Brittany Higgins: Public war of words between journalists Janet Albrechtsen and Samantha Maiden over coverage
Two well-known journalists working for the same publisher are locked in a war of words over their respective coverage of the Brittany Higgins saga following the collapse of the Bruce Lehrmann trial.
Their opposing views played out in the pages of The Weekend Australian on Saturday, in a lengthy column by opinion writer Janet Albrechtsen.
In her latest piece, Ms Albrechtsen examined the role of the media in first reporting Ms Higgins’ claim she was raped in Parliament House in 2019 by her then-colleague Mr Lehrmann – who has always denied the allegations.
Her column highlighted what appeared to be the souring relations between Ms Higgins and News.com.au political editor Samantha Maiden, who broke the story online in February 2021, hours before Ms Higgins would repeat the allegations during an interview with Lisa Wilkinson on The Project.
News.com.au and The Australian are both owned by News Corp.
The article drew on leaked text messages between Maiden and the former political staffer before and after the initial News.com.au article was published, until mid-2022.
Two well-known journalists working for the same publisher are locked in a war of words over their respective coverage of the Brittany Higgins saga following the collapse of the Bruce Lehrmann trial. (Pictured: Ms Higgins with her partner David Sharaz on April 30, 2021)
A rift emerged between Ms Higgins and the senior journalist in October 2021, when Maiden’s byline appeared on a story casting doubt on a claim Wilkinson had made in her newly released memoir – namely that Wilkinson was paid significantly less than her Today show co-host Karl Stefanovic while an employee at Channel Nine.
Seemingly siding with Wilkinson, Ms Higgins fired off a tweet suggesting Maiden should not have run the story. ‘Pressing update in the midst of a sitting week from the political reporter of news.com.au,’ she wrote.
An upset Maiden reportedly texted Ms Higgins 38 that night, accusing her of ‘publicly attacking me’. Ms Higgins told her to ‘chill’ and insisted they were ‘fine’.
Maiden was offered a right of reply by The Australian, which duly published her 360-word response to Albrechtsen’s column in full – something rarely done in journalism.
In her response, Maiden said she’d had ‘differences of opinion on various issues from time to time’ with Higgins, which is ‘the case in any normal relationship’.
Their opposing views played out in the pages of The Weekend Australian on Saturday, in a lengthy column by opinion writer Janet Albrechtsen (pictured)
Her column highlighted what appeared to be the souring relations between Ms Higgins and News.com.au political editor Samantha Maiden (pictured), who broke the story in early 2021
A rift emerged between Ms Higgins and Maiden in October 2021, when Maiden wrote a story casting doubt on a claim Lisa Wilkinson had made in her memoir. Seemingly siding with Wilkinson, Ms Higgins fired off this tweet suggesting Maiden should not have run the story
She also made pointed remarks about Albrechtsen’s supposed bias against Higgins, saying that her own journalism by comparison was more balanced.
‘That’s how journalism works – you seek the views of all participants in an issue and do not cherry-pick the evidence to suit a preferred narrative,’ Maiden said.
Maiden ended her response by saying she had ‘caught up with Higgins recently’ and ‘was struck by the fact the kind and thoughtful woman I spent time with bears no relationship to the person who emerges in some of the reporting by those who have never bothered to pick up a phone and speak to her’.
Bruce Lehrmann’s (pictured) trial was aborted in October 2022 due to juror misconduct. He has always denied Ms Higgins’ allegations