An Australian man asked a question on a televised election special and for a short time became the apple of the public eye, gaining lots of attention and even a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for him. But then, after his comments in the public debate brought him media attention, Australia’s Herald Sun looked into the man’s past and found out about his criminal record and other negative aspects of his past.
Was it fair for the Herald Sun to reveal all these details about the man? The Australian Press Council says yes.
Let’s rewind for a second: The man, Duncan Storrar, attended Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) TV’s election special in May 2016. During the Q&A section of the program, he asked a question about corporate tax cuts and commented he can’t afford to take his family to the movies. Like Ken Bone during the U.S. presidential debates, the public and media zeroed in on him (with an ABC reporter calling him a “new national hero,”) and more than $60,000 Australian was donated to a GoFundMe crowd-funding account set up for him.
Storrar’s question, according to the Guardian:
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“I’ve got a disability and a low education, that means I’ve spent my whole life working for minimum wage…You’re gonna lift the tax-free threshold for rich people. If you lift my tax-free threshold, that changes my life. That means that I get to say to my little girls, ‘Daddy’s not broke this weekend. We can go to the pictures.’ Rich people don’t even notice their tax-free threshold lift. Why don’t I get it? Why do they get it?”
The Herald Sun then published on May 12, 2016, “Q&A Star Duncan Storrar exposed as thug as public raise $60,000.” The Herald Sun interviewed Storrar’s adult son, who suggested the GoFundMe organizers re-direct raised funds to charity. It also listed Storrar’s criminal record. (The BBC reported last year on how Storrar was “torn down” as a hero in just a few days.) iMediaEthics has written to News Corp Australia, which publishes the Herald Sun, and representatives for Storrar for comment.
Storrar himself didn’t complain to the press council, but others did, arguing the reporting on Storrar was unfair and invasive. The Herald Sun defended its report as newsworthy given the attention directed toward Storrar and especially the GoFundMe account, according to the press council.
The press council agreed that given the spotlight on Storrar, which he seemingly accepted by appearing during the broadcast and then making comments to the media, it was fair to provide the information to the public. “While the man did not necessarily seek this level of attention or financial rewards, it was not a breach of General Principle 3 for the publication to report frankly about his background and to use epithets that reflect his criminal record,” the council ruled.