Image for Statewatch on Sunday - Some pulp protesters shredding credibility

The handful of the people I’m talking about are supporters of TAP Into A Better Tasmania, formerly Tasmanians Against The Pulp Mill.

Most are like you and me - parents, small business people and pensioners. They fear their way of life is under threat.

But the way some go about it leaves them looking like a bitter and twisted rabble who risk damaging the reputation and work of other TAP members and professional and respected environmental campaigners.

They were all once focused, well researched, with strong leadership.

Now a few lack discipline and are alienating those who could help get a clear message out.

Enter Pulp The Mill, a new group that has so far shown itself to be well-organised with one plan - peaceful protest.

Opponents have criticised them because they’d been running protest workshops for about 18 months.

But at least they have a strategy and clearly identify themselves by wearing blue and white armbands.

Twenty-one Pulp The Mill people were arrested at the Beaconsfield Community Cabinet two weeks ago. Nearby, TAP protesters banged pots and pans vying for the media spotlight, while some condemned The Examiner and other media in their speeches.

Still they made front-page headlines.

(How odd that one TAP protester has since asked that a photo be “retracted” because it was published without consent.)

A week later when Gunns chairman John Gay’s house was allegedly damaged, hitting the front page, some TAP supporters complained.

The Examiner pointed out that the timing of the alleged incident was terrible, coming so close to the protest, but “the attacks may have nothing to do with the pulp mill”.

It was a statement of fact, interpreted by TAP supporters as The Examiner linking them. I’d ask who was jumping to the “self- serving conclusions” they warned against?

(Further comment on the alleged incident is not possible because it is now before the courts.)

Of course, emails and blogs accused Mr Gay of whipping up the story - now that’s “predictable”.

In fact, the Gunns boss didn’t want the story to be run. The Examiner learnt police were at his home and, given Mr Gay’s profile, that was news.

We’d report the same if we discovered police were investigating alleged vandalism at the home of Australian Greens leader Bob Brown.

And we’d sympathise just the same. How disgusting that a couple of people wrote to us saying Mr Gay “brought this upon himself” and was “reaping some of what he has sown”.

The next day they were outraged that former Premier Paul Lennon attacked the anti-pulp mill protesters in an opinion piece.

TAP was invited to write an opposing column on the same day and chose not to. Pulp The Mill submitted a piece.

There were blogs and emails calling on Mr Lennon to apologise for “pointing the finger”.

But apparently it was OK for anti-mill campaigners to be reported the day before - and write letters - saying that a disgruntled former Gunns employee could have been responsible, as a result of job losses.

The Examiner was accused of printing “defamation” against anti-pulp mill people.

A couple of old cliches spring to mind: don’t throw stones in glass houses, and practise what you preach.

Many letters to the editor and online comments from TAP members and supporters can’t be run because they’re defamatory, inaccurate or personal attacks.

But they can always vent their spleens on the Tasmanian Times website.

We operate under the law and adhere to Press Council guidelines and the journalist code of ethics, striving for accuracy, balance and fairness.

But the editor of the Tasmanian Times, Lindsay Tuffin, couldn’t say what regulatory body he operated under after pulling down one defamatory and inaccurate post about Examiner staff in April. He offered to let me correct the record “anonymously” - which I flat-out declined. And he boasts that balance is “appeasement”.*

So please don’t lecture me on the law, ethics and accuracy.

Our reporters put their names to stories and are continuously attacked by people too gutless to identify themselves.

We choose not to read the rantings of conspiracy theorists who spread rumours and are rapidly alienating sections of the media and community who were prepared to listen to their concerns.

Those who do put their names to emails or posts astound me even more.

They’ll attack us, then ask the newspaper to run their letters, to pursue a story that serves their personal interests, while their leaders seek free advertising for TAP events. Are they kidding?

I’ve been told that TAP is a community- based group, therefore the leaders can’t control what a few in their ranks write or say. An excuse for this group completely lacking discipline.

And so, in my opinion, their media strategy is ultimately doomed to fail.

They’ve benefited in the past from our focus on the primary objective of reporting the news, regardless of whether a group is biting the hand that feeds it.

On a personal level, many TAP members and supporters are very likeable, but a handful are just sad, irrational souls.

So where does that leave us?

To achieve balance and fairness we can go to professional environmental campaigners like the Wilderness Society for comment, despite receiving an email in August from a TAP member complaining that we went to someone “down South” for comment.

Yes, I tried to understand TAP. But I’ve had enough. I guess the feeling is mutual.

Now I sit back and wait for the inaccurate, bullying and slanderous emails, blogs and calls to flood in.

This comment is taken from The Sunday Examiner website: Here: Read more here

*TT: Fiona was offered as much or as little space as she wanted to state her case over this comment. She was dismissive of the idea. She was then offered the chance of anonymously commenting if she felt embarrassed to be publicly identified with Tasmanian Times. She was equally dismissive of that idea. In that conversation there was an open exchange of views about how overly-sensitive journalists can be to criticism; especially in view of media’s role in the presentation of unsavoury fact.On Thursday night she was again publicly offered as much time and space on this website as she may want. She again declined. Questionable comments occasionally do slip through. But immediately we are aware of them, they are edited or corrected or deleted. Mercury Editor Garry Bailey on Thursday night spoke of this regular practice on The Mercury website. It is not unusual. 

Tasmanian Times reluctantly allows anonymity. This policy emerged because from its inception seven years ago, it quickly became apparent that there were some people who faced retribution if they commented fully and openly. It is a policy which is problematic, but deemed, sadly, necessary, because of the nature of the public sphere here.  As for the regulation, last time we looked we weren’t in Stasiland. TT has its policy, adopted and adapted from long-esbalished sites like Crikey: Here. Tasmanian Times will always welcome a fierce, no-holds barred debate. We will welcome with open arms any criticial perspective. It has been TT practice in the seven years of our existence to request articles critical of this website for immediate publication here, so people can freely make up their own minds. We are not precious. We do not sue. We do not issue writs for defamation (they are issued against us though). If you give it you’ve got to learn to take it. That’s the way societies are refined; that is how open, free and honest debates occur.

Yet a few community-based anti- pulp mill protesters don’t seem to get that, despite at least three years fighting their cause.

That’s because they have little understanding of how to run a professional campaign. Certainly, their knowledge of the media is thin at best.