In 1978 the Sydney Morning Herald famously published a front-page story listing the names of queer demonstrators arrested at Sydney’s first Mardi Gras Parade.  Forty-three years later, the paper’s new parent company Nine Entertainment Co. has outed two gay men in the pages of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Publishing the names and photographs of two men at the centre of a gay sex scandal in the nation’s capital served no purpose other than to increase readership while shaming and humiliating those particular individuals. Outing gay men’s identities has serious implications for the LGBTQI community in general and for the safety of those two men in particular.

Without their names the story is salacious enough. A gay Liberal staffer jacking off on his bosses’ desk. To prove he was a good shot, he photographed his exploits and shared it with a friend he met on Scruff (amongst others). His boss was a woman, a minister and a government whip opposed to gay marriage. His friend was Tom the Whistleblower, a committed Twitterer with a passion for “exposing” misconduct.

Ever since Brittany Higgins publicly decried having allegedly been raped by a Liberal staffer on a minister’s couch in Parliament House, the capital has been abuzz with talks of sexual misconduct.  In that climate, Tom the Whistleblower finally found a media outlet for his four-year old video.  Evidence that a conservative female MP’s desk was defiled during the gay marriage plebiscite in 2017 was used in 2021 to divert the conversation. Conservative commentators and political operatives like Peta Credlin implied that Canberra’s real problem has been gay men who have corrupted the moral values of the Liberal Party.

Talk about a beat up. Even without their names the story was pure click bait. But why was it in the public interest to out these two individuals? How does naming the desk masturbator serve the public good?  Presumably, Nine has the best legal advice money can buy. With his personal reputation severely damaged and his future employment prospects limited thanks to the reckless reporting of Nine, the now unemployed former government staffer will no doubt consider suing for libel.

Exposing the identity of an editorial source who requests anonymity is a serious breach of journalistic ethics. Chip Le Grand, the journalist who outed“Tom the Whistleblower” asserted he “isn’t a whistleblower in the true sense of the word.”  According to Britannica, “a whistleblower is an “individual who, without authorization, reveals private or classified information about an organization, usually related to wrongdoing or misconduct.”

Tom the Whistleblower didn’t work at Parliament House. He may not be protected by Whistleblower legislation. But he expected to be protected by a code of ethics amongst journalists who are taught to never reveal sources.

All of this has been a diversion: an attempt to shift the conversation from the abuse of women at Parliament House to the sexual misdeeds of gay men. Le Grand understood the implications of what he was reporting when he wrote, “The story that engulfed federal politics this week is a distraction from this conversation. It is being misleadingly framed, carries more than a whiff of homophobia and since its initial broadcast, has been distorted by the deep hatreds that shape Liberal Party politics.”

So why hasn’t Nine published the name of Brittany Higgins’ alleged rapist? Why only publish the names of two gay men and protect everyone else?

Writing for Nine, Le Grand expressed concern for the desk masturbator.  “His decision to share those images with a man he mistook for a friend was career ending.” In doing so both of their names have been published nationally. Career ending is a good phrase for it.

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