Fiona Giles, William Roberts

Balancing acts and narrative ethics in Anna Krien's Night games and Helen Garner's The first stone

Ethical challenges in Helen Garner's The first stone (1995) and Anna Krien's Night games (2013) derive from the common obstacle the narrators face in failing to interview key actors in their narratives. As literary journalists, both use self-reflexive, first-person perspectives, aiming to provide a 'compassionately involved point of view' (Giles 1995); and both are challenged to maintain equal levels of such compassionate involvement, due to the complainants' silence at the heart of their stories. In contrast, full access to the defendants sets the stage for a skewed account. Additionally, the sexual, cultural and legal complexities swirling around cases of sex abuse create political challenges for their feminist narrators; and Garner and Krien invite opprobrium for not abandoning their task. This paper explores the ethical dilemmas encountered by these authors by focusing on their attention to fairness, transparency and compassion. We conclude they provide opportunities for interpretive balance by persisting in dialogue despite silence, exemplifying an ethics of care deriving from feminist, dialogical and narrative traditions.

Keywords: journalism ethics, narrative ethics, literary journalism, narrative nonfiction, feminist ethics, Helen Garner, Anna Krien


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Note on the contributor

Dr Fiona Giles is a Senior Lecturer and the Chair of the Department of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney, where she teaches feature writing and creative nonfiction. Before taking up her current position in 2005, she worked in publishing, editing and journalism. Fiona has also published in feminist and literary studies, and is a member of the Advertising Standards Board (Australia), which reviews ethical dimensions of advertising. Her most recent article is 'The magazine that isn't: The future of features online', TEXT Special Issue 25: Australasian magazines: New perspectives on writing and publishing, Williamson, Rosemary and Johinke, Rebecca (eds) April 2014.

Dr William Roberts wrote his doctorate at Sydney University on 'Mapping nonfiction narrative: Towards a new theoretical approach to analysing literary journalism'. He was awarded the best research paper by a graduate at the 2014 Conference of the International Association of Literary Journalism Studies, and currently works as media advisor to an Australian Federal Member of Parliament.