If you thought the Catherine Deveny-Fairfax-Twitter saga was over, think again. Another similar but less blockbusting sequel has unfolded which has already, uncharitably, been labelled Gerbilgate.
In the wake of Catherine Deveny’s sacking last week, Twitterers have started baying for Devine’s blood – but before you make up your mind on this latest development, here is some background. (Justin Barbour’s reaction is below, too.)
The conflict began when Devine posted a link to her most recent column on the Deveny sacking and how journalists and those in the media should use Twitter.
Justin Barbour, who used to follow Devine but has now been blocked by her, responded to her tweet with the following reply:
His tweet was a reply to a column that Devine wrote on the 22 April 2010, in The Sydney Morning Herald, on the issue of the problems facing marriage.
In that column Devine wrote “marriage increasingly is under threat, from sky-high divorce rates and de facto unions to a push for same-sex marriage, which confuses legitimate gay rights with the undermining of a battered institution maligned as misogynistic and fostering intolerance.”
Barbour argues this comment was a homophobic attack that blames the gay community for the problems facing the institution of marriage.
Devine, based on her reaction on Twitter, disputed this interpretation and took considerable offence to Barbour’s accusation that she had attacked gays.
However, it is the poorly thought out nature of Devine’s subsequent response to Barbour that will be picked apart.
Devine replied to Barbour with a tweet that presumably was an ill-executed attempt at hyperbole:
This tweet went out to the Twitter feeds all of Miranda Devine’s 2,600+ followers, plus anyone else who chooses to visit her profile page.
But Devine also went further - sending Justin Barbour a private message that read:
Obviously, the appropriateness of a professional journalist giving a university student this “lesson in life”, will and should be a central issue.
As Devine herself commented in her column on Saturday, tweets do and should have an impact on the brand of the masthead the journalist works for.
It’s worth pointing out here that Devine immediately apologised to Barbour “for any offence”. (She later deleted her side of the whole exchange).
That’s not to say that the rest of the media won’t have their say as well (and before you post, yes I am aware I work for News Limited).
But amid the excitement that is already ensuing, it’s worth pointing out Devine’s comments, arguably, do not fall into the realm of the Catherine Deveny tweets.
While some may disagree with me on this, we should try and avoid hysteria that seemed to consume the media last week over Deveny.
This maybe asking too much, and I’m sceptical about it actually happening as by yesterday afternoon, some on Twitter were already keen to stoke the controversy, pulling together incomplete photos of the ‘tweet war’ and making it appear as Devine is solely to blame.
I’m not saying that Devine is without blame but before we seek to crucify her consider the themes that surrounded Deveny’s sacking: underage sex and a man’s dead wife.
However, in the instance of Devine, I’m not sure all those issues are at play.
Rather the issue for Fairfax should be a simple one: did Devine as a professional journalist, cross a line in her tweets to Barbour and then what action is appropriate to rectify the situation?
For me I won’t speculate on what remedy, if any, the Herald will come up with, but it is interesting that even Justin Barbour isn’t asking for Devine’s dumping from the paper.
He told The Punch: “It’s not quite in the same league as Catherine Deveny but I would like an apology for the gerbil comment - it’s the least she can do.”
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