News that Amber Heard has filed to divorce Johnny Depp shocked many followers of celebrity news. The two actors got married just over a year ago, and until Amber's court papers were reported on, there had been no murmurings suggesting the couple were 'on the rocks', as many magazines would put it.
But, in the week since - yes, it's only been a week - the situation has become far more complicated. Days after the divorce papers were lodged, Amber was successful in her application for a restraining order against Depp, which was submitted alongside documents detailing incidents of domestic abuse.
It was at this point that various media outlets began to tread a questionable path. They may be celebrities, but Heard and Depp are also just two people locked in the middle of a battle that has a serious abuse claim at its centre. So why have so many publications seen no problem with publishing accusatory pieces based on one Instagram picture, unnecessary and irrelevant deliberations on Amber's sexual orientation, protestations of Johnny's innocence and downright invasive photos of Heard crying after a court hearing? At best, this is shoddy journalism, but the reality is it's irresponsible, and actually far more dangerous.
A lot of mistakes are being made, but while posts on Heard's previous relationships are unnecessary and pointless, the true danger lies in those that debate whether she is being truthful.
Many of the reports which effectively question Amber's claims start with a tweet, or comment, from one of Depp's acquaintances. Now, let's just get one thing straight, "We're just reporting someone else's views," is not a valid justification for speculation over whether Johnny is guilty of assault.
I don't care if it's one of Depp's former co-stars, ex-partners, or actual shadow casting doubt on Amber's statements, repeating them is not necessary. Every report that focuses on somebody defending Depp has undertones of: 'Amber, we aren't sure if we believe you' and in so publicly questioning Amber and her "motives" - which is not a word that should be used - they're doing the same to every person who has bravely discussed their experiences of domestic abuse.
This brings us nicely to the question of why on earth Depp's various friends are being given the platform to defend him anyway. Sending a tweet that is picked up by news outlets is one thing, but penning a column - yes Doug Stanhope, I mean you - is another entirely.
If a man who didn't normally take up column inches was accused of assault, would his friends be given space to defend him? Would Clive from the pub be invited to write a guest piece on how his mate of 20 years can't possibly be guilty? No, obviously. He would not.
As an entertainment journalist, I should not feel lucky to work somewhere that hasn't fuelled speculation over whether Amber is telling the truth, or given a platform to Johnny's pals who, of course, find the idea that he could physically harm a woman ridiculous. But that's the position I've found myself in. Not circling like vultures around an emotional, difficult stage of somebody's life, that will also strike a chord with many readers, is a standard that isn't hard to maintain.
Here are things that are true: Amber Heard has filed for divorce. She has been granted a restraining order. Johnny has contested her abuse claim, in a statement that Heard has responded to. That's it. It may not rake in the hits quite like headlines that end with question marks on the end, but until there's a court hearing to report on, there is nothing else to say.
It really is that simple.Suggest a correction