Nothing mobilises news media faster than a traumatic incident. Reporting teams and camera crews are dispatched from every imaginable news outlet while other personnel hit the telephones to get background information. Every journalist on the assignment is primed to get the best angle, the best story, the best images and to get them as quickly as possible into the production stream to be prepared and presented to an audience that craves to be informed. Seconds can be precious. Deadlines even more important. You might feel somewhat embarrassed to admit it, but it is almost a thrill to be a part of the action. That is, unless you happen to be a victim, survivor, witness or their family or community. Then the throng of media demanding your attention and co-operation can be confronting, disrespectful, overwhelming and, at times, harmful.
That is what Australian victims and survivors have disclosed in research done for this thesis and it reflects findings in other countries where the impact of trauma is being documented to help journalists understand the potential harm they may do to themselves and to others as they battle to cover the latest major crime, disaster scene or high-profile traumatic incident. Through nine Australian case studies this thesis draws out the core areas for concern and explores ways journalists can still do their work without causing victims and survivors to suffer more than they already have. It examines the toll of unthinking journalists, both in the field and the newsroom, and it exposes the price of thoughtless publication of stories, images and sounds.
In holding up a mirror to current media practice in Australia and comparing victim experiences to expectations painted by the industry’s ethical and practice codes, this thesis aims to give journalists and newsroom managers some difficult things to think about – and plan for – before they next cover a traumatic incident.
To access this 2003 thesis, follow the links below: