ABC chair Ita Buttrose says Australians must reflect on social media behaviour after Stan Grant abuse
Indigenous journalist and former Q+A host Stan Grant’s decision to take a break after receiving a torrent of racist abuse should serve as a catalyst for Australians to reflect on their social media use, ABC chair Ita Buttrose says.
“I think there’s been a lesson for the entire community by Stan stepping back,” she said on ABC Radio Melbourne on Friday.
“I think the strong public reaction has led to what I would call one of the most widespread outpouring of public commentary on public life that we’ve seen for a long time.
“I think it’s telling me that people are sick of the abusive and toxic culture that pervades our public discourse.
“We’re sadly living in a time where people thinks it’s OK to abuse other with whom they disagree.”
Ms Buttrose said she was “appalled” to learn of Grant’s experiences and understood why the Wiradjuri journalist was taking at least eight weeks off.
“If I’d known any earlier, I would have spoken to him about it, but I didn’t know and I don’t think many of us knew until fairly late in the piece,” she said.
“Our audience research shows us 75 per cent of people think that our content reflects the diversity of Australia, but I think what management needs to do is make sure we support people who make that content when they are subject to racist behaviour.”
She said the national broadcaster was providing Grant with support and was hoping he would return “as soon as he feels ready to return”.
Ms Buttrose said she hoped everyone reflected on if this behaviour is what Australians want to live with on social media.
Last week, Grant announced he would be stepping back from media commitments indefinitely after being subjected to abuse following his involvement in the ABC’s coverage of the coronation of King Charles III.
During a 45-minute segment Grant, alongside other panellists, discussed the role of the Monarchy in modern Australia and Indigenous perspectives on this institution.
There were more than 1800 complaints about the segment filed with the ABC ombudsman, broadly saying the discussion was unbalanced, biased, offensive and poorly timed.
ABC Ombudsman Fiona Cameron has found while the coverage was “jarring for some viewers”, it did not breach editorial standards.
At the conclusion of last Monday’s Q+A episode, Grant said he was stepping away not because of the abuse, but because he felt he was “part of the problem”.
“To those who have abused me and my family, I would just say, if your aim was to hurt me, well, you’ve succeeded, and I’m sorry,” he said.
“I’m sorry that I must have given you so much cause to hate me so much, to target me and my family, to make threats against me.”
“I’m not walking away because of racism, we get that far too often … I’m walking away because I need a break from the media, I feel like I’m part of the problem.”
On Thursday, NSW Police revealed a 41-year-old man had been charged after allegedly making online threats against Grant.
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