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Catherine Deveny

May 5, 2010

Fairfax vs Deveny; gutless paper bends in the wind

The record shows that we're not particularly big fans of Catherine Deveny's writing here at Pure Poiso

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The record shows that we’re not particularly big fans of Catherine Deveny’s writing here at Pure Poison, but on what we can see, her summary sacking today by The Age for some remarks she made about the Logies on her personal Twitter feed over the weekend seems both extreme and disturbing.

Extreme, because off-colour or not, her joking remarks were not in the context of her work for The Age. A personal Twitter feed, whether “public” or not, is not a newspaper column. And they clearly weren’t so extreme that The Age felt it must immediately sack her when it learned of them – instead it milked the story by putting its article on the incident at the top of its website for a couple of hours. If her remarks were truly shameful, embarrassing, or unforgivably offensive – if what she’d said really was a summary sackable offence – they certainly didn’t act like it.

But worse, and most disturbingly, is how quickly they folded, and on what flimsy provocation. Yes, The Age – supposedly a fearless member of the Fourth Estate, on whom we can rely to stand up to the powerful on our behalf – apparently got spooked by all the negative comments. ON AN ONLINE STORY! Negative comments! Your Neil Mitchells and Andrew Bolts had been goading their sheep into mindless, self-righteous, sanctimonious outrage, and sure enough the angry tweets soon became angry comments on their own story.

So they sacked her.

Why? Not because she stepped over a line, but because there was “a storm of controversy” over her tweets. That was, it appears, the crime:

However, her response did not sit well with readers – many of whom launched scathing attacks of their own on Twitter and in the online story’s comments section.

More than 200 comments had been published by 6.30pm today.

Ooh! 200 comments! So there you are. Contrary to Age Editor-in-chief Paul Ramadge’s disingenuous justification that “the views she has expressed recently on Twitter are not in keeping with the standards we set at The Age”, the paper clearly didn’t care until it looked like what she had said was really unpopular. You can say what you like, but if 200 people comment furiously about you, well, you’re out.

Never let it be said that Fairfax can’t see which way the wind is blowing, and won’t lie down in whatever direction that is. Regardless of what that means to their own writers.

(It’s also interesting to observe someone like Andrew Bolt gloating over Deveny’s loss. As a controversial and deeply disliked columnist himself, I’m not sure he’s all that wise to be celebrating the precedent. Imagine if his paper was as easily cowed as The Age – I’m sure they get a lot more than 200 readers condemning his output.)

ELSEWHERE: Ben Pobjie, Daniel Burt and Sophie Cunningham at Meanjin weigh in.

UPDATE: And Amoir and Jonathan Green.

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114 comments

114 thoughts on “Fairfax vs Deveny; gutless paper bends in the wind

  1. Murdoch Deleted Tweet Treat | Pure Poison

    […] the end of the matter and it would be irresponsible and unfair to publish someone’s tweet after they’ve deleted […]

  2. And Miranda’s unhinging gets sillier | Pure Poison

    […] for the reference to Deveny and Behrendt’s old tweets: Excuse me for being still a bit self absorbed after the week […]

  3. The Age shows a surprising lack of Fearless Good Judgement « Really, Ed Brown

    […] made on her own personal Twitter account, which clearly is not at all affiliated with The Age. As Jeremy Sear wrote on Crikey, “off-colour or not, her joking remarks were not in the context of her work for The Age. A […]

  4. Twitter and News | Pure Poison

    […] targets have included Catherine “hope Bindi Irwin gets laid” Deveny, Miranda “rogering gerbils” Devine, and Larissa “show where guy had sex with a […]

  5. LacqueredStudio

    Well, it looks like there’s a chance the game might be coming to this very stadium folks. This morning on Twitter, Deveny straight-out told Sophie Black that she wants a job at Crikey!. Full capitals and everything. Stay tuned.

    http://is.gd/c6BZS

  6. Miranda’s remarks were *worse* « An Onymous Lefty

    […] her offensive tweet – but, unlike News Ltd commenters, that’s entirely consistent with the view I expressed last week on the Deveny sacking. Twitter feeds are not newspaper columns, and the whole point of opinion writers is that […]

  7. bpobjie

    I’m sorry, so there are actually people who think Deveny advocated having sex with children?

    Not that it was a bad joke, or that it’s offensive to make jokes about the subject, but that it was not a joke at all but rather a comment IN FAVOUR OF having sex with children.

    Just so we’re clear: there are people claiming this with a straight face?

    OK then.

  8. Et tu Miranda? – Pure Poison

    […] is it with Fairfax columnists making inappropriate comments on twitter this week? Firstly there was Catherine Deveny’s logie tweets, which resulted in her sacking, and then on the very day that Miranda Devine published an article […]

  9. quantize

    Skepticus Autartikus

    what a humorless world you live in.

  10. quantize

    Was it Miranda saying greenies should be strung up after the fires? Yeh.

    There’s someone whose comments lend ‘credibility’ to their employers profile.

    Pot, kettle etc…but that never stops Miranda.

  11. Campbell

    If someone hasn’t already posted this link then here it is. The best commentary yet on Deveny: http://newmatilda.com/2010/05/06/embarrassment-latte-belt

  12. Jeremy Sear

    Maybe you should learn to read.

  13. Skepticus Autartikus

    Gee Jeremy, I never pictured you as someone who cheers a grown adult cough*feminist*cough woman who broadcasts her advocacy for the statutory rape of an 11 year old girl. What a charmer!

  14. LacqueredStudio

    I don’t agree with the sacking at all. It’s far worse for Fairfax than it is for Deveny. But the whole barney over her remarks has far less to do with the law than it does with the quality of her ideas.

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