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Almost all tertiary journalism courses offer media law components in their curricula. It is expected by both educators and the profession that all graduates should have an understanding of pertinent areas of the law, including defamation, confidentiality, contempt and privacy. However, courses vary in the quantity of legal education in their curricula and in their pedagogical approaches. For example, while some courses cover a bare minimum, others endeavour to give students a considerable understanding of legal research methods and an advanced knowledge of the legal system. Some extend the curriculum to cover areas of the law which might only be of peripheral interest to journalists (for example, contract and Trade Practices legislation) and explore ways journalists might use the law to enhance their reporting (such as the use of Freedom of Information legislation or corporations law). This paper considers the issue of media law education for journalism students in tertiary institutions and suggests journalism students require a different legal curriculum and pedagogy from that offered to law students. Its purpose is to question the foundations of legal instruction to journalism students and to foreshadow an alternative approach which better develops legal competences for the journalism enterprise.
This document has been peer reviewed.