Dealing With The Media After A Homicide

Very Important To Consider

An important point to consider before speaking to the media - always check with the police in charge of your case beforehand, as you do not want anything you say to impact on the police investigation.

The Media

A journalist’s role involves getting all the information they need for the best possible story.

The media can be very persuasive and persistent however it is your choice if you want to speak with them. Journalism, (print, electronic and digital) is based on non-fiction writing.

The journalist has a duty to report facts, not interpret them or judge them. In that context the journalist will always try to get a counter view or comment so as to indicate the story has balance. Family members have no control or influence over this.

The media may try to contact families through social media such as Facebook and Twitter and will not always identify themselves as media.

Remember, it is your decision to speak with the media and you should not be put under pressure. Whilst a ‘Journalist Code of Ethics’ exists, it is not legally binding and is not exclusively adhered to by a journalist.

We in the Homicide Victims' Support Group have a great relationship with many journalists - if you would like us to help you to decide on who to speak to - we will be very happy to help you - alternately there are some journalists that we would definately recommend against - due to past negative experiences.

Confidentiality

Be careful with information shared with family and friends in ‘confidence’ - they may not have the same level of understanding of the issues as you and if approached by the media it may present them with an opportunity to sound knowledgeable and important.

Be aware of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. They may be good mediums for instant communication but can easily get out of control. Whilst you may try to control your input you have no control over the input of respondees and commentators.

While it is true that you cannot defame a dead person, the family can be greatly hurt by the uncontrolled, ill-considered and sometimes vicious comments others make.

Consider other family members, particularly children with the same surname. Some family members may not want the wider community to be aware of the event or their connection with the facts.

When you are at court and during the breaks be aware what you are saying, even when talking on the phone. Whatever you say could be picked up by the media.

Speaking to the media before the matter has gone to court may jeopardise the case, seek advice from the police or HVSG before going ahead.

Before you speak with the Media

The media will be even more determined to find information if they have nothing at all so sometimes it can be beneficial to give them a short written statement or say few words.

Be aware that any photo you give them will be used continually.

Although you might want to tell your story, it is likely journalists will have their own angle or reason for doing a story – this makes it ‘news’. If there is a message you want to get across, make a point of telling them. Remember they are doing their job and work for an editor of a media outlet.

You can ask journalists to show you what they have written although there is no guarantee this will happen. Ask them who else is being interviewed, what other information will be supplied, will they be showing a re-enactment of the crime etc before making your decision to participate

If possible give an interview by email or tell them you are recording a phone interview so you can correct details later. Be aware that although they may spend considerable time interviewing you, they may only use parts of it.

They may seek an ‘exclusive’ from you, this restricts you from providing information to other media sources.

Ask for a list of questions in advance so you can prepare yourself. Practice before giving an interview and make notes. Focus on three key points and do not veer off the topic.

Remember nothing you say is ever off the record. Only speak when you are ready. Correct misinformation immediately – contact the media source and the editor directly.

Making A Complaint

The power of the press and the news media generally cannot be underestimated in their ability to both inform and inflame public opinion.

If you are offended, or think the reporting of a situation is not fair or balanced, you may want to express your concerns directly to the station or newspaper.

To complain about a serious breach, you may want to make an official complaint to the relevant authorities listed below.

Codes of Practice & Statement of Principles Print Media have a Statement of Principles developed by the Australian Press Council.

Commercial Television and Radio both have their own Code of Practice which provide guidelines for meeting community standards.

Australian Press Council Print Media have a Statement of Principles developed by the Australian Press Council and these principles are used when considering complains. Phone 1800 025 712 or 02 9261 1930 Email complaints@presscounsil.org.au Website www.presscouncil.org.au

Australian Communications & Media Authority ACMA is responsible for the regulation of broadcasting, the internet, radio communications and telecommunications. Phone 1800 226 667 or 02 9334 7700 Website www.acma.gov.au Address Level 5, The Bay Centre, Pirrama Rd Pyrmont NSW 1230