While it is entirely possible to be aghast at reports of the Warriors' Kieran Foran abusing Australian journalist Rebecca Wilson while she was dying with cancer, there are some points to be made.

He didn't know she had cancer - because she kept it a secret. While that doesn't excuse abuse, it is an occupational hazard for those in the media, as most would attest.

Journalism, being the odd business it is, has more than a few unwritten rules. One is: If you have a byline (your name published as the writer), you must also be prepared to take what comes with it. In other words, if people strongly disagree with what you have written, they are entitled to seek you out and express their differences.

It's the other side of the coin stamped with another unwritten law of journalism. If you are a public figure, making your name and fortune from fame and fans fanned by media coverage, you are fair game in the "public interest" stakes if you transgress or, these days, even if your personal life takes a turn which could affect your professional life.


Wilson, who died last year aged 54, was known as a fearless crusader. She called out NRL player Andrew Fifita for visiting a convicted murderer in prison and endured death threats for pursuing some of the main characters involved in the supplements scandal around the AFL's Essendon team and the NRL's Cronulla Sharks.

She was one of the first to know about Foran's split with his partner and the impact it was having on his behaviour and professional career; Foran overdosed on prescription drugs after the split. She also pursued stories on his association with gambler Eddie Hayson and his alleged A$75,000 gambling binge.

There can be no doubt a player troubled by mental problems spending $75,000 at the track is news - and also no doubt Foran, in spite of an exhaustive campaign of inquiry by an exacting Australian media, has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

He has long been in an adversarial position with much of the Australian media, once describing how he was striving to overcome his depression and mental problems but was set back by ongoing negative headlines about his personal life and behaviour. Last year, he sued and wrung an apology out of an Australian radio host who had wrongly claimed one of his children had not been fathered by him - one extreme example of the sort of examination he was subjected to.

In a perfect world, journalists would always be fair and accurate and the targets of their criticism would always accept their lot. Most do not react, sometimes even when criticism/coverage is unfair.

But we don't live in a perfect world. In a varied journalistic career, I have been attacked by a Minister of the Crown in Parliament, swearing blind that the front page piece I had written was false and inaccurate. It wasn't.

A New Zealand player, so angry at something I'd written, not only blackballed me but actively encouraged other team members not to speak to me. Others simply give you the silent treatment. A prominent cricketer, after I'd actually praised a team-mate but mentioned his bowling was not of express pace, tried to fit me up in the nets for said bowler to bowl at me - with obvious malice intended.

A colleague was once subjected to a searing attack by a player's wife after he wrote about the husband's performance; another colleague has often complained of the level of hate mail received. Columns like this one regularly attract such correspondence, usually from anonymous trolls - though the reader who called me a pork chop last week appended his name, good man.

It must also be said that, even these days, journalists are privy to things that do not get published because they are judged to fall outside the "public's right to know", entering too far into breach of privacy. Wilson did that in Foran's case, initially not publishing a story on his private life before his continued problems obviously became news.

The point is that abuse - sometimes unfair, trenchant and missing the point - is something all mature people on both ends of the journalistic keyboard have to weather on occasion, with legal resorts if it goes too far. It's no fun, but it's all part of the game.