All citizens have the potential to be caught up in a situation which will render them vulnerable to the media; some of the most serious implications are for those who lie at society’s margins. Such individuals are especially vulnerable to journalistic exploitation or misrepresentation, with the attendant risks of public embarrassment, humiliation or psychological trauma. When dealing with society’s most vulnerable, journalists are walking a tightrope between reporting as comprehensively and accurately as possible and treating their news subjects with respect and dignity. The paper argues that professional codes do not provide sufficient guidance through the ethical complexities inherent in this situation, and refers to an Australian project which has demonstrated that reporting with sensitivity and understanding does not mean muting the journalistic voice. The paper concludes that, when the marginalised become news subjects, it is important for journalists to minimise harm to the greatest extent possible and, in those cases where harm occurs, to be able to justify it in ethical terms.
Recommended CitationRichards, I., Managing the margins: how journalism reports the vulnerable, Asia Pacific Media Educator, 19, 2009, 14-22.