Sydney Morning Herald editor Bevan Shields says he wouldn’t have published a piece on Rebel Wilson if she hadn’t responded to the publication’s request for comment, according to an all-staff message sent in response to internal and external pressure about the controversy.
On Monday afternoon, Shields posted on the company’s internal Slack channel for: SMH staff shortly after an anonymous staff member sent a massive email calling the Rebel Wilson saga the latest in a series of decisions that had “destroyed” the publication’s reputation.
In a copy of the message seen by Oh dearShields gave new details about the process of contacting Wilson’s representatives to confirm her same-sex relationship, a decision that sparked international criticism over whether the newspaper threatened to oust the Australian film star.
Shields, who started as editor in January, said: SMH staff Andrew Hornery had told him he intended to contact Wilson’s representatives. He also claimed that, in a detail beyond his initial public response to the saga, he would not have published the piece had Wilson not responded to SMHs request.
Sign up for FREE for WebCam, Cam’s biweekly newsletter.
“I hadn’t made a decision to publish anything and expected to make a call on Friday about whether or not a story went ahead, based on whether Andrew had heard from Wilson. If she hadn’t responded, it would have been impossible to publish,” he said.
Shields also told staff that he asked for Hornery’s column, which stated that Wilson “gazumped” the publication by announcing her relationship on Instagram before the SMH‘s deadline — to be taken offline.
“Andrew also acknowledges that the tone of Saturday’s piece was inappropriate, and I have asked for it to be removed from online today,” Shields wrote.
“I appreciate Andrew being candid about this.
“Mistakes were made in our approach to Wilson and I apologize for that… the inclusion of a deadline was a mistake because it appeared to be an ultimatum.”
Finally, Shields called on staff to discuss any concerns “in person or over the phone”.
A SMH collaborator who criticized Shields’ handling of the controversy joked: Oh dear that his plea was “all well and good to say now”.
Meanwhile, Hornery has commented on his private Instagram account that he was being dragged over his column, telling his followers that “the pitchfork brigade is out for blood”.
‘Don’t mind them, they’re poisonous vitriol and madmen barking at shadows begging to be heard. Know I’m fine, and I really appreciate the support a few brave souls have dared to show in the face of the onslaught. x”