their similarities are what the media love

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For more than a decade Schapelle Corby has been a regular fixture in our lounge rooms, whether it be her face on the television or in a magazine, or her name being mentioned on the radio.


Cassie Sainsbury’s ‘sex worker’ claims

60 Minutes and Sunday Night examine Cassandra Sainsbury’s life before ending up in a Colombian jail, in separate interviews with her family and fiance.

She, along with her extended family, have become fully fledged celebrities and Schapelle is now a name we instantly recognise.

Over the past few weeks Australians have become equally familiar with another young woman, Cassandra Sainsbury. Just like Schapelle, we had a young Australian woman behind bars in a foreign prison accused of smuggling drugs.

And just like the Corbys, Cassie, along with her loved ones, have become nationally recognised faces and names.

But how many Australians are familiar with the plight of Sydney man Stephen Sutton? 

Sutton was also a drug trafficker. He was jailed in Argentina in 2003.

Or what about Gordon Vuong? Remember him? He was originally from Campsie in Sydney but remains in a Cambodian prison, serving a sentence for drug smuggling.

And who knows what happened to Henry Chhin​? He is the former Sydney man convicted in China of trying to send 270 grams of methamphetamine to Australia in 2004. He was sentenced to death in 2005, and while the sentence was downgraded  totwo years’ jail, according to Wikipedia, his fate is “unknown”.

Sutton, Vuong and Chhin are just a handful of the many Australians who languish behind bars around the world, some facing a far graver fate than either Corby or Sainsbury, but who have been largely forgotten, or even worse, ignored by the Australian media and the wider public in general.

Why?

“Schapelle has been a story which has captivated our readers for 12 years,” Fiona Connolly, editor-in-chief of Woman’s Day, explains to PS. “Hers is an extraordinary journey and people really identify with her.”

Indeed, that “identification” is key to the media’s interest in both Corby and Sainsbury.

“They could be the girl next door, young women who a lot of Australians relate to on a very basic level,” Connolly says.

However, a senior commercial television news producer, who has worked for all three networks over the years and asked to remain anonymous, was far blunter: “It has a lot to do with aesthetics. They [Sainsbury and Corby] are relatively good-looking young women, from average backgrounds … they are battlers … and let’s be frank, they are white. For a large portion of the Australian public, those women represent what their definition of being a stereotypical ‘Aussie’ is … I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s a reality that the media knows but won’t say out loud.”

Not that their gender or race has afforded either Corby or Sainsbury more favourable coverage; it has just guaranteed them constant coverage. Indeed, they have been presented in myriad guises thanks to their respective media trials.

Last Sunday night, 2.7 million Australians watched competing reports about Sainsbury, with channels Nine and Seven piling onto the story with rival “exclusives”.

Just hours before the broadcast, Sainsbury’s lawyers lost a Supreme Court bid to prevent Seven from airing its interview with Sainsbury’s fiance Scott Broadbridge.

Then Nine aired explosive claims that in the months before her ill-fated trip to Colombia, Sainsbury had worked as a prostitute in a suburban brothel in Sydney’s western suburbs.

No one would understand Sainsbury’s predicament at the hands of the media better than Schapelle Corby.

​And neither woman could have imagined they would become the household names they are today.

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