UnNews:Melbourne tabloid cites boredom as cause of hypocrisy

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Melbourne tabloid cites boredom as cause of hypocrisy

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13 April 2007

Melbourne, Australia-- A SHOCKING video of journalists kicking, pushing and taunting a co-worker may be investigated by police.

The bullying – filmed by a proof-reader on a mobile phone and sent to other phones, iPods and the internet – shows a 27-year-old columnist being intimidated by members of the Herald Sun editorial team.

The video shows a group of senior editors tormenting the columnist who is standing in a wheelie bin. The bin is pushed and kicked by the editors until it flips over, sending the man crashing to the floor. An intern said last night that such an attack was referred to at the office as the "terrifying wheelie bin". He went on to state that he thought the name lacked drama and sucked.

The paper last night confirmed that five editors were suspended for three weeks with pay over their involvement in the incident. Herald Sun editor-in-chief John Doe described the incident as more a prank than bullying. But a relative of the victim said last night he believed that police would become involved today. Bullying experts also condemned the attackers, saying the violence did not appear to be an isolated event. "It looks quite ritualistic," said Kew-based psychologist’s son Timothy Allman who viewed the video yesterday for the Herald Sun. "I get the feeling it is not a one-off, that this is a common occurrence." The scandal at the Melbourne tabloid comes just days after the UnNews revealed a copyeditor had been fired for selling marijuana to fellow reporters there last year. Three others were also fired after admitting they had bought the drug from the woman. A summer intern who did not want to be named said yesterday the bullying episode was part of a prolonged attack on the columnist, but that the video captured only the final moments.

He said it had occurred just before work, near the front doors. "He (the victim) actually went along with it for a while," the intern said. The man said the victim had been persuaded to get into the bin. "He was trying to joke around and say `Get me out' when he fell. And that is when it turned pretty serious." Most employees at the paper would have seen the video after it was sent around the office via mobile phones and shared between Dictaphones, he said.

The footage was also temporarily uploaded to popular video-sharing website YouTube. "I know some writers at the Age that also saw it," the intern said. "Bullying is just rife here at the moment," he said of the Herald. Mr Doe confirmed that four editors were suspended last October. He said the proof-reader, who filmed the wheelie-bin incident but did not join in the attack, was also suspended. Mr Doe said the school became aware of the episode when the video was put on the YouTube internet site, but described it as more a prank than bullying.

"It was a prank that got out of hand," he said. "I think he (the columnist) got what was coming to him." Mr Doe said the paper had a strict policy banning employees from using the video cameras on their mobile phones. He said that was the reason the proof-reader had been suspended. Mr Doe said the paper also had a strict policy on bullying, but as in all tabloids it did occur quite often. "There are some incidents that are clearly bullying," he said. "And there are others that are open to interpretation. Some people may see it as bullying or a prank, or vice versa. That’s why we’re a tabloid- we take facts and embellish them a little." Minister for Citizenship Kevin Andrews yesterday issued a statement to Herald Sun readers on the drug scandal. It reads in part: "The Herald Sun has received criticism from some quarters for not reporting the incident to the police. "However, even as Premier Steve Bracks has acknowledged, the paper was under no obligation to do so and the primary reason this decision was taken was to afford as much confidentiality as possible to the four journalists concerned.

"Once the police are involved, an investigation might be started which could mark a media corporation for life. He finished “I am not an authority on this matter, and have no affiliation with the paper at all. My comments were bogus, uncalled for and quite honestly useless when it boils down to it. Nonetheless, with the right amount of spin, my statement can and shall be used to further the case.”

The footage is the second video scandal to rock Victorian media corporations in the past six months.

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