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The Australian Editorial

Discss about the Ethics and Governance of News Reporting.

Journalistic ethics and standards were established to lead the journalists through the specific challenges and obstacles faced by them in different situations. Not only has a practice only to be followed in front of challenges, but these codes helped the journalists to maintain their unbiased and independent standpoint. However, in present times there has been much breech in the ethical codes and impartial standpoints of the journalists in present times. The editorials bear examples of the issue of the irregular wage scandal of 7-Eleven chain from two different perspectives targeting different readers.

The ethics and codes of news reporting were established focusing in a primary point as M Drumwright comments “Take honesty”. The most important focus of a journalist must be towards the enlightenment of the mass and ‘foundation of democracy’. Indeed the profession of journalism stands in a respectable position in a society with a set of codes and duties towards the society, with a most important and primary duty towards the mass; to report the absolute duties towards the mass, reporting a subject as it is or has happened without any tailoring or manipulating. The SPJ (Society of professional journalists) registers a list of ethical duties to be followed (spj.org, 2016):

To seek the truth and report to the mass

To minimize harm as possible

To act independently

To be accountable and transparent to the mass

 However, it is not that breeches have never been towards the ethical focus. It is as Belsey and Chadwick mentions, “Journalism is an honorable profession, though many of those who should care for it, often including its own professionals, have dishonored it”.  In the question of quality and impartiality, many of the print Media fail to adhere to their ethics and governance. In present times, The Australian is another inclusion under the title.

August, 2015 might make a scar in Australia’s goodwill image. An operation by the ABC news and the farefox media revealed an shocking yet shaming news regarding Australia’s one of the most convenient store chains, 7-Eleven; 7-Eleven kept on paying their workers a lowest wage of 11 dollars an hour which leaves far behind Australia’s minimum wage rate of 24 dollars; almost leading towards slavery. Most importantly the scandal continued for almost six years without coming into notice of any of the media. However, many of the Media has been discussing and bringing out to the mass the ‘scandalous’ issue of the serious ethical breech to form the opinion of the mass themselves. Therefore, a second focus must be put on how the chain is amending their wage scandal and highlighted nominally on the authorities’ admittance of the ‘irregular’ pay rates. This presentation of the news tends to focus on the ethical issue on part of the authorities, how they are seeing it.

The Financial Review Editorial

Now to focus on the basic journalism ethics on the part of them involved in the profession, questions can rise that siding the ethical and more debated issue to focus on a lesser important issue may be termed as to be misleading the mass towards an unimportant or precisely towards a wrong direction to judge and analyze the ‘truth’. However to follow the ethics of “To seek the truth and report to the mass” (spj.org, 2016), it is no less important truth that the company is bent on amending their mistakes. No issues in journalism can be less important if analyzed from an ‘transparent’ point of view. The issue of the amendment will provide the readers another point of view to think on. In addition, on the part of the authorities, it has been mentioned that, “The key factor here is that the panel will receive, review, and process any claim of underpayment, and authorize repayment where this is appropriate,” said Chief Executive Officer, Warren Wilmot. The Australian enjoys a readership of people from the age group of 25-49 and the 50+. Therefore, direction to which the Australian tries to put a light may create a positive impact for the 7-Eleven chain.

It is indeed a noble step on the parts of the management that without continuing with the same terms they are making a holistic change in their terms and rules regarding the labor law.  To take the stand of "acting independently" and ‘transparency’ the focus on the authorities and not the ethical breech, differs from the other news on the same issue in other Media. The readers get to focus on the amendments taken by the chain to keep the problems in check. Nevertheless, the dilemma of choosing the issue to discuss, is much crucial than analyzing the issues itself.  For the ethical and labor issue is no less an important issue to leave aside. However, The Australian, on their part hitherto, as reflects in the presentation, tends to put the Chain in a comparatively positive light, which will lead a huge number of the mass to think in a different way considering both the labor and managerial issues.  

The newspaper it might seem as reveals from their ethical standpoint may be bent on taking advantage of the huge readership and thus put a serious issue to lesser importance. However, the issue has been raising much ethical and journalistic dilemma on the part of the newspaper therefore, to make a stand it must be mentioned that the mass needs to know not all the details regarding an issue and focusing only on the ethical and humanitarian breech will lead them to know the entire truth. Therefore, The Australian tries to bring out the truth from the management part and it is expected the readers will get to know both sides of the issue to form their opinion. 

It has been more than a century that the landmark in Australian Labor Law, the Harvester Case was passed. The court, passing a verdict on the minimum amount of wage ensured a fair living for all the workers. The judgment dominated Australia’s labor laws and life and was subjected to further Conciliation and Arbitration. Nevertheless, it is even today, incidents like the 7-Eleven low wages Scandal come into view. To concentrate on the Australian Labor Laws such as the Harvester case (Ex parte H.V. McKay (1907) 2 CAR 1), Fair Work Act in 2009, the minimum wage of a labor was determined to be 24 dollars an hour with a time span of working hours to be 20 hours a week. However, to follow the expose of the Four Centre Media and the Fairfax media, the famous chain of Australia 7-Eleven has committed not only a serious ethical breech but also a legal breech as well in terms o denying the Workers the minimum rate of wages and the working hours. The amount of wages, if compared with the working hours, pushes the case almost towards slavery. Even to leave the ethical issue financially the chain has been depriving the state of a huge amount of taxation, amounting to almost hundreds of millions of dollars (). The chain as the exposes by the Four Corner Media, and the Fairfax Media reveal, still tends to believe in exercising the AWA  negotiation by the employers to the employee when the employer could offer a ”take it or leave it” as a condition of the employment. However, the offered amount too is less acceptable. The chain seems to feed on the helplessness of the labors.

Already many issues has been raised regarding the ethical and humanitarian topic that the scandal breeches severe matters. To choose a standpoint, the economic issue emerges to be more crucial than the ethical issue. Ethically journalism concerns with the freedom of speech to be exercised. In addition, to exercise the freedom to ‘act independently’ financially it must be focused that, every year the government is robbed of almost a hundreds of millions of dollars. The freedom of speech to a journalist ensures this facility to speak the truth openly. To put 7-Eleven under the light many discrepancies are coming into light, which reveals the company has been continuing such activity for more than a year. It accounts to be a breech in the legality of Australian Labor Law. As many of the workers come under the visa persistence, their work hour as per Australian law is registered to be 20 hours a week. However, in the chain the time same the labors get to work is a minimum of eleven hours a day with a wage of 11 dollars an hour. Such a distribution of wages violate the “consumer expenditure”, beneficial for economy.

However, the economic part is important to discuss to focus on the problems of the financers and investors as well. For the chain is already facing serious legal complexities due to the breech of the laws, it will be important for the investors to know about the situation of the company they are investing in. Moreover, the stock price is likely to be down for the next few months due to the lack of the faith and ethicality on part of the investors and stakeholders. However, the ethical dilemma has been weather to reveal the amendments on part of the authorities or discuss on the point of labor issues for the situation o the labors in the chain has been much deplorable and needs special attention on humanitarian ground as well. Nevertheless, to focus on the reader group of the Financial Review as well as the much debate over the topic, it is important for the newspaper presently and independently to put a focus on the breeches on the field of legality.

Conclusion:

Both the articles approach the issue from a different perspective. However, while the article in The Australian tends to exercise its journalistic ethics towards putting the chain in a positive light, The Financial Review criticizes the Chain from the standpoint of depriving the state of a huge amount of tax. However, the article of The Australian Seems to bent towards a degree of bias and supporting the chain on the ground of making amendments. This stand can be misleading for the readers especially to the young readers. On the other hand, the criticism of The Financial review takes an Ethical stand of putting the chain in a negative light. Nevertheless, the conflicting opinions can lead to conflicting results that might put an impression in the outcome of the penalties. Thus on the ground of the journalistic ethics of “Acting independently” The Australian leaves a controversial question, “How far it is justified to put a biased impression in the Name of journalistic freedom ?”.

Reference:

Briton, B. (2015). 7-Eleven scandal: The tip of a low-wage iceberg. Guardian (Sydney), (1705), 1.

Drumwright, M. (2013). Ethical Issues in Communication Professions: New Agendas in Communication. Routledge.

Ethical Journalism Network. (2016). Five Principles of Journalism - Ethical Journalism Network. [online] Available at: https://ethicaljournalismnetwork.org/who-we-are/5-principles-of-journalism [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016].

Financial Review. (2015). 7-Eleven: Wage abuse claims puts scrutiny on Fair Work response. [online] Available at: https://www.afr.com/business/retail/fmcg/7eleven-wage-abuse-claims-puts-scrutiny-on-fair-work-response-20150830-gjavxh [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016].

Ford, O. (2001). Harvester town: the making of Sunshine 1890-1925. Sunshine and District Historical Society.

Frost, C. (2015). Journalism ethics and regulation. Routledge.

Kenix, L. J. (2016). Journalistic boundary work at a time of professional crisis. Australian Journalism Review, 38(1), 19.

McKnight, D., & Hobbs, M. (2013). Public contest through the popular media: The mining industry's advertising war against the Australian Labor government. Australian Journal of Political Science, 48(3), 307-319.

Rimmer, M. (1997). The Workplace Relations Act 1996: An Historical Perspective. Australian Bulletin of Labour, 23(1), 69.

Spj.org. (2016). SPJ Code of Ethics | Society of Professional Journalists | Improving and protecting journalism since 1909. [online] Available at: https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016].

Theaustralian.com.au. (2015). The buck stops with us: 7-Eleven. [online] Available at: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/companies/the-buck-stops-with-us-says-7eleven-chairman-russ-withers/news-story/c446f2f834f4b72748c630a0944ec6b4 [Accessed 10 Sep. 2016].

Withers, B., & Ebrahimpour, M. (2013). The effects of codes of ethics on the supply chain: A comparison of LEs and SMEs. The Journal of Business and Economic Studies, 19(1), 24.

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