I’d heard about the Close Up interview with Fairfax’s recently departed Sunday Star Times About Town gossip columnist Bridget Saunders. It looked like it was a bit of a hit-job.
The last place I would have thought to see it was on Fairfax owned Stuff. I found the link to the video from the homepage – just beneath the banner.
The video itself has a one line article attached – leading me to infer that this is just one of many pulled over from TVNZ:
I understand that Bridget has made a few people uncomfortable over the years, and I guess TVNZ relished the chance to do a bit of an ambush on her. Close Up asked her bluntly about plastic surgery (yes botox), whether she had slept with a married politician (no married man ever) and whether she was fired or chose to leave (she called the meeting). To her credit she answered all the questions, though it was clearly a difficult interview for her, and the editing room did her no favours at all.
I think it was a bit over the top by TVNZ, but I guess I can understand that they wanted ratings. However the interview was amateurish – confronting Bridget with unsubstantiated gossip instead of substantiated facts, and thatapproach backfired for me as it looked like TVNZ was trying to smear Bridget, and she came across as very human and open.
It wasn’t journalism though – it was a fishing expedition, and they came home with an empty bucket. For Bridget, well I guess that’s part of the game of being a gossip columnist – you get to take some licks as well as give them. Shame on you TVNZ though – you could have done a lot better.
But I feel strongly that Fairfax, through Stuff, overstepped the mark tonight by placing this online, and by linking to it from the front page.
Bridget is not only a former Fairfax writer, but Stuff itself publishes Bridget’s work in her About Town blog. You can still read the blog – with the last post on 6 May – yet sadly there was no goodbye from Bridget.
I’m guessing (hoping) that the night editors at Stuff just grabbed the TVNZ videos and placed them on the site.The ‘article’ is just the video description. I’m hoping they didn’t realise that Bridget was in their shoes a week earlier.
The video even ends with a victory salutation to the new Queen of gossip – who works for rival APN’s NZHerald.
I have absolutely no idea about the circumstances surrounding Bridget’s departure and I’m not too clear on how you balance the news-worthiness of an item versus loyalty to your own contributors. I believe that publishing this was unintentional, but this is unacceptable to Bridget, and must raise questions amongst other Fairfax staff and contributors.
Whatever the cause, the effect of seeing this on Stuff must be pretty rough on Bridget, who could feel that Fairfax is disowning her with prejudice. That’s not a nice way to end a seven year relationship.
I feel for her. I did meet Bridget once or twice during my tenure at Fairfax and she was delightful. I wish her luck in her new venture – writing a book on bad sex.
Oh – and I think it would be wise for those with sharp knives to remember that being included in a gossip column is a minor inconvenience compared to a starring role in a book on bad sex.