Go directly to jail….

…. do not pass through a courtroom!

Over the years, The Bug‘s Media Glass House has poked fun – it’s been necessary but far too many times, sadly – at journos who get the basics horribly wrong when writing about people facing serious charges.

It’s not rocket surgery to diligently apply one of the most basic principles of how Australian law is practised – that a person is innocent until proven guilty – but that principle has gone missing a lot over recent times and it pinpoints a sad decline in journalism standards.

You hear it all the time on TV network news: Two men ramraided a pub last night and police arrested one of them nearby a short time later. He has been charged ….

Gotcha, ya bastard! Go directly to jail; do not pass through a courtroom.

The driver involved in the fatal hit and run sped off but police stopped his vehicle an hour later and he has been charged with leaving…..

Gotcha, ya bastard! Go directly to jail; do not pass through a courtroom.

Below is another fine example, plucked only this morning from the ABC’s online news service.

” …. when [police] laid charges against Cleo Smith’s kidnapper..” indeed!

Gotcha, ya bastard! Go directly to jail; do not pass through a courtroom.

All these very good examples of very poor journalism could be fixed in no time at all with just the slightest of tweaks. But you’ve got to know what’s wrong in the first place, so is it too late to turn things around?

Are there enough copies left of David Anderson’s excellent booklet, Pitfalls in the Law for Journalists, to send to those tyros left out there grasping their microphones and hopefully still harbouring some interest in wanting to practise the craft well and not just look good while they do it?

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