ACC213 Assignment 1

Scenario 1

Mary Richards works as the Chief of Staff at Channel X newsroom, a role that entails a high level of responsibility and adherence to the ethical and legal standards governing journalism as well as the laws of the land. The scenario involves the disappearance of a woman that goes missing during her routine walk one afternoon. Mary has a strong lead story that would give the newsroom increased viewership and pave the way for the location of the missing person. The media liaison officer makes the missing person’s name, headshot photo and residence public. Mary uses the information to find her address with a White Pages search. Mary also sends a reporter and camera crew to the family’s home to investigate the developing story.

There are legal and ethical issues in the approach that Mary uses to get information on the family’s address. The chief of staff uses the data that the police media liaison officer provides to get the family’s address using White Pages. According to the Journalists’ Association Code of Ethics that was introduced in 1994, Mary was supposed to employ honest and fair means to obtain news. It is clear that her core interest is getting a convincing lead story while disregarding the privacy of the family members (Butler & Rodrick 2015, p. 15). She uses illegitimate means to get information that would give Channel X the benefit of breaking the story. She also sends a reporter and a camera crew to the home, and the move could have created unnecessary attention for the family. The behavior by Mary is unethical as it goes against the conduct of police investigations that focus on establishing the truth without infringing on the privacy of the family members.

Mary acts unethically by sending the reporter and the news crew to the family’s home without their consent. It is clear that Mary fails to inform the family about the visit and this could have brought the family attention emotional time. Further, Mary is required by the code of ethics to maintain dignity and integrity at all times. However, she acts unethically by sending the news crew and using unlawful means to obtain information on the family’s address. Mary also acts against the Privacy Act of 1988 by handling and accessing personal information wrongly (RJI 2019). The action by the journalist comes in light of the emerging global outcry with regards to access to private information. The victim’s family has the right to sue Mary and the newsroom for acting unethically and unlawfully (James, Anderson & Putt 2008). Mary should have reported on the story based on the information provided by the police, and if she intended to share the story, she should have sought consent from the family to interview them.

Scenario 2

Mary continues pursuing the story and informs Jim Journo who works at Channel Y about her discovery as she owes him a big favor. She tells Jim about the address and promises to share footage from the victim’s home. The crew makes a stakeout across the road and starts filming the family members’ activities. As expected, Jane Jones is turned away by the victim’s husband when she knocks the door. Jane does not reveal her identity as a press representative who is unethical. However, Jim is lucky as his camera operator knows the family’s thirty-two-year-old son. Jim does not also introduce himself as a press representative, which violates ethical conduct in journalism. The lack of self-identification allows him to interview the son and get the parents’ wedding picture, but he does not share the information with Mary.

Channel X crew acted unethically and illegally by filming on the front door and along the footpath. They go ahead to film the family members as they come into the house and leave. The filming is done without the consent of the family members, and the woman’s husband was right by telling them to go. The crew continues infringing upon the privacy rights of the family as they continue filming ignoring the threats given by the husband to get off the family’s property. It is clear that the crew is conducting investigative reporting instead of leaving the matter to the law enforcement agencies. The team does not seek consent from the family, and they miss the chance to break the story.

Channel Y crew gets some footage from the home, and Jim does not share it with Mary at Channel X. In so doing, Jim acts unethically as Mary had given him the address to the home. On the other hand, Jim was right as he did not go against the family’s trust by sharing the news with other media houses. It can be observed that Jim’s crew takes a picture of the parents’ wedding photo. The photographing the wedding picture was an invasion of the family’s privacy as the photo could be used in influencing the investigation and shaping public opinion on the case (Lidberg & Muller 2018, p. 24). It is clear that Mary failed to advise her team on how to act upon getting to the family’s home and this caused hostility from the husband. The media houses failed to respect the code of conduct in journalism by following up on a story that was obtained using unlawful and unclear means.

Scenario 3

The woman’s body is found by bushwalkers in a national park in Melbourne under a log. Channel Y and Channel X report the news on their websites by indicating that the husband is the key suspect in the case. Channel Y continues to point out the husband as being the killer. The police inform the media that a shovel was found at the crime scene and the DNA tests were not yet out. At that point, no individuals had been charged for the crime. While Channel X and Channel Y were right in breaking the news on their websites as they had been following up on the story, it was unethical for them to state that the husband was the suspect (Nolan, Farquharson & Marjoribanks 2018, p. 29). They could have reported based on the news that was published by the police. The media houses do not act in line with the code of ethics that call for dignity and integrity in reporting. The wedding photo that was obtained from the family’s home was used to incriminate the husband before confirming his guilt.

It is illegal for media houses to offer final reports on ongoing investigations as it shapes the public opinion and could interfere with the legal process. The media houses ought to have investigated the matter in collaboration with the police to ensure that the information that they reported was accurate (OAIC 2019). Profits were the primary motivating factor for the media houses as the story had attracted a high level of attention. The media house would benefit from the naming the husband as the key suspect as it would interest the members of the public in reading more about the story. The media should not use images that have been obtained through dishonest and unfair means. It is clear that when the wedding photo was captured, Channel Y did not state that it would use it to accuse the father of being the primary suspect in the crime. Both Channel X and Channel Y should practice responsible reporting by ensuring that the information that they publicize can be backed by evidence.

Scenario 4

The fourth scenario covers the role that social media plays in reporting a crime. The victim’s husband is arrested two months after she goes missing. As expected, the media stakeout is set up at the family’s home to get the views of the family members and neighbors and follow any developments in the story. More camera crews take numerous photos of the home. More media houses report on the incident by alluding that the murder was committed by the husband using the shovel. One newspaper reports the incidence by stating that the husband claims to be innocent. The husband’s lawyer submits an application for an injunction against any publications or comments about his client. The wedding photo is used by a Brisbane newspaper to run the story and even compares it to the Allison Baden-Clay incident that occurred in 2012. It is clear that the story had received a high level of attention to the media houses in Australia and was subject to a high level of speculation that would affect the judgment in public court.

The social media platform is dynamic and is governed by different laws from conventional media. It is therefore difficult to manage how an incident is reported and portrayed on diverse social media platforms. The ethical rules defining reporting on social media are unclear, and the social media frenzy was neither unethical nor unlawful (RJI 2019). That being said, the media houses reporting the case are unscrupulous as they imply that the suspect is guilty before been taken through the trial.

Most of the media houses are dishonest in their reporting, and they use the wedding photo to shape the public opinion about the husband’s guilt. According to Sawer, Abjorensen, and Larkin (2009, p. 15) the dissemination of such information is illegal as it interferes with a case that is undergoing investigation. It is also unethical as journalists against dishonest reporting as it affects their integrity and their dignity. Following the husband’s arrest, media companies flock his home, and it is clear that they do not obtain the right authorization in conducting interviews and obtaining footage from the house. They also do not reveal their identity as they are interested in getting more information on the story for their gain. It was unethical for the media companies to visit the victim’s home as it was a breach of the privacy of the children and neighbors that were affected by the incidence. Some media houses compare the story to past similar events, and this influences the public perception of the suspect. The lawyer acts accordingly by asking for an injunction to limit the negative impact of the public opinion in the trial. In summation, the suspect should be accorded a fair trial, and justice should be served to the victim and her family.















Butler, DA & Rodrick, S 2015, Australian media law, Thomson Reuters (Professional) Australia          Limited.

RJI 2019, Australian Journalists’ Association Code of Ethics 1994, Retrieved from <   >.

James, M., Anderson, J & Putt, J 2008, Missing persons in Australia, Australian Government,

Lidberg, J & Muller, D 2018, In the Name of Security Secrecy, Surveillance, and Journalism.     Anthem Press.

Nolan, D., Farquharson, K & Marjoribanks, T 2018. Australian media and the politics of         belonging. Anthem Press.

OAIC 2019, Privacy law, Retrieved from <>.

Sawer, M, Abjorensen, N & Larkin, P 2009, Australia: The state of democracy, Federation       Press.