100 articles – ‘The ethics of journalism’

23 June 2011

Written by: Suzannah Macbeth

‘The ethics of journalism’ by Leslie Cannold

In July 2010 then-Immigration Minister Chris Evans told a conference at The University of New South Wales that the asylum seeker issue was ‘killing the government’, and admitted his own failings as leader of the debate.

Embarrassingly for the government, these remarks were reported on 2UE in spite of the conference being covered by the Chatham House Rule. The Rule preserves the anonymity of speakers in order to encourage the open sharing of information.

Leslie Cannold’s article on The Drum the following day advocated for journalists to respect conventions such as these in order to maintain trust. Her story prompted jokes about the juxtaposition of ‘ethics’ and ‘journalism’, as well as discussion about the role of a ‘free press’.

However, it can be read as a cautionary tale in the context of the 24-hour media pressure on politicians. When solutions are being sought to major issues of the day, discussion is hampered if politicians are forced to play their cards close for fear of media ears.

‘Keeping the bastards honest’ might be a charge of journalism, but with this comes a responsibility to know when to step back and allow government members to get on with their job.

Suzannah Marshall Macbeth is a Master of Global Communications student at La Trobe University and a member of the upstart editorial team. She blogs at equineocean and you can follow her on Twitter.

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