Australian news outlets claimed that a sports reporter, Josh Massoud, threatened to slit someone’s throat. Now, at least one site, Sporting News, has apologized.
Lat year, Massoud sent defamation notices to numerous news outlets — 2GB, KIIS 106.5FM, The Daily Telegraph, the Nine Network, B&T Magazine, Fox Sports and The Sporting News — over the reports, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. Massoud said the stories about his departure were “a complete and utter fabrication.”
Massoud tweeted about the apology writing, “Two down, five to go.” iMediaEthics has written to Massoud’s lawyer and Sporting News to ask if this was part of a settlement, how the story went wrong, and if there was any financial settlement.
Massoud’s attorney told iMediaEthics by e-mail, “the matter settled on terms that Mr. Massoud was happy with, including the publication of an apology.” He added that Massoud sued seven outlets, has settled two of the suits, and expects five more cases in court in the next two years.
According to Massoud’s attorney, Stewart O’Connell, what went wrong is that news outlets misreported on a “colourful” conversation Massoud had with a young journalist in training as if it were a serious threat.
“During a lengthy phone conversation with an 18yo cadet journalist who had breached an embargo on one of Mr. Massoud’s exclusives, Mr. Massoud said to the cadet, ‘…And if you weren’t so young and inexperienced I’d probably come up there and rip your head off and shit down your throat,'” O’Connell explained. “The media companies being sued reported that Mr. Massoud had threatened to “slit the throat” of the young person. The simple argument at trial will be that what was actually said was in the nature of colourful vernacular but what was reported as being said was in the nature of a serious, violent and sinister actual threat.”
“On 3 May 2018 and 23 February 2019, we published stories about Mr. Massoud on the https://www.sportingnews.com/au website.
“We now acknowledge that these stories contained a number of inaccuracies and that they created an unfair impression of Mr. Massoud. In particular, we were wrong to assert that Mr. Massoud had threatened to slit anyone’s throat.
“We unreservedly apologise to Mr Massoud for the embarrassment, hurt and distress that the stories caused him and his family.”
One article which Sporting News has now unpublished and goes to an error page, was headlined, “Channel Seven NRL reporter Josh Massoud suspended after allegedly threatening young reporter.”
UPDATE: 2/23/2020 11:25 PM EST With response from Massoud’s lawyer