It is said that it is the media’s job to be critical of political and social discourse and hold public figures to account. This crucial part of the media’s job was forgotten when a 21-year-old Belle Gibson began blogging about her life with terminal brain cancer in 2013. Gibson claimed she survived four years with this cancer without any conventional medical treatment. Her secret to this was an app and cookbook called “The Whole Pantry” that she developed and authored. Her story and secret to survival was promoted through magazines, websites, television and news. The media did not investigate her incredible claims; they facilitated her rise to fame without question (news.com.au, 2014). Gibson became a poster girl for the “wellness warriors” movement; a movement of young, attractive women who shun modern food and medicine for restrictive diets that are hailed as all healing cures for cancer (Orac, 2013). Her story of survival and positivity inspired other cancer sufferers to follow her lead and turn their backs on modern medicine (Guilliat, 2015).
Later, holes begin appearing in her story. Not because of the diligent research of the media but because she failed to pass on $300,000 in profits from her app to charities she had publicly promised to donate to. It was later revealed that Gibson did not have brain cancer, or any other cancer she had claimed to have, but had been “misdiagnosed”. The media had been duped. It didn’t take long for magazines, morning television and news outlets to turn on the woman they had once promoted and adored. During her first public interview following the revelations, Tara Brown relentlessly questioned Belle Gibson and accused her of being a pathological liar.
The media backlash that Gibson met with was because she had fooled the media into believing her story. This does not mean what she did was not deplorable, but the media was instrumental in widening her reach through their glorification of her (McCartney, 2015). The media didn’t fact check or conduct any research into her and now the world knew it. Their laziness in research and lack of adequate investigation has been aired for everyone to see.