Do You Know Hugh Sued Sam?
Channel Ten’s senior political correspondent Hugh Riminton liked to think he’d never be thin-skinned enough to sue a fellow journalist. But in the media section of today’s Australian, Riminton explains how Fairfax’s Sam De Brito drove him to it.
Riminton’s ire was inspired by an 8 August column by De Brito, whose All Men Are Liars blog is refranchised in the Fairfax Sunday supplements S (for the Sun-Herald) and M (for The Sunday Age). The offending piece focused on that hackneyed phrase “Do you know who I am?”, which De Brito scornfully associated with hubris and wankery. In part, De Brito wrote:
In many ways it’s a cry for help. It says, “Despite my accomplishments for which I heartily believe I deserve wide recognition, I still need this moment of validation from you, a complete stranger, because the echoes never stop in my empty heart.”
Or maybe I’m reading too much into it.
De Brito had alleged, based on the eyewitness evidence of “an acquaintance”, that Riminton had uttered the offending phrase to an airport customs official while chasing a story. As Riminton details in his Oz story, De Brito was forced to acknowledge that his source was wrong, and offer an apology to Riminton to stave off further legal action.
De Brito is roundly detested by Australian feminists for his robust opinions on gender issues (here’s a representative example of his writing), and there’s a certain amount of schadenfreude right now on Mumbrella and elsewhere.
But The Enthusiast would like to point out one thing – the offending passage regarding Riminton did not appear in The Sunday Age, a copy of which has luckily not yet hit our recycling bin. The only people De Brito claims in M‘s edit to have said, “Do you know who I am?” are: Miley Cyrus, Chris Brown, John Mayer, Jerry Seinfeld, Moe Greene from The Godfather, and an unidentified member of the Black Eyed Peas.
In general, we suggest that M edits De Brito’s copy more cautiously than S. In July, Mumbrella noticed a discrepancy between the two papers. While The Age‘s dangling preposition in Mumbrella‘s example causes us subeditorial pain, we think the other edits preserve the De Brito ‘voice’ while weeding out his excesses.
M also lays out De Brito’s copy less provocatively than its Sydney stablemate. Back in May, S underwent a redesign that extended the name of De Brito’s column from “All Men Are Liars” to “All Men Are Liars… Except Sam De Brito” – an unfortunate move, in the context of de Brito’s recent sourcing misstep. S editors also add large, cheeky headlines and photos to De Brito’s pieces, whereas in M they appear simply under De Brito’s headshot and byline, with “All Men Are Liars” in small text.
It’s tempting to suggest that a journalist is solely responsible for his or her words in print – that this is De Brito’s embarrassment alone. But defamation laws hold the publication liable as well, and in this case, that’s a good thing. Because perhaps if the Sun-Herald had been as cautious as The Sunday Age, it could have avoided this entire incident altogether.
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