When Freya Leach approached the Sydney Morning Herald complaining about her perceived targeting in a criminal law exam, the publication editors and eventual author, Anna Patty, would have licked their lips in delight.
Even then, the outcome of such a story was so, so predictable. Readers would be divided into two opposing camps. One camp would belittle Leach for absurdly thinking that an exam for 400 plus students could be victimising her because it used her quite-common first name. The other camp, with rather strong preconceptions, would see the incident as just another snippet of proof that the University of Sydney was being overrun by the loony left, that the socialist snowflakes had taken over campus and nowhere was safe from cancel culture – not even the sanctity of law exams.
Both camps guaranteed rage-fuelled Facebook comments, shallow discourse and, most importantly, article views and subsequent ad revenue. To the Herald, it was unimportant that they might be platforming the self-centred delusions of a young student suffering from a pretty bad case of main character syndrome, or that they would be prejudicing the integrity of a major criminal law examination for hundreds of students. It was unimportant that journalistic standards fell to the wayside. What was important, seemingly, was creating and profiting from scandal.
And it didn’t end there.
The Herald made sure to cash in further by publishing an opinion piece from a criminal law student pissed off that he has to redo the exam. Of course, if Anna Patty had bothered to do any research before publishing her article, she would have become cognisant of the many valid points raised in that op-ed – law exams regularly include farcical background details to add to the relevant legal facts, or to simply keep things interesting for the examiners and students.
At most, the tenuous likeness to Leach depicted in the exam’s fact scenario warranted the raising of a few eyebrows. Any other student in that position would have simply completed the exam without fuss, and perhaps – if they were feeling particularly indignant – quietly submitted a formal complaint after the due date. And, while Leach isn’t blameless in this whole fiasco, it is the Sydney Morning Herald who not only added fuel to the fire but provided the kindling, timber and matches in the first place.
Of course, Sky News and Chris Kenny capitalised similarly on the scandal, but their well-known defilement of journalistic standards is such that any critique is a waste of breath.
A more recent piece from Patty on the ‘The battle to save the centre on university campuses’ evinces the Herald’s obsession with university politics at elite universities. The Herald has clearly decided that reporting on campus politics is a rich vein to be mined. Again, accuracy and newsworthiness are less important than article views from readers ready to be outraged at the loony left, cancel culture and perceived attacks on free speech.
In the wake of Freyagate, then, the Sydney Morning Herald has shown its true colours. By forgoing journalistic standards and creating a scandal out of nothing, it is the Herald who comes out looking the worst. While the publication profits, spare a thought for the 400 plus law students having to retake their 50 per cent final exam because of some sloppy journalism.