Importance of respecting privacy and confidentiality in journalism
Discuss the relevant ethical and legal issues raised by the scenario below. You should divide your work into four paragraphs, numbered, corresponding with the paragraphs of the scenario (i.e. 1 to 4). You should make use of the supplied unit readings and case examples to support your answer, but also feel free to find your own from reliable Australian sources. Make sure you check the Marking Rubric attached to the assignment to see where marks are allocated. Remember to proof-read your work before submission as marks are deducted for prose and expression errors.
1. A woman has disappeared from her Melbourne home after going for a walk one afternoon. Mary Richards has just been promoted to Chief of Staff at the Channel X newsroom and wants to make sure that night’s bulletin has a strong lead story on the missing wife and mother. She sends a camera crew and reporter Jane Jones out to the family home, finding the address with a simple White Pages search after the police Media Liaison Officer releases her name, suburb, and a headshot photo.
2. Mary owes a big favour to her mate at Channel Y, Jim Liu, so she texts him the address and an offer to share footage. The crew sets up a stakeout across the road from the house, filming the family as they arrive and leave. The reporter Jane Jones knocks on the door but the woman’s husband tells her to get off the property. The camera crew stands on the footpath and films the front door. Jim arrives with his camera operator, who knows the family’s son. He talks to the son and gets another photo, of his parents’ wedding, but does not share it with Mary at Channel X.
3. A few months later, bushwalkers find a body under a log in a national park outside Melbourne. Both Channel X and Y upload the news onto their website, with text saying that the main suspect is the husband. Channel Y uses the family photo, circling the husband’s face, with a caption, ‘Is this the face of a wife killer?’ Police tell the media that they found a shovel and a cap near the burial site, and are DNA-testing the cap. No one has been arrested or charged with any crime yet.
4. Two months later, police arrest the husband and charge him with murder. Social media goes into a frenzy, calling the husband a murderer and paying tribute to the dead woman. The media stakeout returns to the family home, this time with more camera crews and photographers. Melbourne’s Daily Bugle runs a front-page story with a ‘Timeline to Death’, a photo of a shovel, and a still shot of the wedding photo given to Jim Liu with a jagged line graphic running between the wife and husband. A sidebar is headlined, ‘Wife killing not guilty plea’. The husband’s defence team applies for an injunction against any further comments about the accused, but a Brisbane newspaper picks up the story and runs the wedding photo in its print edition. Its online edition does not use the photo or comment on the accused. It compares the woman’s disappearance to that of Allison Baden-Clay in Brisbane in 2012.
Importance of respecting privacy and confidentiality in journalism
The first part reveals the facts relating to the provided case. In this context, this case involves two parties, which one party is Bubbles Barrett and other is the weekly magazine ‘Woman’s Digest’. Contextually, Barrett is a Melbourne-based actor, who is famous for her comic roles in films and leads to the reason as to why Tansy, the reporter representing ‘Woman’s Digest’ wanted to interview her. However, Bubbles made it quite clear that the interview can only take place without any presence of the photographer in it. Tansy agrees for the meeting but prefers to take a freelance photographer along with her.
Journalism, which is the base of the media industry, is directed toward encouraging free speech in the democratic countries. People’s right to information as well as respect for truth are the two distinct philosophies on which journalism is based. The works of the journalists are directed towards exploring, revealing, recording, asking, engaging, commenting, and recalling information. They are entitled to provide information relating to citizens and animate democracy. Furthermore, they not only scrutinize power but also are authorized to exercise it to a certain extent. This makes them responsible to be more answerable and accountable. As per the journalist ethics, the commitment of the journalism should be attributed towards fairness, honesty, respect for the others, and independence. There are some standards, which are to be followed by the journalists and among them, one of its states that the journalists should be provided private grief and personal privacy. On a similar note, the other standard focuses on signifying the use of fair along with being a responsible way of attaining the required material from any individual or an organization (Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, 2018).
After evaluation of the ethics that are related to journalism, it can be well understood that the condition, which Bubbles put forward was observed to be that was accepted by the reporter of Women’s Digest so that the former’s request could be respected. However, it was observed that the accompanying photographer with the reporter in spite of Bubble’s request took a photo, which was published in the magazine.
Similar to the case study, it was observed in one of the cases that a media case that occurred in Australia has a program telecasted by ABC breached the ABC Code of practice 2011. The issue, which was raised against this issue, is that it failed to present the MyBudget, which was a budgeting business an opportunity to react properly on the allegations that were made regarding negligence along with mismanagement. The program was telecasted with the aim to discuss the debt management firms, which were increasing in number in order to provide needful services to the people suffering from financial difficulty. However, the Australian Communications and Media Authority found a breach of standard 5.3 of the Code on the part of ABC, as it did not provide MyBudget enough chances to t so as to respond against the allegations that were brought against it by other two firms. This largely signified the fact that the opinions of other parties, whatever it may be, must be respected and acted accordingly so that no complaints or issues of breach can be brought against the media (Australian Communications and Media Authority, n.d.).
Consequences of breaching the code of conduct in media
This part signifies the fact that Tansy (reporter) and the photographer have violated the condition, which was placed by Bubbles for conducting the interview. In spite of Bubbles’s condition, the photographer clicked the photo and did not pay heed to the protests of the former. In addition to that, Tansy got in contact with one of Bubbles school friend for acquiring information. In order to maintain the confidentiality of Bubbles’ friend’ name, Tansy kept it to be secret and named her ‘an unnamed source’.
The above particular scenario requires precise pointing out to the media ethics and laws that are included in the field of journalism. This is to make sure that that the information relating to taking accurate action. According to Glasser & Gleason (2013), the “watchdog press” as well as “marketplace of ideas” is the specific two metaphors, which explain the freedom that is associated with the press and speech. In this context, these two freedoms are posed with the question as to if they are associated with an individual or they carry some social responsibility. The panel that looks after the privileges of the press ensured that the press is not enabled to reveal confidential sources in some specific privacy-oriented matters (Glasser & Gleason, 2013).
Media needs to understand the fact that perseverance of a party’s confidentiality is important so that no issues are raised. It has been evident that there are some media parties, which have breached the code of conduct for obtaining and reporting the news. For instance, a case, which occurred in Sydney, witnessed some people to protesting against the Channel Nine. According to the protestors, the network was exhibiting ill-treatment to Adam Whittington, as he and his team recovered the children of Sally Faulkner (ABC 2016). The objections that were aroused at this instance made the Commercial television Code to state that the broadcasters must ensure that the factual matters that are represented in the news are to be accurate and should not at be misrepresented at all. It also affirmed that any material, which is related to an individual’s personal matter, should not be broadcasted until and unless there is a consent or reason for broadcasting it (ABC 2016a).
Another case, which took place in the world of media that was related to breaching the code of conduct, is the case of the Sydney Radio Station 2UE. Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) decided to inquire about the commercial arrangements that were presented by the radio presenters so that it can be evaluated if there had been any breach of Broadcasting services Act 1992. After the investigation was completed by ABA, it was ultimately found that the radio shows that were being conducted in Sydney had actually violated the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice, in which they have violated the Code 2 and Code 3. The judgment, which was provided in this case, made it quite clear that the public interest must be restored and things were supposed to be brought under control. This was to be done at the quickest so that that the information is not manipulated by the news firms and spread it (Parliamentary Counsel, 2013).
Notable cases of media-related defamation in Australian law
This part of the presented scenario deals with the defamation, which was created by the interview article, which was published by the reporter of ‘Women’s Digest’. The article that was published kept the source of obtaining information secret presented it as ‘unnamed source’. Additionally, it was further observed that the real name of Bubbles Barrett was ‘Raylene’ as per the information provided by the unnamed source. Moreover, another statement that was published by the same source was that the news of Bubbles Barrett’s relation to Steven Spielberg was also a lie. All of this made Bubbles furious and she sent the letter of concern to ‘Woman’s Digest’, asking for retraction and apology, but both of the alternatives were discarded by the company.
This actually indicated the defamation issue of the ‘Women’s Digest’ on Bubbles Barrett. Reports of media-oriented defamation cases are present, which signifies the fact that these types of situations are majorly evident in the society. For instance, in the case of Wilson v Bauer Media Pty Ltd  VSC 521 Rebel Wilson filed a suit against Bauer Media Pty Ltd, known to be the publisher of the Women’s Day magazine. The complaint, which was filed against the company was mostly related to the articles, which were published with claims that Wilson lied about her age, name, happenings in life, and ultimately about her upbringing. In this case, Wilson claimed for losses on the basis of the general and special damages, which she faced by losing business opportunities from May 2015 till the end of 2016. Judge Dixon J provided verdicts on Wilson’s favor and made Bauer Media Pty Ltd pay $ 650,000 as general damages and $3,917,472 for special damages to Wilson (State of Victoria 2018).
The next defamation case is Rayney v The State of Western Australia [No9]  WASC 367. This case witnesses the complaint that was filed against the State of Western Australia by Barrister Lloyd Rayney. The issue was related to the comments that were provided by the former institution, which accused the Barrister of having killed his wife. The investigation of Rayney’s wife’s murder was going on in the Supreme Court of Western Australia and stated that Rayney himself was the murderer. This case covered several important legal issues and involved the application of qualified privilege defense that was derived from the police statements. Litigation over the statements was made by the court provided Rayney with $2.62 million (Menagh & Carmody, 2017).
Another famous defamation case that had its records in the Australian law cases is the Chris Gayle v Fairfax Media. In this case, Chris Gayle, who is a famous international cricketer, filed a suit of defamation against the Fairfax Media. The issue, which was surrounded round, in this case, was that the media had published an article in which it had clearly stated that Chris Gayle had exposed himself in front of a female masseuse in Drummoyne Oval’s changing room in 2015. This case was taken for attaining jury’s jurisdiction and at the time, Fairfax Media advanced two distinct defenses of truth with qualified privilege and both of their efforts was discarded by the jury. The reason for rejecting the media’s approach is that the court did not find any kind of evidence regarding those statements and on the contrary found malice on their part. Later on, Fairfax Media commented on the issue stating that whatever jurisdiction took place at that incident was a fair trial. However, this statement was criticized by NSW Supreme Court Justice McCallum (News Pty Ltd 2018).
All the three defamation cases signify the fact that ethics as well as laws, which are associated with media, are violated by the news reporters just for the sake of attaining materials to provide information to the public. The media-related issues require improvement so that the defamation and other media-oriented issues can be averted. This can help in improving and being more proactive enforcement of the practice that is oriented with self-regulation of the individuals. Another way through which improvement can be attained is enhanced awareness and potential of complaining against the breach of codes committed by the media. Finally, each individual must be properly guided about all the self-regulatory codes of practice that will ensure the protection of their privacy (Breit, 2004).
In the scenario’s fourth part, the day after the magazine published the interview, it got viral. It was observed that commercial TV station along with Channel X broadcasted the news and featured the photo of Bubbles Barrett from the magazine. Thus, Bubbles filed a suit of defamation against the Woman’s Digest. The news station also ensured that it will keep reporting to the people Bubbles ‘fight for justice’ as soon as any updates are gained by the channel. This reveals the truth of the ethics and law that are involved in the media industry. The base of this industry is to provide true and precise information to the people without being partial at any point. According to Oxford University Press ANZ (n.d.), the condition of Australia’s media condition is worsening on a daily basis, as the journalists remain bound to the laws, which are formulated and created to present a boundary to the media practices. The issues are increasing around media require implementation of ethics in the proper form. The entire media industry has to understand that whatever may be the situation, it is important for the people to know the accurate truth about a fact that is being conveyed to the mass. Any news or any article, which is being published, amongst the presence of all the bias in the surroundings need to present the materials with the entire truth (Oxford University Press ANZ, n.d.).
The journalists in the present situation of the country also need to understand that proper judgments do not depend on any organization but solely on them. Thus, it is important for them to deal with the situation impartially so that privacy of the individual is hurt in one way or the other (Oxford University Press ANZ).
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