Regulating the interaction between the news media and the vunerable- The Australian experience

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Conference Paper

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Pearson, M. (2012). Regulating the interaction between the news media and the vulnerable- The Australian experience. Paper presented at the 21st AMIC conference and 40th anniversary celebration 2012. 11-14 July, 2012. Shah Alam, Malaysia.

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2012 HERDC submission. FoR code: 190301

© Copyright Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC), 2012


This paper reports upon a selection of findings from a national collaborative research project examining the interaction between the Australian news media and so-called 'vulnerable sources'. It explains the methodology behind the project, defines the notion of 'vulnerability', offers examples of interactions between journalists and the vulnerable, and reports upon the ways current methods of Australian news media regulation and self-regulation have handled such cases. It surveys the codes controlling journalists' behaviour via in-house industry-based codes of practice and those administered by the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), the Australian Press Council (APC) and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). It looks particularly at codes and regulations controlling privacy, intrusion, grief, children, mental illness and discriminatory reportage. It considers the vulnerable source issue in stories collected during a year's selective sampling of the national daily newspaper, The Australian. Special attention is paid to three years of decisions by the APC and the ACMA which have been coded and analysed according to the type of vulnerability involved, the guideline allegedly breached, and the result of the complaint. It explains that there are many 'moments of vulnerability' that escape the hard and fast letter of laws and codes that seem to be left to the moral and ethical judgment of individual reporters and editing teams, requiring a fresh approach to in-house self-regulation.

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This document has been peer reviewed.