The Australian Press Council has considered a complaint about an opinion article, Bait 'n' Hook: beware the deadbeat in disguise, by Samantha Brett which appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald’s website, smh.com.au, on 28 October 2011. Ms Brett reflected on the view which she attributed to a recent article in The Atlantic magazine that "women are struggling to find men because all blokes these days are either 'deadbeats' or 'playboys'".
Adrian Smyth complained that Ms Brett’s article was inaccurate, unfair and unbalanced because it claimed that virtually all men are either unworthy or unwilling to enter a loving, respectful relationship. He said Ms Brett reinforced the view she attributed to the other article because, although she sometimes stated partial disagreement, she then disagreed with that disagreement. He cited statistics to refute that view and also complained that Ms Brett made sweeping and unsubstantiated assertions about men deceiving women into sexual relationships.
The Sydney Morning Herald responded that Ms Brett had disagreed with the article in The Atlantic article on several issues and had criticised women as well as men. It said the article was light-hearted and that she had not sought to "tar all men with the same brush". It pointed out that a response by Mr Smyth, which was longer than her article, had been posted in full immediately upon receipt and directly ahead of the many other comments.
The Press Council has concluded that the article did not convey such full and consistent support for the view which Mr Smyth attributed to it as to be in breach of the Council’s requirements concerning accuracy, fairness and balance. Moreover, balance was provided by the prominent publication of his lengthy response. Accordingly, the complaint is not upheld.
Relevant Council Standards
(not required for publication by the newspaper):
This adjudication applies the Council’s General Principle 1: "Publications should take reasonable steps to ensure reports are accurate, fair and balanced. They should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers either by omission or commission" and General Principle 3: "Where individuals or groups are a major focus of news reports or commentary, the publication should ensure fairness and balance in the original article. Failing that, it should provide a reasonable and swift opportunity for a balancing response in an appropriate section of the publication."