Tag Archives: journalism education

Australian metadata laws put confidential interviews at risk, with no protections for research

By MARK PEARSON

Interviews from a range of sensitive research topics may be at risk. These include immigration, crime and corruption.
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EACH year, academics and students make countless applications for research ethics approval, based on the promise of confidentiality to their interview subjects. Interviewees sometimes offer academic researchers information that might be self-incriminating or might jeopardise the rights and liberties of others they’re discussing.

But Australia’s metadata retention laws can lead to the identification and even incrimination of the very people whose identities academic researchers have promised to keep secret for their work.

Imagine, for instance, a criminologist conducting a project examining white collar crime in banking and financial services. The academic’s confidential interviews with former company directors and executives might elicit specific and revealing answers. It could lead to potential redundancy or even jail time, depending on their vulnerability and culpability.

Under the metadata laws, government agencies make hundreds of thousands of requests to Australian telcos each year for their customers’ phone and internet communications metadata.

For the criminologist, this means relevant agencies can ask telcos to access his or her metadata in the form of call records and computer IP addresses. This means they can identify whether a person of interest has been in communication with the researcher and is the possible source of incriminating material. Other investigations and legal steps might then follow.

Interviews about a range of sensitive research topics may be at risk. These include immigration, crime and corruption, national security, policing, politics, international relations and policy.

The impact of metadata laws on journalists and their sources have been well documented. But we can only wonder how many people will agree to participate in academic research if they are made fully aware of the real potential of being identified by investigators.

Interested?

READ my full article in The Conversation.

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2019 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

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Submission to inquiry shows journalism educators and students lack metadata source protection

By MARK PEARSON

Australian journalists have a narrow and inadequate protection under national security laws from government agencies accessing their metadata to discover the identity of their confidential sources.

I helped the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA) prepare a parliamentary committee submission that explains journalism educators and journalism students do not even qualify for that low level of protection, leaving their confidential sources open to revelation.

Our submission now sits with several others on the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security site here.

We have asked that legislators focus on the public interest journalism involved when awarding such defences and protections rather than focussing simply on whether someone is a ‘journalist‘ – an occupation and term difficult to define in the modern era – and used as the default for the rare privileges given.

We have proposed that

existing and proposed protections for ‘journalists and media organisations’ be extended to apply to the research and outputs of journalism educators and their students when they are engaged in ‘public interest journalism’, whether or not they are paid to work as journalists and whether or not their work is published by a ‘media organisation’ in its traditional sense.

We have also asked that the Commonwealth lead a reform initiative to unify all state, territory an Commonwealth media laws across a range of publication restrictions to do away with anachronistic inconsistencies and introduce a public interest journalism defence or exemption so that courts are prompted to balance the various interests at stake before issuing a warrant against a journalist or taking criminal action.

The Committee is now entering the phase of public hearings. See their site here.

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2019 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

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RIP Mike Grenby 1941-2019 – the parable of the kind professor

By MARK PEARSON

Australian journalism education lost one of its most dynamic and internationally regarded teachers this month – Bond University’s Emeritus Professor Mike Grenby.

The late Emeritus Professor Mike Grenby (left) and the author in March 2019

After employing him as a visiting journalist in 1998, Mike soon became a valued colleague and a treasured personal friend – a bond that continued to strengthen over the ensuing 21 years. He dined with us often as a regular guest at our family table and we had many adventures together in Australia and internationally. We already miss him greatly.

Bond University has published a worthy tribute to Mike, and his former employer, the Vancouver Sun, has run this obituary that focussed more on his earlier career as a reporter and personal finance columnist. Hundreds of former students, colleagues and acquaintances have commented on social media on the positive influences he had upon their lives.

I penned this piece of prose which his son Matthew read to Mike at a gathering of friends and family just a few days before he died on July 3.

Parable of the kind professor

It is said that many years ago a storytelling professor – a master of the written and oral arts – arrived with his wife from a foreign land where he was acclaimed nationally for his communication prowess. They soon forged many friendships and wide respect for their polite and caring inquiries into the lives and problems of those they met in their new community. Some colleagues even thought he was a Buddhist because of his outlook and demeanour, the Tibetan prayer flags he hung from his office door, and the chime of bells in the corridor each morning. But they soon learned the flags were souvenirs and the bells were simply the signal that the morning tea trolley had arrived.

In just a short time he lost his life partner and missed her greatly. After a period of deep mourning he began his search for a new love.  He travelled the world for almost half of every year, but he was never able to find a single love as deep and lasting as the first. Yet he offered his wisdom and his kindness in morsels to all those he encountered on his life’s journey.

Eventually, when this kind professor lay in a hospital bed – facing the inevitable end of all mortal beings – he realised that he had actually found the new love he had been seeking over all those miles and years. It lay not in a single individual (who could never be replaced) but it flowed from the thousands of kind and generous words and actions he had bestowed upon all he had met on his journey … students, colleagues, high officials, servants, fellow travellers and complete strangers. Their encounters with this kind professor – some fleeting, and many of a long duration – were life-changing. The sum of all these instances of the love and kindness he had given – and had in turn received – amounted to a greater love than any individual human could provide, and he realised that this had been the key to his life-long vitality, positive outlook and good fortune.

Some cultures believe the paths to enlightenment lie in acts of loving kindness and in the offering of wise counsel to others. This generous storytelling professor reached enlightenment in his final weeks and days as he was showered in the golden rays of all the love and kindness he had offered others throughout his almost four score years. The world was improved forever by the ripples of love he had bestowed upon it.

Thus, fellow travellers, pay heed to the lessons of this kind storytelling professor. Lend an ear to those in sorrow or distress, offer words of comfort and compassion, practice selfless generosity, and be a friend to all as you pass them in the corridor, on the beach or at the market. Our small gestures and courtesies ease suffering and cast light and warmth into the lives of those around us, and the life of this kind professor bears testimony to that universal truth.      

Rest in peace my good friend.

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2019 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

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Why study media law? #MLGriff

By MARK PEARSON

More than 200 new media law students embark on our seven week summer intensive course next week, so I thought it timely to reflect upon what might be gained from studying media law.

About two thirds will be attending classes in person, while the balance will be undertaking the course online. The cohort is almost evenly divided between journalism, law and communication students, with a few others taking it as an elective.

Here are 10 key benefits of media law study:

  1. Identifying and assessing risks in publishing is the new digital literacy. Traditionally only journalists and some lawyers really needed to know about media law, but now every citizen must know the risks of publishing because we are all now publishers as we post to social media, send emails and release our blogs, videos, films, games, software and images.
  2. Many areas of the law coalesce in ‘media law’, making it an excellent introduction to the legal system for journalists and public relations practitioners and a fertile field of revision and practice for law students.
  3. Media law presents a wonderful opportunity to explore the many competing rights and interests in society as the rights to free expression, information, and a free media compete with other important rights including reputation, a fair trial, privacy, confidentiality, intellectual property and national security, along with the right to be free from discrimination in all its forms.
  4. It affords us a superb showcase of the role of the news media in the varied political systems internationally as governments select different points where free expression should be curtailed. You learn that free expression is a continuum, with fewer restrictions in some nations and alarming censorship in others. International students get to compare Australia’s media laws with those in their home countries.
  5. Just as truth might be shackled by some governments and individuals, media law offers insights into so-called ‘fake news’ and ‘false news’ by demonstrating how fair and accurate reporting and publications can earn special protections and how ethical research and reporting can be rewarded by the courts.
  6. Media law cases are often fascinating portrayals of human foibles, egos and temptations and sometimes have elements of the Shakespearean tragedy where good reporting exposes the abuse of power.
  7. The laws and examples encourage the exercise of mindfulness in communication practice. A few moments spent reflecting upon risk and harm before publication might save you many dollars in fines or damages and perhaps even time in jail. Also, many a media law case could have been avoided by a simple utterance of the word ‘sorry’ and a heart-felt offer of amends (both on legal advice!).
  8. Problem-based media law learning offers a vivid insight into how a prickly legal situation might arise, and helps you navigate a course of action after assessing the legal risks. Robust and truthful journalism can still be produced within the bounds of the law, in some countries at least.
  9. Media law cases and reforms are in the news on a regular basis, adding relevance and topicality to your studies as you watch cases involving real people contested in the courts and covered in the news media.
  10. Finally, you learn that all laws can be improved, so you engage with the continuous process of media law reform. You learn about the reform process, access historical reform recommendations in your research, and have the opportunity to recommend your own reforms in areas of your interest. You are even encouraged to make submissions to current law reform commission and parliamentary inquiries.

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2018

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Social media developments have legal implications and require a new literacy

By MARK PEARSON

Every new development in Internet and social media communication renders countless new people ‘publishers’ –  exposed to risky media law situations they might never have anticipated. 


Advances in communication technology in this new millennium have redefined the ways in which most of us share news and information. Industry upheaval and technological disruption have prompted many journalists to retool as bloggers, public relations consultants, multimedia producers and social media editors.

These roles add exciting new dimensions to journalism and strategic communications—including conversations and engagement with audiences and instant global publishing at the press of a button. But they also present new legal risks that most professional communicators – and even ordinary citizens – did not envisage in the twentieth century.

The changes have been so profound that they have impacted the ways we live and organise our lives and work practices. It is only when we review some of the milestones of the internet and Web 2.0, together with the legal and regulatory changes they have prompted, that we start to appreciate the need for all professional communicators to be knowledgeable about media law.

While the worldwide connection of computers, giving rise to the phenomenon we know as the internet, dates back to the early 1980s, it did not start to impact the lives of ordinary citizens until the mid-1990s. Melbourne’s Age newspaper became one of the first in the world to offer an online edition in 1995 (van Niekerk, 2005). Over the ensuing years, entrepreneurs started to embrace the commercial potential of the World Wide Web, just as consumers began to use it to source products and services, and students began to engage with it as an educational tool—predominantly from their desktop computers.

By the end of 2016, there were approximately 13.5 million internet subscribers in Australia (ABS, 2017). It was not until August 2003 that the first major social networking platform, MySpace, was launched in California. It was the leading social networking site in the world from 2005 until 2008, when it was surpassed in popularity by Facebook, which by 2017 had almost two billion monthly users, including 15 million in Australia (Media Watch, 2017). In the six months to June 2016, 93 per cent of internet users aged 18 to 24 used social networking sites (ACMA, 2016:  58). Streaming of entertainment and news has also become part of daily life.

In June 2016, 39 per cent of Australian adults had watched Netflix in the previous seven days, while 27 per cent had watched professional content on YouTube and 16 per cent had viewed the pay television service Foxtel (ACMA, 2016: 82). In the United States by 2017, six out of ten young adults were primarily using online streaming to watch television (Rainie, 2017). Associated with this was the remarkable uptake of the mobile telephone and other devices. The iPhone was only launched in 2007, but by 2016 more than three-quarters of Australians owned a smartphone (ACMA, 2016: 18). The iPad was born in mid-2010 into a market segment that many experts thought did not exist, but by 2016 more than half of Australians used or owned a tablet device (ACMA, 2016: 55).

Even more technologies are unfolding rapidly, with implications for both the media and the law, with the increasing use of drone devices for news-gathering purposes and the awe-inspiring Internet of Things (IoT), where everyday devices are all interconnected, offering novel news-gathering and delivery systems for the media but also complex legal ramifications—particularly in the realm of privacy and security law.

Governments, courts and other regulators have been forced to decide on the various rights and interests affected by these new media forms, and some of their decisions have taken private enterprise by surprise. It is a far more difficult task, however, to educate the broader community about social media legal risks.

The core message is that we are all publishers in the eyes of the law when we publish a blog or post to a social media platform, and in that role all citizens are subject to the same laws that have affected journalists and publishers for centuries.

Further, the instantaneous and global nature of the media means that we may also be the subject of foreign laws of countries other than Australia—particularly if we work for a multinational corporation, or choose to travel to, or have had material we wrote downloaded in, a place where our posts might have broken the law or infringed upon someone’s rights. These laws include defamation, contempt of court, intellectual property, confidentiality, privacy, discrimination and national security.

All this makes a strong argument for greater social media literacy among professional communicators and the wider community.

[Excerpted from Pearson, M. and Polden, M. (2019, 6th edition, forthcoming). The Journalist’s Guide to Media Law. A Legal Handbook for Digital Communicators. (Allen & Unwin, Sydney).]

References

Australian Associated Press (AAP) 2017, ‘Changes to media ownership laws’, SBS, 14 September, <www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/09/14/changes-media-ownership-laws>.

Australian Bureau of Statistics] 2017, Internet Activity, Australia, December 2016, cat. no. 8153, ABS, Canberra, <www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/8153.0>.

Australian Communications and Media Authority] 2016, Communications Report 2015–2016. ACMA, Sydney, <www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/Library/researchacma/Research-reports/communications-report-2015-16>.

van Niekerk, M. 2005, ‘Online to the future’, The Age, 28 January, <www.theage.com.au/news/National/Online-to-the-future/2005/01/27/1106415726255.html>.


Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2018

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Making the case for a discipline [Book Review from Australian Journalism Review]

By MARK PEARSON

There has been much debate over many years about the place of journalism education in the academy,  whether journalism is even a ‘discipline’ on a par with others, and whether a journalism methodology should be considered ‘academic’ research.

Chris Nash offers a refreshing and thoughtful perspective on these issues in his recent book What is journalism?: The art and politics of a rupture (2016), London, Palgrave MacMillan, which I reviewed for the December 2017 issue of Australian Journalism Review.

Here, I offer the unedited version of that review as submitted.

Making the case for a discipline [Book Review]

Australian Journalism Review
Volume 39 Issue 2 (Dec 2017)

Pearson, Mark (Reviewed by)
Abstract: Review(s) of: What is journalism?: The art and politics of a rupture, by Nash, C. (2016), London, Palgrave MacMillan, ISBN 9781137399335 hbk, 9781137399342 ebk, hbk, ebk, 247pp, $136 hbk, $116 ebk.

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To cite this article: Pearson, Mark. Making the case for a discipline [Book Review] [online]. Australian Journalism Review, Vol. 39, No. 2, Dec 2017: 213-214. Availability: <https://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=360615283766665;res=IELLCC&gt; ISSN: 0810-2686. [cited 16 Feb 18].

Personal Author: Pearson, Mark; Source: Australian Journalism Review, Vol. 39, No. 2, Dec 2017: 213-214 Document Type: Journal Article, Book Review ISSN: 0810-2686 Subject: Journalism; Journalistic ethics; Mass media–Social aspects;

 

Nash, C. (2016). What is Journalism? The Art and Politics of a Rupture. London: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-137-39933-5 hdbk / ISBN 978-1-137-39934-2 ebook; pp. 247; RRP $136 hdbk / $116 ebook

Reviewed by Mark Pearson

Chris Nash reaffirms his place as a leading intellectual in Australian journalism education with this book exploring the theoretical and methodological status of journalism in the academy.

While the main title – What is Journalism? – might be suggestive of an introductory undergraduate text or even a careers guide, the subtitle The Art and Politics of a Rupture establishes Nash’s higher purpose – to develop and map a status for quality journalism as an academic method and discipline in its own right rather than mere fodder for ‘true’ academic disciplines like history, sociology, philosophy and media studies.

“As far as other disciplines are largely concerned, there is no issue to discuss; there is scholarship, there is journalism, and they are different,” Nash writes. “Journalist scholars are being crushed in a glacial silence, caught between the continuing innovations and achievements in professional practice and the wall of resistance in the academic world. The position is untenable. (p. 236).

This is a book targeted at the academy and graduate journalism students, particularly those experienced journalists undertaking doctoral research degrees in journalism.

In a precise yet accessible narrative, Nash centres his argument upon the fulcrum of an epistemological ‘rupture’ – when artist Hans Haacke’s exhibition at New York’s Guggenheim Museum in 1971 was cancelled by the museum director because three of the works were “not art but journalism” – in a “high-profile act of repudiation” (pp. 1 and 203).

Nash juxtaposes this case study (and suspends the question of whether journalism can, in fact, be art) against an analysis of two works of non-fiction by I.F. Stone, regarded as among the greatest journalists of the twentieth century – one critiquing the US role in the Korean War and the other using available artefacts to revisit the events surrounding the ancient Trial of Socrates.

Nash proceeds to elicit frameworks (some presented as conceptual matrices) – drawn from Pierre Bourdieu, David Harvey, Henri Lefebvre, Michel-Rolph Trouillot and Gaye Tuchman – to identify key components of what might constitute journalism, including space, time, social relations and imagination. He treats as methodological challenges journalism’s purported shortcomings as an academically acceptable research output – the elusive notion of ‘news sense’, the focus on a present without context and the unquestioning dependence on powerful establishment sources.

The result is a novel and important contribution to the debate about the constituent components of journalism at its best.

‘News sense’ is that opaque quality, a sixth sense for identifying newsworthiness in a given set of facts that might make it a story – a facility journalists are meant to either possess innately or learn on the job. In Australian journalism education it was so closely identified with what it meant to be a journalist that Adelaide Advertiser cadet trainer Bob Jervis adopted it as the title of his leading craft-oriented journalism textbook in 1985.

Nash elevates this ‘nose for news’ beyond its trade school status by building it into “a theory that validated the reflexivity of what appears to be intuition” and links it to spatiotemporarity (p. 109). To do so, he invokes Bourdieu’s field theory and its incumbent concept of ‘habitus’ as a metatheoretical framework.

As predominantly a media law scholar, I am in awe of Nash’s command of the body of intellectual literature that backgrounds his argument – which he explains in his clear and erudite style and then weaves it meticulously into his model (not a ‘theory’, he insists) of what journalism truly is.

In an era of technologically, economically and culturally disrupted journalism, Nash might have found more room to flesh out the important question of journalistic identity – in both the form of self-identity of those who practice journalism and the acknowledgement of others (peers and audiences) that the work produced is indeed journalism. Self-identity involves journalists’ self-labelling as ‘journalists’ rather than as historians, artists, strategic communicators, PR practitioners or sociologists. It was a crucial distinction between the two main protagonists in his study – Haacke who produced works of ‘journalism’ but who identified as an artist, and Stone who identified as a journalist but produced incisive historical and political analysis yet eschewed the academy.

There are parallels with indigenous identity here – genetics alone are not enough. And this is where peer and audience acceptance plays a role in who might be a journalist and whether the work they produce might be accepted as ‘journalism’, whether or not it meets the Nash criteria for journalism of such a high quality and standard of reflexivity that it might also stand as acceptable academic research.

Linked here is the journalist’s sense of audience, which Nash acknowledges:

This public morality sits well with journalism because a defining element of journalism is its public voice. It is possible for scholars in other disciplines to directly address only one another through academic texts and conference presentations, but journalism must always directly address a notional public and use a public voice. (p. 227).

All of this has practical implications for pragmatic issues like government agencies’ proffering a field of research code to journalism and universities’ acceptance of works of journalism as academic research outputs. In short, Nash has offered tools for such debates with this important addition to the international literature on journalism epistemology, theory and methodology.

The global positioning and application of his thesis is a crucial component of his achievement. It is heartening to see an Australian journalism educator take the world stage with this impressive scholarly contribution.


The review sits within an excellent edition of AJR – the last edited by my esteemed colleague Professor Ian Richards – recently retired from the University of South Australia. A heartfelt welcome to  new editor, Dr Kathryn Bowd from the University of Adelaide.

Here are the contents of Ian’s final edition. I recommend it to you and your libraries for subscription.

Australian Journalism Review

Volume 39 Issue 2 (Dec 2017)

Publisher: Journalism Education AssociationISSN: 0810-2686Publication Type: JournalSubjects: Media; Newspapers; Journalism Coverage: Volume 31, Issue 1 (July 2009) – onwards (Comprehensive)Peer Reviewed: Yes

Database: Literature & Culture Collection

Editorial
Obituaries
Health Journalism
10

Outlining a model of social journalism for health

Sweet, Melissa; Geia, Lynore; Dudgeon, Pat; McCallum, Kerry; Finlay, Summer May; Williams, Megan; McInerney, Marie; Armstrong, Ruth; Doggett, Jennifer; Coopes, Amy; Ward, Mitchell J; Senior, Tim; Ricketson, Matthew

11

#JustJustice: Rewriting the roles of journalism in Indigenous health

Williams, Megan; Finlay, Summer May; Sweet, Melissa; McInerney, Marie

Articles
Emerging Scholars
Book Reviews
22

Cogent account of media influence

Spurgeon, Christina

Contributor Notes
Ethics Statement

 

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2018

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A ‘Mindful Journalism’ Approach to News and Emotion

By MARK PEARSON

The News Reporting and Emotions conference was held at the University of Adelaide last week (September 4-6 2017) and I presented a paper titled “A ‘Mindful Journalism’ Approach to News and Emotion”. Here is the abstract, along with the audio and Powerpoint slides for the presentation if you are interested.

A ‘Mindful Journalism’ Approach to News and Emotion

Mark Pearson, Griffith University

Awareness of – and systematic reflection upon – emotions in the news enterprise can be beneficial for all stakeholders – including journalists, their sources and their audiences. ‘Mindful journalism’ is a secular application of foundational Buddhist ethical principles to the news research and reporting process, where journalists are encouraged to engage in purposive reflection upon a range of factors that might influence their story selection, angle, language and behaviour.

The approach is premised upon Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path, invoking journalists to invest time and meditative effort to consider their intent, actions and communications when planning and pursuing a story; to reflect upon how it sits with their conception of their livelihood; and how it might use wisdom and compassion to minimise suffering and acknowledge interdependence.

Such reflection upon the emotional implications of a work of journalism might take the form of a timetabled session of meditation (self or guided) or (in acknowledgment of the pressures of time and resources) as little as a mini ‘reflection-in-action’ – a pause for a few breaths to check in to the journalist’s own emotional state and the potential impact on the emotions of others.

This paper positions this emotional reflection and calibration in the body of the author’s recent work on mindful journalism, including a co-authored book and several journal articles and suggests that, while journalists might not be expected to adopt the lotus position in the news room, a systemised routine of reflection upon their ethics and practices might improve the calibre of their work and minimise the suffering it might otherwise inflict upon themselves and others.

———–

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2017

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