Courier-Mail censured for ‘light hearted’ Bride and Seek Stephanie Scott headline

The Courier-Mail Bride and SeekThe ‘light hearted’ nature of the Courier-Mail’s treatment of the disappearance of murdered schoolteacher Stephanie Scott was offensive, the Australian Press Council has ruled.

Its ‘Bride and Seek’ front page headline was positioned next to a large picture of Scott and the accompanying article stating they could not say whether the disappearance was a result of “cold feet” or “something more sinister”, prompted a huge backlash from readers.

The paper came out on April 9, the day police confirmed Scott had been murdered.

In its defence to the Press Council the Courier-Mail argued the headline centred on the focus of the report which was the disappearance of a bride-to-be and a search for her.

It said this was why it had used the word ‘seek’  and noted the article was consistent with other media reports on the disappearance.

The Courier-Mail said that when the article was prepared and printed on the evening of April 8, the official police position was that it was a “missing person case”.

It said the news of the arrest and pending murder charges did not emerge until approximately seven hours after the article was prepared and after distribution of that edition had occurred. It said there had been no intention to make light of a shocking event.

The newspaper said after it became aware the case was a murder investigation it took “swift steps” to remove the cover page from all of its digital platforms and also changed its online coverage.

In its conclusion the Press Council said the paper had elevated the “slender possibility” Scott was a missing person with the headline, adding: “The front page treatment it received, in addition to the lighthearted tenor of the headline, was substantially offensive to many people, and could be expected to have caused distress in particular to those who knew the woman.”

It found the paper had breached General Principle six of the codes of practice which says publications must “avoid causing or contributing materially to substantial offence, distress or prejudice, or a substantial risk to health or safety, unless doing so is sufficiently in the public interest”.

Miranda Ward


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