The AJA Code of Ethics : a decade since it was last amended. Can it last another decade?
Philip Castle,
Queensland University of Technology

Does the Australian Journalists’ Association Code of Ethics now need a revamp or update after being adopted a decade ago. Does it work and will it work? Most journalism educators in Australia, (indeed internationally) attempt to introduce their students to the relevant code of ethics and their comparisons. This paper examines the present AJA’s code, last amended in 1998 after considerable debate, and how the educators attempt to explain it, how journalists apply it, does the industry accept it and does the public know about it? It examines its history and development and looks at some of the criticisms and positives of its wording. It also examines the changing role of the Australian Press Council and its attempt to enforce its similar code without any punitive powers. When and how is it applied? Does it make any difference to anyone? The Australian code sits somewhere in the middle of a raft of similar overseas codes and some critics argue it could do with an updating to certainly cover the new technology developments in journalism s well as the now national defamation laws. Should it include a “no further harm” clause similar to some other codes? So, what should or could be changed or can it continue to survive for another decade? Maybe this is the right time for a debate?

People as artifacts: whose life is it anyway?
A call for old fashioned values amid new fangled media
Susie Eisenhuth
University of Technology, Sydney

For serious journalists, the notion of dealing with real lives and real people, especially at the intimate level afforded by in-depth profiling or the detailed re-creations favoured by literary journalism, is a reminder of the privileged access journalists enjoy when they successfully engage the trust of their subjects. It should also be a reminder of how frail that trust has become in an era where people are so often treated as commodities, their private lives and personal episodes grist to the media mill. And that’s the media mill at large, not just the tabloids and glossies that might have carried the can in the past. These days traditional values like respect and accountability and the very concept of an ethical code can seem like quaint relics from another era as opinion-driven journalism proliferates on the web and even serious newspapers have made celebrity flim-flam central to their identity as they struggle to arrive at the elusive business model that will allow them to extract scarce dollars from the unforgiving online stream that has replaced the traditional rivers of advertising gold. If truth is the first casualty in war, trust may be the last battleground as quality journalism struggles for a toehold amid the shape-shifting models of the new media landscape.

The ethics of book-length journalism: developing a framework for practitioners.
Matthew Ricketson.

The Age

Book-length journalism is an area of journalistic practice that is growing, is having a substantial impact on public debate about significant current events and issues, and is gaining broader recognition, as demonstrated in the setting up in 2005 of a Walkley award for a journalistic non-fiction book. This area of journalistic practice is sometimes called literary journalism or narrative journalism or long-form journalism but the term book-length journalism has been chosen to draw attention to the medium in which this work most commonly occurs. Book-length journalism offers practitioners the opportunity to explore events, people and issues in depth. With more time and space and a narrative approach, practitioners such as David Marr, Margaret Simons and John Bryson are able to craft compelling works. The practice of book-length journalism throws up ethical issues, however, some of which are shared with the practice of newspaper and magazine journalism and some of which are unique, or felt more urgently, in book-length journalism. These issues particularly arise in the relationships practitioners form with their principal sources, in the representation of people and events in a narrative form and in the expectations that readers have of a work may read like a novel but is not a novel.

Public interest, private pain: Self-harm and the media
Amy Laybutt,
Jaelea Skehan,
Hunter Institute of Mental Health

The media is a major source of information for the community, and has an important role to play in influencing social attitudes towards and perceptions of issues such as suicide. Since 1997, journalism educators in Australia have partnered with the Hunter Institute of Mental Health to ensure journalism students are exposed to the professional and ethical issues related to the reporting of suicide. From 2002, the Institute have worked in partnership with peak bodies, media organisations and individual editors and journalists to promote responsible and accurate reporting. Through accurate and sensitive reporting, the media can play an important role in promoting help-seeking behaviour and, hopefully in reducing the occurrence of copycat suicide. Sensationalist reporting, however, may place vulnerable members of the community at a greater risk of self-harm. Most media sectors have codes of practice on reporting and portrayal of suicide, with many of these being reviewed in the past few years to better fit with the available evidence. However, as with most media codes, there are exceptions where the desirable aims listed may be outweighed by ‘the pressure of news and public interest’. One area related to the reporting of suicide that is generally agreed to be of ‘public interest’ is the issue of self-harming behaviour, especially in young people. It has all the elements of good news – it has conflict, currency, is deeply personal and dramatic. The relationship between self-harm and suicide is complex and to date, there has been minimal research conducted that focuses specifically on the role of media reporting on rates and patterns of self-harm. This paper will summarise the emerging research evidence investigating the impact of reporting self harm, the overlaps and differences between reporting of self harm and the reporting of suicide and new resources developed to provide guidance about this issue in Australia.


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