Rebel Wilson scooping a newspaper columnist was entirely predictable. What came next wasn’t

“Watching every little mannerism, jotting down notes on how we sit, stand, talk, and even move. And all in that horrible, snide, corkscrew English.” — Tracey Lord, The Philadelphia Story

A confession: I love a good gossip columnist.

I was trained as a reporter among the best of them, and they horrified and enthralled me in equal measure. The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald housed an impressive salon of witheringly unkind scribes, whose name alone could chill a room colder than the imported fizz they preferred.

There was Lawrence Money, who tormented the socialite hairdresser Lillian Frank with the moniker “celebrity barber”; and Chris Webb, one of the strangest cats you could ever meet, who wrote a cool, arch dissection of the business world.

There was Peter Smark, whose capacity for bitchiness was breathtaking and was the writer everyone feared; and the delightfully wicked Richard Ackland, who gossiped on the slightly higher plane of the legal world, a place no less naughty or appalling than any of the others.

What these brash and shameless writers taught me was you had to have a hell of a hide and not give one single damn about what anyone might think of you.

You had to choose to live in discomfort and opprobrium — and be at peace with making some people’s lives hell every time they opened their paper with trembling hands.

The tone could indeed be snide, as Tracey Lord reminds us, but the English was often quite brilliant.

The ethics of outing, a scoop, and where it all went wrong

So, to get to the point.

It was perfectly clear that the Sydney Morning Herald and gossip columnist Andrew Hornery wanted the scoop — a massive celebrity reveal of someone’s sexuality — when he forewarned actor Rebel Wilson he was onto news of her first open relationship with another woman.

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Rebel Wilson scooping a newspaper columnist was entirely predictable. What came next wasn’t