Last week was Gay Week at News Ltd. First there was story after story on students wanting to take same-sex partners to a year 12 formal at Brisbane’s exclusive Churchie school, and then there was Bruce McDougall’s page 1 Daily Telegraph screamer about how the gay lobby was trying to ban words like mum and dad from being used in schools at the Education Department’s That’s So Gay conference. Syndicated across the nation, it generated nearly a thousand outraged comments from readers and even found its way overseas.
In fact the entire story was unsubstantiated bullshit. McDougall has twice featured on the ABC’s MediaWatch for his writing -“ once for writing up urban myths as news, and another for stealing quotes from other media and recycling them as if they were his own work. This week he chalked up a third.
McDougall, to his credit, did attend the conference but left after the opening when told he couldn’t interview students in attendance for privacy reasons. What to do? Seems the resourceful fellow picked up a flyer from a Twenty10 information booth -“ one of more than 250 delegates at the conference. The flyer contained a list of signs to identify whether a school was GLBT-friendly, one sign being that teachers referred to partners rather than use terms that apply only to married or heterosexual relationships when first talking to children or parents about personal matters.
The term mum and dad appears nowhere on the flier. There was no vote on such a change at the conference, nor was such a resolution put forward. Neither does the pamphlet instruct teachers to refrain from using other terms; it simply advises that they shouldn’t automatically assume the parents of the family they’re dealing with are heterosexual or married.
The story gained new life after Education Department head Michael Coutts-Trotter denied there was any such move. The Telegraph reported this as a stiff rebuke to the still unnamed, nonexistent gay lobby. Unfortunately Fairfax, by way of AAP, reported the story as news too after a confused Premier claimed the Education Department had been lobbied for such a ban but had stood up to the PC hordes’ demands, despite the Department saying no such thing had ever occurred.
It’s a pity, because when News Ltd reports gay stories properly, they do it very well -“ news.com.au’s Mardi Gras 30th anniversary coverage was for the most part very good. But occasionally they feel the need to find a PC whipping boy and all too often it’s protecting GLBT kids in schools that gets the strap.