Reader’s of Australia’s oldest and best-read gay newspaper, Sydney Star Observer, have called for a boycott of Channel 7 following its outing of former transport minister David Campbell last week.
The shock outing sparked massive debate on the SSO website around issues of privacy, homophobia and the politics of coming out.
Addressing journalists the morning after Campbell’s resignation, Premier Kristina Keneally spoke of her disappointment with the media, calling the matter “a very human tragedy”; David Marr wrote op-eds and former Justice Michael Kirby called the outing a “pathetic and disgraceful act”.
A senior NSW Labor source told the newspaper that “MPs across the board are angry about this”.
“Most can’t see any reason for this being in the public domain and question why Channel 7 ran the story. He didn’t do anything on the public purse, or anything that’s illegal or exploitative,” the source said.
“I don’t think we can ever presume to judge the choices that other people have felt the need to make. There’s never a reason someone should be outed, unless they’ve been quite actively campaigning against the gay and lesbian population.
“Campbell was never one of those people on-line with the people opposed to gay and lesbian rights issues.”
Campbell voted in support of both the NSW Registers Scheme and moves to lower the age of consent for gay men.
Channel 7 did not respond to numerous phone calls or emails requesting answers to these questions or an interview with either the editor who approved the story — head of news and current affairs Peter Meakin — or journalist Adam Walters. They also have not released figures about how many complaints they received over the story.
Speaking to other news sources, Meakin defended the editorial decision, claiming public interest in outing a man who had claimed to be a man of family values — an argument the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby said was offensive in itself.
“The whole issue of family values is being posed as something that’s against being gay or frequenting gay venues,” Lobby policy coordinator Senthorun Raj said.
“There’s this idea that somehow by being gay or bisexual you are anti-family, and that’s problematic. There are many same-sex couples and families that find those kinds of comments offensive.
“A politician’s private life is not a public spectacle. To assess a politician you should look to how they perform their ministerial functions, obligations to Parliament, and whether they represent the issues they were elected on, no scandalising news about whether a politician was at a gay sex venue.”