Lisa Wilkinson’s perfect response to a “menacing” encounter with a Melbourne press photographer has opened up an important conversation around the basic (and very very normal) right for an individual to dine alone.
Last week, the Daily Mail published images of The Project host dining alone at a Melbourne restaurant accompanied by the scathing headline: “Lisa Wilkinson sips on a margarita as she dines alone at a restaurant in Melbourne following The Project’s recent panelist shake-up.”
As we all know, there’s two sides to every story—and the tabloid headline, a feeble attempt for clickbait at best, was completely shut down when Wilkinson herself explained what was happening from her perspective behind the camera.
It started when a Twitter user reasoned in response to the story: “[Lisa] was probably aware there was some freak showing too much interest in her, taking sneaky pics, that would have ruined the experience for her.”
Wilkinson replied: “I was aware of a guy. He was incredibly menacing. I saw him walk past half a dozen times, staring at me. I never saw a phone or camera though.”
She explained how much her evening was affected as a result of the intrusive encounter: “I was so concerned I waited an hour, working, until I thought he had left the area. Horrifying that a news org employs people like this.”
Lisa’s clapback received an overwhelming response from other notable TV journalists, who took to Twitter to share their support for Wilkinson, and to call out the scrutiny others can face while in the public eye.
“Unbelievably creepy. For zero journalistic purpose. The detail in it is what made me feel queasy. Sorry you have to deal with this. Hold your head high,” Four Corners reporter Louise Milligan shared.
Former ABC journalist Karen Percy also added, “Sorry you had to go through this Lisa. Where is the news value? Where is the public interest? Ethics? ‘Woman enjoys a drink on her own’…. hmmmmm.”
Of course, there’s also another element to the Daily Mail headline, which seemingly suggests that a woman enjoying a drink on her own is somehow unusual enough to be worthy of a story.
As many of us are well aware, there’s absolutely nothing unusual about going to a restaurant alone—a lot of people relish in doing exactly that. What’s more, a well-known person enjoying a casual drink alone has no place in a headline—would we call out a friend who went out for nice meal and a margarita alone in the group chat? Never. The deplorable sense of entitlement from a major news publication to make a story out of it is not only completely redundant, but a poor display of respect for basic human rights.
Former journalist Kate Nancarrow told it like it is by tweeting, “Some of the happiest times in my life have been somewhere else, alone! To have those moments of peace and freedom ruined by a stalker pap is horrible. Do better Daily Mail.”
Another Twitter user also shared their own experience about how the perception of dining alone feels different in Australia: “I found it really easy dining alone when I lived in Asia. Much easier than [Australia]. In Aust, it’s easier during the day for brekkie/lunch but evening dinners are much harder—more stares and unwanted attention. Otherwise I actually enjoy when I get to eat out alone!”
There’s a really important point to this, and it’s really very simple: All people are entitled to enjoy time alone in a public space—damn anyone who thinks different, go and enjoy the margarita.