Date of this Version


Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Details

Pearson, M. (2005) The privacy mandala: Towards a newsroom checklist for ethical decisions. Refereed paper presented to the Journalism Education Conference, Griffith University, Tuesday 29th November - Friday 2nd December, 2005, Gold Coast International Hotel, Surfers Paradise, QLD Australia.

The Journalism Education Association 2005 conference was hosted by the School of Arts at Griffith University's Gold Coast campus between the 29th November - 2nd December, 2005. The 2005 conference marked the 30th anniversary of the Journalism Education Association (formerly the AATEJ) which has been meeting since 1975.

Note: Background sections of this paper have been delivered previously as part of presentations to Media Law Advocates Training Programme, at Oxford University in July 2005 and the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers Association annual conference in Cairns in August 2005. The author gratefully acknowledges funding from the Australian Press Council and Bond University and the work of research assistant Morgan O’Brien-Powell for this project.

Copyright © Mark Pearson & The Journalism Education Association, 2005.


Regulators and the courts are increasing privacy constraints upon the news media. Journalists and editors are being called to account for their decisions which intrude into the private lives of citizens under the pretext of being in the so-called “public interest”. Judges and self-regulatory bodies are demanding news organizations explain their internal processes for decisions which have legal and ethical consequences. This paper tracks the developments in privacy law and ethical regulation and suggests a schema journalists might use when weighing up the privacy elements of a news item. As one stage in a larger study of privacy, it focuses primarily upon the codes of practice of six main media self-regulation bodies and identifies the key elements in the privacy-journalism domain. It then draws upon them to propose a decision-making tool for newsroom use, labeled the “Privacy Mandala”. Finally, it suggests a filter by which editors and news directors can view the commercial criteria they will inevitably be motivated to consider as part of the process.



This document has been peer reviewed.


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