After a weekend no doubt filled with roasting from people around the world, the Sydney Morning Herald‘s editor Bevan Shields has penned a statement about the publication’s cooked Rebel Wilson article.
ICYMI, SMH columnist Andrew Hornery published an article on Saturday in which he said the outlet had given Rebel Wilson two days to offer a comment on her relationship with Ramona Agruma before he wrote about it.
In a move that seems to be Wilson taking control of her own narrative — which she is fully entitled to do — she opted to debut her relationship on Instagram instead. Hornery’s Saturday article bemoans Wilson’s choice to do this, with paragraphs like:
“Considering how bitterly Wilson had complained about poor journalism standards when she successfully sued Woman’s Day for defamation, her choice to ignore our discreet, genuine and honest queries was, in our view, underwhelming.”
Hornery’s article was, unsurprisingly, ripped to fkn shreds by not just Aussies, but the entire world. So on Sunday, SMH editor Shields attempted damage control with this “note” published on-site.
In it, he defends the move of asking Wilson for comment, writing: “To say that the Herald “outed” Wilson is wrong. Like other mastheads do every day, we simply asked questions and as standard practice included a deadline for a response.”
This is all well and good, but it’s also… not the issue here. The issue is that while Wilson and Agruma had been posting pics together on social media and attending events, Wilson wasn’t officially “out” yet. And that decision was entirely her own, not Hornery’s or Shields’ to make for her. So yes, by writing about Wilson’s new relationship you would have outed her, actually.
Maybe Wilson wasn’t ready to make that move yet, and perhaps felt pressured into doing it quickly thanks to the SMH‘s two-day ultimatum.
In his note, Shields fails to comment on or apologise for the vaguely threatening tone of Hornery’s original article, in which he wrote the SMH would give “her two days to comment on her new relationship… before publishing a single word”.
To excuse the criticism of Wilson’s actions within Hornery’s article, Shields writes: “Private Sydney is a column in which the writer’s interaction with his subjects is often part of the story.
“Saturday’s piece followed that theme in giving readers insights into our interaction with Wilson and her PR team. This was not a standard news story.” Well, you’re right about one thing at least — standard news stories don’t generally cop a pasting from the entire world.
He signs off the note by writing: “We wish Wilson and Agruma well.” Despite Wilson breaking her silence to say that the situation had been “hard”, no apology was offered by the SMH. Instead, Shields’ note read like a doubling down and hiding behind the shield of “journalistic practice”.
Rebel Wilson has also said she is trying to handle the situation “with grace”. It would be nice if the journos did, too.