Penny O'Donnell

Journalism and justice

This paper focuses on Australian media coverage of deaths in custody to examine critically the circumstances that encourage or discourage journalists from addressing questions of justice in the coverage of stories which are self-evidently newsworthy but often ignored by corporate news media. The analysis develops within recent scholarship on the globalisation of professional journalism, particularly Waisbord's (2013) approach to analysing change in journalism's occupational logic and ethics, and Craig's (2009) evaluative framework for news coverage of justice-related stories. Using three case studies of Australian media coverage of deaths in custody, the paper argues that Australia's pluralist media system both encourages and discourages questioning of the ethics of professional journalism, consideration of issues of justice, and adaptation of certain news values and reporting techniques to meet new circumstances. The forces for change and inertia in journalism coexist and are neither equally visible nor powerful.

Keywords: change in journalism, deaths in custody, ethics, justice, professionalism


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Note on the contributor

Dr Penny O'Donnell is Senior Lecturer in International Media and Journalism at the University of Sydney. Her most recent publication, Journalism at the speed of bytes (2012), co-authored with David McKnight (UNSW) and Jonathan Este (Walkley Foundation), examines the future of professional journalism in Australian newspapers.