After attending a seminar on the media law that all journalists must follow I was encouraged to share my knowledge to you readers! Personally I found it astonishing how careful you need to be when reporting a story especially when it’s a court case. If a journalist was to slip up on one of the following regulations, accident or deliberate, they could find themselves behind bars.
I researched further into the Media Law and the websites of National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and PCC helped me to understand it all. The following is the Code of Professional Conduct (available from NUJ and PCC) explained…
Objective writing – When quoting, avoid Joe Bloggs ‘states’ or ‘confirms’ etc. These phrases can be misleading and is much safer to stick with a simple ‘said’.
Ethical – Confidential sources need to be protected.
Good taste – There needs to be a level of discretion when using photography, especially when it’s of a sensitive subject. For example avoid using a close-up shot to show a dead body.
Accuracy – Avoid misleading or distorted information – this may lead to defamation! Comment and fact need to be differentiated.
Tip: When interviewing a source, use quotation marks in your note-taking to avoid confusing direct quotes with summarised ones.
Information needs to be fair and honest – A one-sided view should be avoided; a story using balanced quotes should be adopted as it strives for an impartial view.
When it comes to children… Pupils at school must not be interviewed or photographed without permission from the school authorities, e.g. the headmaster/headmistress.
If a person is under 18 year of age and is involved in court proceedings details such as their name must remain confidential.
As photo equipment is banned in court, the press hire illustrators to sketch the scene.
A list of requirements of reporting a court case:
– Include the defendant’s name, age, and address.
– Report the charges.
– State the plea, verdict and sentence passed.
– Identify the magistrate by name, but NOT the jury.
I hope you have found this informative!