Sydney Morning Herald State Political Editor Kirsty Needham gave me a call on Friday to discuss an upcoming article on yours truly. I’m across Ms Needham’s previous work, having enjoyed a lot of it but also noticing much of it was highly agenda driven, including one recent piece with the potential to mislead readers that I had no choice but to call out. Even with that experience at the back of my mind, given her position of State Politics Editor I was happy to have an adult conversation with her, in the hope that she would publish a piece befitting of her title.
Unfortunately I was mistaken. In the early hours on Sunday, April 10, 2016 – this article was published on the Sydney Morning Herald website. To call this article a hatchet job would be a gross understatement. Ms Needham has blatantly set out to discredit yours truly, attempting to link me to to various parties and making false representations on my behalf. In addition, quotes of mine featured in her article are used in context vastly different to the conversation where the quotes are taken from.
Let’s dissect this article and apply a fact check.
Headline – Author of anti-lockout blog that caused trolls to turn on Ralph Kelly worked for John Ibrahim’s girlfriend
It did not take Ms Needham long to warm up. For starters, Surely Not is not an “anti-lockout blog”. As per the about page, my aim is to write about any subjects that interest me. The article that prompted me to start this website was about Chris Gayle – “Don’t Blush, Baby”. Out of 24 posts published, 5 are directly related to the lockout laws, or 20.83%. Whilst other articles do include references to lockouts, the laws make up a small part of the story. They’re included in certain pieces because it’s a very topical subject, and they relate to the topic at hand. I have written detailed investigative pieces, that quite frankly someone from her organisation should have been doing. I have also written light hearted pieces, tongue in cheek articles and general interest pieces. Ironically, one of my first pieces was a comment on media conduct relating to alleged witnesses in the Mitchell Pearce scandal.
Ms Needham states in her headline my site “caused trolls to turn on Ralph Kelly”. On February 22nd 2016 Kate Aubusson published an article after reaching Mr Kelly for exclusive comment. In this article Mr Kelly makes the following comment –
“My salary was approved by all of the [TKYF] board members [and] all of the directors and it was disappointing to see that [the Daily Telegraph] reported that without waiting to speak to the directors or myself,” Mr Kelly said.”
Ms Aubusson also published the following comment, apparently from the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation website. I wasn’t aware the website had a comment section, so I could not verify it’s accuracy. This was not posted as a screenshot, nor was there any link to verify it’s authenticity.
“If what I read in the [Daily] Telegraph is true, you payed [sic] yourself $150 000, you are a piece of s—. You should be ashamed of youself [sic]. You’re the one that should get a good smack in the head. F— your charity and f— you , you theiving [sic] bastard,” read on message posted to the TKYF website.
Both the comment from Mr Kelly and the unverified ramblings Ms Aubusson chose to include refer directly to an article they read in the Daily Telegraph. Specifically, this article in the Daily Telegraph. As you can see from reading the article, there is no mention or reference to Surely Not. Ms Aubusson also makes the assertion there had been threats made to staff and family following the publication of “Would the last person in Sydney please turn out the lights”. There are no examples given in this instance, nor is any evidence supplied at all. The article blamed for alleged threats also contains zero mention of the Kelly Foundation or family.
To summarise, Mr Kelly, an anonymous troll and Ms Needham’s Herald colleague, Kate Aubusson all identify the Telegraph as the cause of alleged trolling, along with an article that does not contain any mention of the alleged victims of said trolling.
Therefore, the headline provided by Ms Needham is completely contradictory of what her colleague has previously published. There is no evidence linking Surely Not as the cause of alleged trolling, to suggest so is misleading and deceptive.
I will not be responding to any of Ms Needham’s speculative long bow statements that attempt to highlight irrelevant links in an attempt to discredit or question my motivation. To do so would be to give them validation they most certainly do not deserve. I will also not be responding to comments that involve people other than myself. I do feel the need to highlight one last part of the inflammatory headline though, regarding references to Mr John Ibrahim. During our phone call, Ms Needham and I were dicussing why she thought any of these people were remotely relevant to my writing. When referring to Mr Ibrahim, the first thing Ms Needham mentioned was “Underbelly”, which she followed up with “colourful Sydney identity”.
I find it noteworthy that these were the first things she chose to say. Nothing to do with his his successful career, any high profile and glamorous nightclubs or Kings Cross in general. Especially given the whole tone of the article. What exactly is she suggesting? I’m not one to publish unfounded speculation based around ones intentions, so I’ll let the reader draw their own conclusions as to Ms Needham’s perception of Mr Ibrahim and motivation for mentioning him in the headline.
“The anonymous blogger whose blog led to trolls threaten Ralph Kelly on social media by alleging a conspiracy with Crown Casino was an employee of Kings Cross identity John Ibrahim’s girlfriend.”
“Chris Sinclair was the events manager for model Sarah Budge’s Kings Cross venue Crane Bar when he started the blog Surely Not. The blog alleges a conspiracy between the family of dead teenager Thomas Kelly and Crown Casino led to the lockout laws, and also attacks St Vincent’s director of emergency Dr Gordian Fulde.”
Firstly, I made it quite clear to Ms Needham that anonymity was not a deliberate action or intention. When I started this website my readership consisted of friends who were entertained by my writing. They all knew who I was, and I made no effort to hide my identity. When readership grew, I did not feel a requirement to announce my identity to new readers. Why would I or anyone?
We’ve already covered why her suggestion Surely Not is responsible for alleged threats is completely inaccurate, so no need to go through that again.
She also claims I alleged a conspiracy between Mr Kelly and Crown Casino. This is completely false as well. In all articles I have published I have only ever discussed publicly available information. I make this quite clear in the article she is no doubt referring to as well as every subsequent piece. I discuss the relationship between the foundation and the Star casino, but simply make the observation that the Star was a beneficiary of the new legislation. No conspiracy is suggested whatsoever. That would be absurd. The relationship between the two parties was explored given donations made from the casino to a party lobbying for legislation that benefited said donor. Again, this is all available via public record, and is a topic worth discussing due to a potential conflict of interest, not totally dissimilar to political donations. At no stage was any wrongdoing suggested, a topic of discussion was simply being offered.
Ms Needham states I was the employed at Crane at the time I started my website. This is true, I started the website in January when I published my first article about Chris Gayle. The first lockout article I published was on February 2nd 2016, which was a general look back at the past two years. My last day of employment at Crane was February 3rd 2016. At this stage I was yet to publish any of my investigative pieces that have no doubt drawn the ire of Ms Needham. My first article on the Kelly Foundation was published February 9th 2016 – a week after I left the business. Therefore I must question what Ms Needham feels the relevance is. I can only see two logical reasons. Firstly, an attempt to discredit me via a claim of vested interest which Ms Needham knows is completely false as per our phone conversation. I explained I had not suffered professionally due to the laws, quite the opposite in fact. My social life had not been impacted either due to having little desire to be out at 1.30am. The second reason would seemingly be to damage the reputation of my ex employer.
Ms Needham’s claim that I allege a conspiracy theory has already been given far more consideration than it deserves above. I won’t be addressing that absurd notion again.
I will dispute the wording used here suggesting an attack on Dr Fulde. As I often repeated, I feel people play the man instead of the content too much. Here I’m being accused of doing something I personally have no time for. I attacked statistics presented by Dr Fulde as part of a report he made. It’s a detailed piece regarding his misrepresentation of data which has subsequently been used ad nauseam to falsely justify the laws, with what I thought was a clever and witty title – “Fulde Me Once”
I’ve often praised Dr Fulde for his career and service to the community. I’ve remarked many times his record cannot be brought into question. However, I don’t extend my praise to the report he published and proceeded to use as a key weapon in support of the laws. Given I found it hard to fathom a man of his obvious intelligence would get his analysis so wrong, I had to explore possible motives for doing so. As is the case with everything I write, nothing untoward was suggested, but the investigation most certainly demanded a why to go with the who, how, what, when and where.
Given the scandal currently unfolding at St Vincent’s, surely that demonstrates that nobody should be beyond reproach, regardless of their vocation. Given what I have already published, I personally think it’s absurd that publications such has Ms Needham’s employer are not researching and writing investigative pieces like this. Let’s be honest here, why aren’t they?
“The blog posts were copied extensively by Matt Barrie in his submission to the independent review into the lockout laws last week.”
I believe the word Ms Needham is looking for is “referenced”. Referencing external material is fairly common in journalism, I believe. Ms Needham is a state political editor, so she should be able to clarify this one.
“Mr Sinclair accepted a Meeting & Events Australia award in Crane Bar’s name on March 3 as the NSW business development person of the year. But on Friday he said he no longer works there.”
Ms Needham is again a little off with her suggestions. I was honoured by Meetings & Events Australia with the award for NSW Business Development Person of the Year. There’s a photo of it above, isn’t it pretty? As you can also see, this award is clearly an individual award, won by yours truly. It is clear what Ms Needham is insinuating here with her mention of the date and my acceptance of the award in Crane Bar’s name. She is quite obviously suggesting I was still an employee. Unfortunately for Ms Needham, her own conspiracy theory has no basis. As mentioned earlier, my last day of employment was February 3rd 2016. Regardless, what Ms Needham is also unaware of is the qualifying period for this award was July 1st 2014 – September 30th 2015. When I was most definitely a full time employee. Had Ms Needham bothered to put in the smallest bit of effort towards fact checking this line, perhaps by contacting MEA, she would have been advised the award was for individual brilliance during the period mentioned above. Had she of gone a little further and spoke to anyone present at the awards night, they no doubt would have recalled my incredibly witty acceptance speech where I mentioned I was on the market.
“He said the blog was anonymous because “people would make false assumptions about my motivation”.
“I wanted the focus on the writing, not who wrote it. So many people these days play the man, not the content,” he said.”
I did indeed make both these remarks. I made them fairly early on in our conversation, as that was the first topic brought up. As it would happen, Ms Needham provided complete justification for my stance – by publishing an article making false assumptions about my motivation and then going on to focus entirely on me, rather than any of my writing. Or in other words, playing the man, not the content.
Mr Sinclair praises Mr Sandilands and Mr Ibrahim on his blog as “two men of considerable influence and power”.
He also notes an earlier campaign by the pair to address violence in Kings Cross, a video – involving Mr Ibrahim and Mr Sandilands and called “Don’t be a dickhead” – fell flat.
I did indeed write remarks of this nature, in my first lockout piece – A lot can happen in two years. In the interest of not misrepresenting my own quotes, here is my comment in full –
“#dontbeadickhead was perhaps the best chance the industry and scene had seen, but unfortunately we’ll never know. It was mocked and ignored by pompous morons too concerned with losing the spotlight than actually working with two men of considerable influence and power, John Ibrahim & Kyle Sandilands. John came out in national media saying he was sick of the “gronks” ruining the cross and would back any campaign financially. Kyle could lobby and influence his enormous radio audience which included many from demographics that were mainly pro-lockout. But all the social sites who were supposed to be on our side shot it down ruthlessly. Google it Some argued they didn’t approve of the spokespeople for image reasons. What rubbish. Regardless, nobody else with the ability to get our issue into the spotlight was stepping up.”
Once again, I’m looking at Ms Needham here and I can tell she is holding pocket 3’s. It appears my comments where published without their original context to add weight to her made up theory regarding my motivation for writing. Unfortunately for Ms Needham, pocket 3’s rarely cut it. If you refer to the article you will see the above quote is part of a section discussing all the various campaigns we’d seen over the past two years. There are many others that get a mention.
Despite the harmful intentions, I’m actually really glad Ms Needham chose to publish those specific points. It relates directly to a really interesting point we were discussing on the phone that didn’t quite make it to the article. It’s regarding my motivation for writing about the Kelly Foundation. When writing that very section of my first lockout piece referenced above, I decided I needed to add a couple of positive stories for balance. I remembered reading about the foundation goals previously and thinking how great they were. Education programs., venue ranking, etc. Stuff that actually made a difference. So I went to do some research. It was then I found none of these goals had been achieved as well as other inconsistencies with financials, dates, etc. I advised Ms Needham of all of this over the phone, however she must have forgotten about it when writing her article. From what she published it seemed I had some kind of crazed vendetta against the family because of where I worked and who my boss was dating. I have to say, typing out that last sentence really made the insanity of it hit home. Just think about it for a minute.
I digress, in addition to discussing it over the phone with Ms Needham, I also stated the very same thing in the article in question.–
“Anybody who has even slightly kept up with this topic in the news over the last couple of years has seen Ralph Kelly at some point. In 2012 Mr Kelly was hit with the most devastating news imaginable for any parent His son Thomas had been attacked by an unhinged scumbag in Kings Cross and tragically had not survived. Naturally and deservedly so an outpouring of sympathy was forthcoming and we all felt a portion of his pain. Understandably answers were sought and there was widespread anger and sadness. My Kelly established the Thomas Kelly Foundation in honour of his late son, a noble move which unquestionably had the full support of all. A foundation that would help prevent similar tragedies was something we could all applaud and get behind.”
“an event in 2015 raised over two hundred thousand dollars. Surely a lot of good could be done. Especially given their short and long term Objectives and Strategy found here“
So not only did I explain to her the full story behind my investigations, I had even published it back in February. Admittedly, that was my 6th piece ever and therefore nowhere near as polished as it could be if it were piece number, say 22. I’ve grown a lot as a writer since then. Regardless, Ms Needham was most definitely aware of my thoughts on this topic, and my thoughts on violence in the community as we spent some time discussing it all. I can only assume a short bout of amnesia was to blame for her insinuating something so vastly different from the truth.
“Mr Sinclair said his friends knew he “liked to rant” and the blog was “quite emotive, sensationalist even” to get attention. “
This is an odd inclusion. I’m assuming it’s to make me sound a little bit nutty and an attention seeker. The quotes aren’t attributed to anything and she hasn’t even included “to get attention” in the quote despite the fact I said it! Don’t claim my admission as a conclusion you’ve drawn. To give some context here, we were talking about my writing style. I do indeed like to rant, and anyone who knows me can testify to that after years of being subjected to monster rants on Facebook! It’s why I started this website. I did indeed say my writing could sometimes be quite emotive and sensationalist, in order to gain attention. I explained this by making the suggestion that nobody would read a 5000 word essay purely made up of stats, dot points, data, etc. I said by adding my own flair to it, I was attempting to make the reader interested and engaged, to the point where they would want to keep reading and wouldn’t be able to put the article down. Journalistic integrity suggests the whole story should have been told here.
“He said he was not to blame for the subsequent threats made to the Kellys, or the defacing of a memorial to Thomas Kelly in Kings Cross.”
We’ve been through this, but I’d just like to highlight the fact Ms Needham has linked the very article that lays the blame for the alleged threats on everyone but me. Perhaps she should have read and referenced the article, rather than just linking it. As for the alleged defacing of the memorial, I was quick to denounce this on Twitter. I must say though, I did find the timing of this act a little suspicious. The memorial isn’t well known, I’ll freely admit I’ve walked past where it apparently always is and not noticed. Maybe it’s the sleuth in me or maybe it’s the cynic, but either way I would be looking into every angle on that story, specifically local residents, especially given the alleged past behaviour of some 2011RA members.
“I was pretty disgusted by some of the hate,” he said.”
I was. Any decent human being would be. What Ms Needham omitted was my next remark, where I did point to the fact I had only seen a small number of these online. I feel threats should be taken seriously, and those who deliver them deserve punishment. It’s for this reason I called for a police investigation into the alleged threats. I did so on the foundation page, whilst expressing my sympathy for the family and anger for the perpetrators of the above mentioned vandalism. I re-iterate that call. If serious threats have been made, the police need to catch these people. Public safety and having violent offenders off the street and rehabilitated is a big concern of mine. Ms Needham and I discussed the topic at great depth and length. It would have made for an intelligent public discussion. But seemingly, that was never her intention and what I thought was a really worthwhile discussion has gone to waste.
“There’s always the risk that unhinged individuals will react in a way you don’t want them to. That’s something I can’t control, but I won’t let it stop me from what I am doing.”
Firstly, this is yet another body part to this Frankenstein of a quote. But regardless of the fact it came from a totally different part of our conversation, I stand by this comment 100% and suggested surely Ms Needham would as well, as a journalist. I believe in the freedom to say what needs to be said, and the day we are too afraid to because of how someone will take it will be a truly sad day. Nobody in the mainstream media has broached some of the subjects I have with anywhere near the vigour. That’s half the reason I’ve really got into my writing, simply because there are stories that haven’t been told and worthwhile angles that haven’t been presented. When the mainstream media is not doing a story justice or providing the public with the full story, I feel that’s where amateur writers such as myself come in. I absolutely reject Ms Needham’s suggestion that a writer should perhaps not write something purely because of the way a random individual may respond. I also find the idea that any journalist would even consider doing so laughable, and would be interested to hear the opinions of Ms Needham’s industry colleagues on that one.
“Mr Sinclair sent Mr Barrie, Miss Budge and 19 other Kings Cross promoters and former bar owners a message the weekend before submissions to the lockout review closed, providing links to his blog.
“Don’t fret. A lot of the work has already been done for you,” he wrote. “
Again, more misconstruing of what was actually said. I’m at the point now where I don’t even know if Ms Needham has presented this way due to poor research or a blatant attempt to paint me in a certain way and deceive her readers. Some clarity would be helpful.
For starters, there was no message sent. It was a Facebook status. Specifically, this Facebook status.Secondly, I’m not sure if Ms Needham personally knows everyone who was tagged, but if so perhaps a catch up is needed because they certainly weren’t KIngs Cross promoters and former bar owners. In fact, none tagged were Kings Cross promoters or former bar owners. The majority were DJ’s and friends of mine who have large networks. Once again, totally incorrect.
I certainly won’t deny including links to my website either. I specifically linked to my investigative pieces full of very useful analysis. I also included the tongue in cheek comment –” (what, surely you didn’t think I wouldn’t be slipping in a shameless plug!)” All up I included 5 links to my own site out of 24 in total. 20.83%.
Again, another comment of mine without context. Arrogance is a fair accusation, I’ll cop that. But I would not be so arrogant as to make the “don’t fret” comment to the people I tagged. That line was part of a helpful bit of encouragement for those without the confidence to undertake a formal submission. The quote –
“For those who think the idea of writing a formal submission is a tad daunting, don’t fret. A lot of the work has already been done for you. There are dozens of articles out there for you to reference and collate information from. Here are a few to get you started -“
I personally thought I sounded pretty nice with that one, not at all how it seems I’ve been portrayed.
“He told Fairfax Media it was a “call to arms” to participate in the legislative review.”
“There’s no point going to all these rallies, doing all this stuff and when it actually comes down to crunch time, doing the one thing that might make a difference, not doing anything,” he said.”
Good to see after an entire article full of bullshit we at least we end on a high note. I do put my hand up for these quotes. It was a call to arms, and Sydney responded with 1856 submissions.
I can’t really express just how disappointing this conduct is. After having a 30 minute conversation covering a wide range of topics, this was the result. A stitch up and a personal attack. Does Ms Needham really think Herald readers are that trashy? I would have thought they deserved a bit more respect. Had there not been a clear agenda in place, I would have been happy to share information with Ms Needham on some big stories. But instead, we have this. So that’s that.
Here’s the link to Ms Needham’s article for sourcing purposes – http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/author-of-antilockout-blog-that-helped-turned-trolls-on-ralph-kelly-worked-for-john-ibrahims-girlfriend-20160409-go2dyx.html
Here’s the article that no doubt created an axe to grind….