The Press Council has ruled News Corp’s “intrusive” coverage into the life of Q&A question-asker Duncan Storrar last year was justified and in the public interest.

In May last year just after the 2016 budget, Storrar asked Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer a question on the ABC’s flagship panel show why the government was giving tax cuts to corporations and now low-income earners like himself so he could afford to take his daughters to the movies.

The man was lauded in some parts of the media as a hero, and a GoFundMe page was set up and raised over $60,000 for Storrar.

Enter the Herald Sun, which published a story headlined “ABC Hero a Villain: Q&A sob story star exposed as a thug as public donate $60,000” detailing Storrar’s criminal history and interviewing one of Storrar’s children.

The story led to over a week of negative coverage from News Corp papers about Storrar in the first week of the 2016 election campaign.

The Press Council received a number of complaints about the original article (but not from Storrar himself) and on Friday announced that it had concluded that the coverage was all above board.

Herald Sun argued that because Storrar chose to go on Q&A (or rather sit in the audience and ask a question) as well as being interviewed elsewhere in the media it was fair to report on Storrar’s history. It told the Press Council it actually didn’t report all the information it had on Storrar in its coverage.

The publication tried and failed to contact Storrar before publication, and argued the use of the terms “thug” and “villain” were justified given Storrar’s criminal history.

The council said that bringing up Storrar’s past might have had a chilling effect on freedom of speech for anyone wanting to just ask a question to a government minister, but because of Storrar’s past, as well as the subsequent media interviews and the GoFundMe campaign, it was reasonable reporting.

While the article did intrude on Storrar’s expectations of privacy, the Press Council said it was in the public interest to report on Storrar’s criminal past. — Josh Taylor

 

Peter Fray

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