Press Council upholds complaint against Star Observer over homophobia suicide article

Weekly gay and lesbian newspaper the Sydney Star Observer wrongly suggested a 14-year-old killed himself because of homophobic “faggot” taunts, the Australian Press Council has ruled.

The newspaper wrote about Alex Wildman, who committed suicide after being bullied at school. It headlined the article: “Gay slurs led to suicide”.

The complaint to the APC stated that the tragedy had been “opportunistically appropriated for gay self-interest” by the article. A small portion of the evidence at the inquest was that disparaging comments had been made about him on his girlfriend’s MySpace page.  

The APC stated:

“Having examined the inquest findings by the NSW Deputy State Coroner, it was clear to the Council that he did not nominate homophobia as a contributing factor to the boy’s suicide. In findings of more than 10,000 words, he referred to “gay” and “faggot” only, which was in the context of postings on the My Space site, and said that these quotes were “hurtful and spiteful”, not homophobic.”

The APC added: “The Council considered that the article was clearly inaccurate in its assertions about the findings of the inquest. The article also was likely to be interpreted by many readers as implying that the boy was homosexual, which is inaccurate because there was no evidence to that effect, let alone compelling evidence of a kind, which might have justified its inclusion. The Council considered that the heading and article were irresponsible.”

The press watchdog said that the Sydney Star Observer should have published a correction and apology after receiving a complaint.

In an online version of the article, which does not appear to have been amended despite the ruling, a reader points out that other publications including The Daily Telegraph  made no mention of homophobia being a contributing factor. The Star Observer’s editor replies: “Exactly why we felt it necessary to bring to everyone’s attention John. A questionable oversight on behalf of that particular publication.”

The question of whether the word faggot is inherently homophobic has been hotly debated since swimmer Stephanie Rice used it on Twitter earlier this month.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.