Tim Bull MLA says MD & Managing Editor Bob Yeats should take the criticisms of homophobic editorials on the chin or tell his editorial writer to change his tune.
The Bairnsdale Advertiser has momentarily gone quiet, after the events of last week, when the stirrer reported on the couple, Dr K C and his partner David Elliott. They decided to leave town because of the consequences of homophobic editorials in the local paper.
I spoke with a former editor of the Bairnsdale Advertiser, now National Party member of state parliament for Gippsland East, Tim Bull. Bull has been helpful and supportive to David and KC, and when same-sex adoption came before the Victorian Parliament last year, he crossed the floor to support it. David told me:
Tim told me it was difficult to cross the floor and he came under heaps of pressure but it was the right thing to do.
Bull also told David that he knows the name of the author of the homophobic editorials, but refuses to reveal it. I had been given the name of a possible author, but when I put this to Tim in an email conversation last week, he maintained his silence. The following conversation has been edited inter alia to remove repeated references to this.
DOUG: You used to edit [the Bairnsdale Advertiser] once upon a time – did you publish any of [these editorials] during your day? How long have they been appearing? They’ve caused considerable upset in the town, and been very divisive – do you think they should stop publishing them?
TIM: In my time (now over 10 years ago) we certainly had the editorials, but the majority were confined to local issues or state or national issues of interest to our region. The ones that have caused most angst in some circles have been in the past couple of years.
Yes I would like to see them changed to a style that promotes more inclusiveness and understanding of all lifestyles. Social acceptance of all is something all communities need to tackle by having a more understanding and supportive approach. I don’t think these editorials help at all in that regard.
DOUG: I know that a long of local people are very upset by the editorials and I do wonder what possible motivation a community minded local newspaper owner can possible have for sowing such discord in the community.
I was also told that you know the identity of the person concerned: I appreciate you will want to keep that information to yourself, but can you confirm that it is NOT [redacted]?
TIM: I can confirm that from my time it is not [redacted]. Things may have changed since I left, but I would be quite sure he is not involved.
In relation to the author, I come back to my personal belief that whoever the writer is, is to a degree irrelevant. Unsigned editorials are the responsibility of the managing editor who determines whether or not to publish, regardless of which staff member writes/supplies them at any point in time.
DOUG: I quite agree that it all sheets home to Bob Yeates in the end. And from what I’ve heard, he’s a man who likes to have his own way and will not easily be dissuaded from publishing more of this stuff. Yet it has already led to one couple living behind spiked fences and security cameras, struggling with PTSD, and now, finally, selling up to escape the stress.
One wonders how many unknown casualties have already left the town, or worse. And how many more are yet to come, especially if the plebiscite goes ahead. And if more of these irresponsibly published words might tip some disturbed and deluded individual into more than just a home invasion and bashing – as if that wasn’t bad enough.
So in the end I have to disagree with you: allowing the writer anonymity permits them to wreak their havoc without consequence to themself, while allowing the publisher to deflect criticism away from himself and towards the writer. I would not want to be enabling such nasty and dangerous games.
TIM: I think to the contrary, anonymity brings it all right back on to the publisher 100% and rather than deflect criticism – he needs to accept it on the chin or direct this staff member/writer to change the content of the columns.
If you’d like to thank Tim for his support, email@example.com
If you think owner and Managing Editor Bob Yeates should “take it on the chin”, let him know. 0407 521 117
If you’d rather not do business with Mr Yeates, you might find it hard: he owns a lot of stuff.