Australians are a magazine-loving country of readers. In fact, we have one of the highest magazine readerships in the world. Whether in digital or in print and further boosted by social media, we have an insatiable desire for sensational news.
The recent Rebel Wilson damages award of some $4.5 million over defamatory magazine articles published by Bauer Media is going to finally bring some social order into the truth about articles being published. It will also give hope to many individuals who have been defamed and their reputations tarnished, but felt they had no viable recourse on the matter.
When is there a line drawn between fact and fiction and is there a duty of care that the information written about our favourite stars and famous people should be truthful and backed by facts?
The Rebel Wilson defamation case certainly demonstrates that media has a duty of care to publish information that does not defame nor injure a person’s reputation. Numerous individuals have had untruths published about them but have not fought the fight and this cancer continues to grow among some media outlets who apply no fact-checking filter to the content they publish about people.
Parke Lawyers Executive Manager Corporate Affairs spent the first 15 years of her working career as a journalist working for daily newspapers around Australia as well as national magazines. Her professional career is now about protecting company and individual reputations and ensuring the correct messages and information is distributed about her clients.
Ms Torrisi recalls her journalist days and the pressure to source, write and publish a story that she always aimed to be the top scoop of the day.
“Editors, although cautious about defamatory material, focused more on court matters and material that could be in contempt of court, but as for social news, well that was open slather. They knew that the likelihood of being sued for defamation was minimal and the unspoken thinking was, everyone had a right to know about the lives of socialites and famous people.”
Today, Ms Torrisi says, nothing has changed, in fact false news has grown and its toxicity has intensified with the explosion of social media. In her role as Parke Lawyers Executive Manager Corporate Affairs, she works closely with clients of the practice, some of whom also seek the expertise of the specialist commercial liti