Fishing article – clarification and apology

I’ve always been prepared to slam others for making errors – it seems now that I’ve written an opinion article whose premise is largely based on one. So it’s right that I clarify, and apologise.

My article, for news.com.au, asked questions about the publicity gained from a fishing trip offered to Ray Johnstone, a man whose request for a fishing mate had gone viral on Gumtree.

As someone who’s spent quite a few recent years receiving constant pitches from publicists eager to wring every morsel of media coverage from their clients’ generosity, and watching as corporate logos spread across every surface, I’ve become very cynical about these things. Perhaps too much so.

Consequently, I pointed out that there were benefits to the undoubtedly generous gift of a fishing trip because the person who organised it, Mati Batsinilas, had a family which “own[ed] a local fishing business”, according to the article I originally read by a journalist who had interviewed him. (This claim in both my article and the source article has since been corrected.)

I looked at Bats Fishing’s Facebook and Instagram pages, and saw that they regularly took people out, some of whom were said to be first timers. I also found a Facebook page called ‘Batsinilas Bay Fishing’, whose Google listing summarised the page as “IT DOESN’T GET MUCH BETTER THAN THIS!!! We will show you the best of the best fish … Moreton Bay And Surrounds Sportfishing.” This seemed consistent with the suggestion that the Bats Fishing crew had a business taking people fishing.

However, while clearly he has sponsorship agreements and therefore clients to satisfy, I have no reason not to believe Mati’s denial that he’s running a business taking people like Ray fishing. If that’s the case, I freely admit that a large part of the premise of the article is problematic.

It is true, though, that somebody has been eager to derive publicity from the trip – I’ve seen an email from publicist Wendy Serrano, sent before the trip and pitching Mati as an interviewee. A screencap of it is in this follow-up article, published after my column. When news.com.au called Wendy, she was apparently sitting next to Mati.

But even noting all of that, if I hadn’t believed that a business was being promoted off the back of what had been depicted as a charitable act, I wouldn’t have written the article.

I do think there is a growing problem with people seeking to cash in on their moment in the spotlight – only this week, the new US First Lady sued because she claimed a defamatory claim had led to the loss of a multi-million dollar opportunity to cash in on her position.

But I’m also troubled by people rushing to judge based on incorrect perceptions, and so I apologise to Mati Batsinilas for having done so myself.

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