Reflecting on the Wilbaramba Weekly Exercise

This reflection relates to the Wilbaramba Weekly news briefs.

Identify the key ethical, defamation and court reporting issues arising from the given scenario. What will you need to consider when you are reporting on these matters?

The possibility of defamation must be considered regarding Wilby Wanderers star forward Basil Basilica’s conduct at the Hounslow medal presentation. Reporting he was “very drunk”, tried to kiss the coach’s 14-year-old daughter, took his clothes off and fell in a chocolate fountain may be seen as causing hatred, contempt or ridicule in the eyes of ‘right thinking people’. Furthermore, it would be difficult to defend this reportage in a court defamation case because it is not entirely fair, accurate or balanced. Identifying the coaches daughter would be considered illegal reporting of a minor.

Reporting on Basilica’s poor conduct and drunken behaviour would not be in the public interest. Although it may adhere to the philosophy of full disclosure, the story would be of interest to the public, not in the public benefit. However, it may be in the public interest to report there was a fight at the event, but the reasons behind it needn’t be disclosed.

The photo waiter Addy Reynard captured of team mate Chrid Dudd performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Basilica should not be released if offered to the newspaper as it is defamatory. Again, this photo is not of benefit to the public and if published, would risk defamation.

It would be unfair and defamatory to report the quote from the angry hotel manager: “That guy is a total idiot; if he broke a leg that’d be the end of him. He sure as hell couldn’t make a living using his brain.” The declaration may not be accurate and the article would be unbalanced unless a fair right of reply was allowed.

Citizens have a right to maintain a good reputation. The fight between the team’s coach Dion Thompson and Basilica is a private matter that could threaten their reputation and again, reporting this would not be of benefit to the public. On the other hand, it must be considered that the town’s football coach is a public figure in the context of the scenario, so then is it in the public interest to scrutinise a public figure? This is an ethical dilemma. There must be a balance between the community’s right to a free press and an individual’s right to an undamaged reputation.

The conversation about the plot to blow up the pipes could not be reported on. The information was gathered unethically. It would be a breach of privacy to report the conversation because it would be considered the “interference, misuse or disclosure of an individuals’ correspondence.

Furthermore, the MEAA Code of Ethics states: “aim to attribute information to it’s source”.  This would not be possible in the case of the overheard conversation.

The MEAA Code of Ethics states to use “fair, responsible and honest means to obtain material”. Reporting an overheard conversation is unfair and dishonest.

“At 2am, you saw billionaire Dwayne Malarkey leaving in a hurry, accompanied by local environmental activist Lyall Franklin.” The reporting of this information, paired with the overheard conversation, implies the two blew up the pipes. Making this implicit connection could interfere with a future court case.

Journalists must be cautious when reporting on children. It would be unethical to report on Thompson’s 14 year old daughter Tiana’s apparent drunk and distressed state.


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