Leave Matthew Newton alone. That’s exactly what the media should be doing right now. Not sensationalising his “night of shame” in Rome where the actor and now ex-host of TV talent quest show The X Factor allegedly punched his now ex-girlfriend, Transformers actress Rachael Taylor. Newton was rushed off to rehab. Taylor has applied for an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO).

If proven to be true, it won’t be the first time Bert and Patti Newton’s son has been violent towards a woman. Newton plead guilty to assaulting then girlfriend Brooke Satchwell in 2005. He was eventually given a 12-month good behaviour bond on appeal with no conviction recorded. But acting judge Joseph Moore’s comments when making that decision in 2007 should make journalists pause for thought before making emotive pronouncements on current events.

Media attention had “acted as a considerable measure of punishment, which [Newton] has endured in a way that shows him great credit” according to Judge Moore.

Some of the thinly disguised speculation masquerading as fact this week puts Judge Moore’s criticism of media coverage surrounding such incidents into some context.

Take Jo McKenna’s live cross to the Channel 7 News Melbourne newsroom from Rome, which contained the revelation that no witnesses would come forward to comment and the Excelsior Hotel is “a luxury hotel in the heart of Rome’s hotel district”. Good to know but barely news.

More seriously, you have to wonder what a judge would make of this charming Daily Telegraph opinion piece in any future court hearing. Tele scribe Paul Kent declared “Matthew Newton needs a good hiding. A smack in the mouth…” before calling Newton “a dog” who “might still get his flogging, one way or another”.

Meanwhile Today Tonight aired a “reconstruction based on witness accounts and reports from our sources” edited to look like it could be the actual Rome hotel lobby CCTV footage, interspersed with more methods of retribution proposed by Kent: “Sometimes you’ve got to give a dog a smack across the nose to discipline them.”

You don’t have to be a ‘sob sister’, in Kent’s parlance, to be troubled by such irresponsible journalism. For that, and to the rest of the vultures, he earns a smack of the Crikey Wankley Award.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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