn't served to us until we asked for it and went and got it ourselves on Sunday evening. If we hadn't taken the initiative, it would have been served to us on Monday morning, four or five hours before we were due in court.

When the article was placed on the newswire, the injunction was not in effect, the injunction had not been granted, the injunction had not been filed, we weren't notified that Vic even wanted an injunction.

We were not obligated to and we did not keep the article under wraps on the basis of "gee-maybe-Vic-will-file-an-injunction-at-some-point-in-the-future-but-just-won't-tell-us-because-they-want-to-keep-us-in-the-dark".

Over the weekend, we emailed the Vice-Chancellor and the Public Relations Director. Neither responded. We advised them exactly where and when we could be found. No reply.

While we weren't jumping at the opportunity to tell them that a story on our story (that's what the ASPA story was) was published elsewhere, had they simply asked us who else had we told, we would have duly told the truth.

They didn't ask. They didn't respond to our requests. They wanted us in the dark. We were. And now they're complaining that we didn't respond to their complaints quickly enough - i.e. that we didn't act as if the injunction was in place three days before they serve us with it.

The fact that this injunction is holding the fruits of our labour to ransom hurts us immeasurably, but we have respected and observed the law. Speaking of which, we need help. Lawyers are expensive. If you have $10k (or part thereof) sitting around in your bottom drawer and you are happy to throw it at a bunch of dirty student journalists sticking it to The Man (and protecting the ability of the media to cover stories based on leaks), we'd love to hear from you. Email me at

This is not just about a large organisation being able to squash the little guys. This is a case that will have an impact on *all* leaks. If this leak is stopped, it won't be the last.

It makes you think.

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We interrupt your regular programming... | Oct 03, 2005 11:55

All 6,000 issues of this week's Salient are being held in an unidentified, secure location at Victoria University at the moment, after our Vice-Chancellor took out an ex parte High Court injunction against us. We got served.

Actually, we had to pick the injunction up ourselves. So it's more like self-service.

So much for all the cheap puns. It's been a grueling few days, after some hard partying at the Aotearoa Student Press Association awards on Saturday (we got served there, too, by Otago student mag Critic). There was much drinking and karaoke-ing.

The fun part was the next day, trying to prepare legal documents on a 4-inch iPAQ screen and talking legalese over a dodgy cell connection on the Desert Road in a crumby van while hung-over and sleep-deprived (damn daylight-saving). Our mobile HQ was wicked. Like the Turtle-mobile, except we were student journalists, rather than ninja-turtles, and we were fighting lawsuits, rather than Shredder.

Then we drove straight back to the office where we've been since last night, working in shifts to keep this media-train running. I used bound copies of Salient as my pillow - it was beautiful.

All this kerfuffle, of course, was over an article we printed saying that censored censored censored were going to injuncted injuncted injuncted because embargoed embargoed embargoed. That's all.

Ahem. Given they put an injunction on my ass, I guess you'll have to get the details elsewhere.

We're due in court at 14:15. It's all fun and games until the lawyer's bill comes...

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