At this point, you might be forgiven for thinking the elasticity of journalistic integrity has been stretched so far it’s practically boundless. With your feed flooded with bite-sized chunks of clickbait (You Think These Headlines Are Innocent But You Won’t Believe How They’re Killing Journalism!) and lists (Top 20 Reasons To Stop Reading Proper Articles), it’s easy to forget what traditional journalism even looks like.
This is an issue that extends to all forms of media too, not just the written word. With the burden of a 24-hour news cycle, the stakes are higher for television networks whose morning and evening current affairs hours are being usurped by the ubiquity of online news. Now, one of the medium’s last remaining strengths lies in its ability to promise viewers an exclusive story. Something huge, like Tara Brown’s 30-minute interview with disgraced wellness blogger Belle Gibson on 60 Minutes last Sunday.
Gibson is of course infamous now for her false claims of being diagnosed with — and cured from — more than one type of cancer. The 23-year-old said she died during a medical procedure. She claimed medicine failed her, but Gerson therapy, natural remedies and a healthy diet brought a cure. Not only has this all turned out to be untrue, but we now know that Gibson had profited off her so-called illnesses and failed to donate profits to charities as first claimed. She lit up Instagram with a lifestyle lie, calling on her fans for support, and their money when she released a wellness app and a book, The Whole Pantry.
With all this, it’s no surprise that the interview was making headlines before it aired. This attention even led some to query the integrity of Channel Nine that may have paid — we still don’t know if Gibson received a fee — a woman who duped thousands and profited off a lie. But for a story all about ethics and principle, did 60 Minutes hold up to their own?