Defamation and reputation in the Australian press

Journalism Education Association
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Journalism Review, 2006, 28 (1), pp. 125 - 142
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This paper reports on a comparative study of four types of Australian newspapers' coverage of defamation and related issues. This was part of the National Defamation Project conducted at the Communications Law Centre in Sydney, 2002- 20051 . I t was found the press gave limited coverage to defamation, focusing on court cases and newsworthy personalities' reputations, and provided scant contextual background about defamation issues. Howevel; the media soften satirical reporting ofprominent cases, and its populist discourses generally, can be argued to have liberalised attitudes to reports of potentially defamatOl), personal behaviours and "lifestyles" (such as sexual orientation). Current Australian law fails to reflect public altitudes as indexed by the press. Culturally, the distinction between private morality and public virtue is breaking down. Reputation is a narrow concept in the press. and increasingly appears to be an asset only ofthose who are already rich orfamous
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