One day, public figures being gay and/or enjoying sex won’t be newsworthy. Unfortunately for David Campbell, that day is yet to dawn. As Channel Seven demonstrated earlier this year, for some journalists and the audience they serve, that combination is still seen as scandalous.
When the David Campbell story broke, LE pointed out the mixed messages being sent out on this topic. At the same time some members of the media where busy berating Jason Akermanis for discouraging gay AFL players from coming out, “gay sex scandal” was rapidly becoming the headline of the day as the David Campbell story escalated.
Seven’s original story was accompanied by allegations Campbell had misused his ministerial car in order to attend “Kens at Kensington” and that he had been at “Kens” during the debacle involving the closure of the F3 freeway. It was subsequently shown that the car and F3 allegation were false.
Channel Seven defended their actions as being in the public interest, claiming the public had a right to know that “Mr Campbell was leading a double life unknown to his family and had campaigned for election as a family man including sending Christmas cards with a photograph of his wife and children.” They also alleged that Campbell’s actions put him in a position where he may be blackmailed.
Both of these arguments are relatively weak justifications for Seven’s actions.
Campbell has acknowledged he led a double life, and apologised for the embarrassment some of his decisions have caused. However being interested in sex with men does not necessarily mean that David Campbell is not a family man. That he chose to keep an aspect of his personal life “personal” is his choice, and there appears to have been nothing said so far that rules out the possibility that Campbell’s wife knew about her husbands other interests.
On the potential for blackmail arising from Campbell’s lifestyle, that’s all it appears to have been … potential. Had Seven produced evidence Campbell was actually being blackmailed, it may have been in the public interest to run a story about corruption of a government minister. But Campbell wasn’t being blackmailed.
The David Campbell story also suggests that for some elements of the media (and their audience), sexuality and lifestyles that lie outside the heteronormative paradigm are still considered scandalous in their own right. That many of the media stories headlined with “gay sex scandal” suggests Campbell’s sexuality was a newsworthy element of the story. In a society that was truly accepting of homosexuality, the David Campbell story would simply have been simply headlined “sex scandal”.
After all, when was the last time the mainstream media headlined with “hetero sex scandal” ?