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The Racial Hatred Act: Media reports

media reports

an introduction to the case studies

The law provides an important benchmark for standards of behaviour which
the community considers acceptable and it has implications for a range
of professions, not just for journalism. But in the course of their work,
journalists must often confront ethical dilemmas which go far beyond the
question of whether or not what they write or say is unlawful.

The practice of reporting involves a constant
process of selection on the part of the journalist, about what to include
and what to keep out of a story; how to frame the lead; who to approach
for comment; how to interpret a set of statistics; how to file a story
which will be acceptable to management.

While tertiary journalism courses, from which so many of the next generation
of reporters come, tackle ethics and sensitivity training in some form,
most working journalists rely on their own deeply held beliefs about what
is right, fair and ethical in doing their job. In other words, they make
value judgements every day.

The next section of this guide looks at a range of media reports from
the past year.

Each of them has a race angle and each raises some important issues
about media reporting.

In most cases, the journalist who prepared the report has agreed to
comment on it and highlight some of the sensitivities, dilemmas and ethical
questions it raised at the time.

Reactions have also been sought from other key people in order to show
the ways in which these reports were received by particular communities
at the time. In others, facts and figures have been presented which offer
an alternative picture to that painted by the report.

Political correctness; myths, stereotypes and clichés; simplification
of complex social research; news values; media manipulation - these are
just some of the issues highlighted in the case studies.

They are intended to challenge journalists and students of journalism.
It is hoped that the reports and the commentary around them will stimulate
discussion beyond the confines of the law, to the much more fundamental
issue of ethics in reporting.

Please note that none of the reports in the case studies
have been the subject of complaints or queries under the Racial Hatred