Journalism in Australia

Journalism in Australia

The professional practice of Journalism in Australia varies from international standards in areas as diverse as legal freedoms and editorial practices.


Most of the published material in the first twenty years of the New South Wales colony was to inform residents of the rules and laws on the time. These were printed with a portable wooden and iron printing press. Since half of the convicts of the time were not able to read, it was compulsory for these notices to be read at Sunday church services. [ [ "Publishing in the NSW colony"] , "Australian Government Culture and Recreation Portal"]

On 22 November 1800 George Howe arrived in Australia. Nicknamed "Happy", George was born in the West Indies, although his father had been a native of Ireland. [ [ "Australian Festival of the Book"] , "Booktown"] In London George had worked in the print industry for several newspapers including "The Times", but was sent to New South Wales after being charged with shoplifting, a crime which was also punishable by hanging.

In March 1803 Howe started production on Australia's first newspaper, "The Sydney Gazette". While much of its content was government notices, there was also an abundance of news to report in the burgeoning colony. An extract from the paper about the first Koala to be captured told of the "graveness of the visage", which "would seem to indicate a more than ordinary portion of animal sagacity". [ [ "Pig Bites Baby!: Stories from Australia's First Newspaper"] , "Sydney Morning Herald", 12 April 2003]

One newsgathering technique Howe used for local content was to hang a "slip box" outside the store where the Gazette was published to let the public suggest stories. Because of the country's geographic isolation, international news arriving via arriving ships was usually printed 10 to 14 weeks out of date.

The "Sydney Gazette" was the only paper published until 1824 when William Wentworth began publishing the colony's first privately owned newspaper, "The Australian" (no connection with the current paper of the same name, which was established by Rupert Murdoch in 1964). [ [ "Wentworth, William Charles"] , "Bright Sparcs", 26 July 2002]

The Australian Journalist's Association (AJA) was formed in 1910 and registered federally in 1911. [ [ "Australian Journalists Association (i)"] , "Australian Trade Union Archives"] Ten years later in 1921 the University of Queensland became the first Australian institution to offer a diploma of journalism. [ [ "Bachelor of Journalism (BJ)"] , "University of Queensland"] The AJA was amalgamated in 1992 into the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance. [ [,display/Itemid,27/catid,13/ "What is the Alliance?"] , "Alliance Online"]

In 1956, Ampol Petroleum founder Sir William Gaston Walkley established Australia's most prestigious Journalism Awards, the Walkleys. [ [ "History"] , "The Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism"]

On October 16 1975, five Australian journalists, now known as the Balibo Five, reporting on the invasion of East Timor (then Portuguese Timor) by Indonesia were murdered at a house in Balibo. The journalists, from both the Nine Network and the Seven Network, were killed by Indonesian soldiers after recording footage which proved Indonesia was behind the conflict, as opposed to the claim it was an internal Timorese coup. [ [,23599,20894895-2,00.html "The day the military murdered our boys"] , "", 9 December 2006]

Paul Moran, an ABC cameraman from Adelaide became the first Australian journalist to die while covering the Iraq war in March 2003. He was killed while working when a car bomb near him exploded. [ [ "ABC Pays Tribute to Cameraman killed in Iraq"] , "ABC", 23 March 2003] The ABC foreign correspondent working with Moran, Eric Campbell, survived the explosion and went on to write about the incident in his book "Absurdistan". [cite book
last = Campbell
first = Eric
authorlink = Eric Campbell (journalist)
title = Absurdistan
publisher = HarperCollins
location = Sydney
pages = 317-334
id = ISBN 0-73-227980-1

Legal protection

Australian journalists are more vulnerable to defamation action than many of their international counterparts. Fact|date=January 2008 Australia lacks both a bill of rights and any specific or explicit rights to freedom of speech in the Australian constitution. [ [ "Would a Bill of Rights improve the quality of Australian journalism?"] , "Online Opinion", 15 November 2000] The 2006 Reporters Without Borders survey ranking the countries of the world in relative press freedom listed Australia as number 35 behind Ghana and Mauritius. Australia's score of nine had increased greatly since scoring a much better three in 2002. According to the Australia's Right to Know campaign, a collaborative effort between all major Australian media publishers and outlets, major causes in the decline of press freedom include anti-terrorism legislation (Australian anti-terrorism legislation, 2004 and Australian Anti-Terrorism Act 2005), sedition laws, [ suppression orders] and Freedom of Information requests. [ [,23599,21705229-2,00.html Nation's media giants fight for free speech] , "", 10 May 2007]

Implied freedom

In 1992 the High Court of Australia saw the case of Australian Capital Television Pty Ltd v Commonwealth, concerning a decision the previous year which inserted Part IIID into the Broadcasting Act 1942. The resulting regulations banned political advertising during Federal, State or Local elections. There was some free time provided for political messages, but 90% of this was allocated to parties in the previous government. A majority decision found in favour of Australian Capital Television, ruling there was an implied right to freedom of political communication in the constitution.

cquote|the system of representative government created by the Constitution, or at least the text of sections 7 and 24, necessarily requires for its efficacy that the Australian people are able to discuss freely matters relating to Australian government. [ "The State of Play in the Constitutionally Implied Freedom of Political Discussion and Bans on Electoral Canvassing in Australia"] , "Australian Parliamentary Library", 1997] |20px|20px

The 4-3 decision of the Theophanous v Herald and Weekly Times Ltd case two years later enforced the previous ruling to the extent of validating the constitution's implied freedom of speech as a defamation defense, however this would not last.

Lange v ABC

In 1997 the High Court heard the case of former New Zealand Prime Minister Lange v Australian Broadcasting Corporation on the rulings of the Theophanous and Stephens v West Australian Newspapers. "While the judges unanimously confirmed the existence of an implied constitutional freedom of political speech, they did not cite it as a defense against defamation action by politicians."cite book
last = Conley
first = David
authorlink = David Conley
title = The Daily Miracle
publisher = Oxford University Press
location = Melbourne
pages = 11
id = ISBN 0-19-551374-6

Since Australian law does not currently accept the implied freedoms as a defamation defense, Australian journalists facing slander or libel must use common law defense. This involves the defendant proving that they:
* did believe defamatory imputations were true
* undertook reasonable steps to confirm the accuracy of defamatory information
* had reasonable grounds for a belief that defamatory imputations were true
* included a response from the defamed person, except where this was seen as not practical or was unnecessary


Many Australian universities provide journalism and communication courses. The majority of new Australian journalists have a tertiary education in the field. In 2000, seven of eight cadetships given by the Age were given to those with a journalism degree. The following Australian tertiary educational institutions provide Journalism courses:

* Edith Cowan University, Perth []
* Bond University, Gold Coast []
* Charles Sturt University []
* Deakin University []
* Griffith University []
* James Cook University, Townsville []
* , Brisbane []
* La Trobe University, Melbourne []
* Monash University, Melbourne []
* Queensland University of Technology []
* Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology []
* University of Queensland []
* University of South Australia []
* University of the Sunshine Coast []
* University of Wollongong []
* University of Technology, Sydney []

Public perception

A 2004 Roy Morgan Research survey of journalists and the public about the practice of journalism in Australia showed that Australians are generally sceptical of the ethics of the media. Some results include the following: [ [ Media Credibility Survey] , "Roy Morgan Research"]

"How would you rate these professions for honesty and ethical standards?"

"Do you believe that..."

ee also

* Australian Broadcasting Corporation
* Media of Australia
* List of newspapers in Australia
* Journalism
* Journalism education
* Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
* Media Watch
* Walkley Awards


External links

* [ Official Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance Website]

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