Much has been written about the Port Arthur massacre, the news of which stopped the nation. Most Australians remember where they were when they heard about this tragedy. Some would say that the change to the gun laws in conjunction with ‘gun buy back’ in the wake of this heartbreaking event is the supreme achievement of Prime Minister, John Howard during his time in office. It is President Obama’s greatest sense of failure that he could not achieve these reforms in the United States of America
At first glance, avid true crime readers rejoice in finding yet another new book in this genre. However a quick read of the excellent synopsis on the back cover will reveal that this is quite an academic book on the ethics of journalism rather than one where the author examines an actual crime and details of the actions of real people. Notwithstanding this distinction, the author refers in detail to aspects of the massacre and the role of those who need to convey its specifics to the general public.
She explores in depth the integrity of those who reported on this tragedy and their rights and responsibilities to both the victims and the perpetrator’s family. How should the relationship between the journalists/writers and the protagonists be constructed? In this book she attempts to determine who owns the information and who has the right to interpret that information and how it will be ultimately used in future publications.
What claims do journalists have to the stories of traumatized individuals and communities? What are the rights and responsibilities of ghost writers? How do ghost writers maintain their integrity while at the same time meeting the needs of the subject? Budding journalists, who need to develop their ability to balance the pressures, compromises and the role of duty of care in relation to disseminating the news in a better than timely fashion will find themselves questioning their own stance on these questions.
Sonya Voumard’s thorough research, involving interviews with all the stake holders except Martin Bryant’s mother who declined the offer, makes ‘The Media and the Massacre’ a thought provoking book for all who question the role of the media in today’s world with 24 hour news broadcast.