Both Zoe Edwards and Brad Markham are good reporters. And Tasmania is lucky to have them as we head towards elections at all levels of government in the next year.
But there is a point where ‘neutral’ journalism is not the same as reporting the truth and with so much controversial legislation in front of the Upper House we especially need the truth.
The debate over the role of journalism – neutral vs truth telling has been going on for ages with a focus put on it in the USA particularly in the last year or so.
The argument is essentially this:
Neutral journalism is the stating of someone’s views as they come out of their mouths or media releases with no commentary. This means any fact checking must be undertaken by the opposing spokesperson or the reader/viewer of the piece of journalism. This rarely works at conveying truth as most of us are too lazy to bother and anyway the news cycle moves at a cracking pace these days meaning follow up stories are lost.
Truth in journalism means the journalist fact checks the statements made by the spokesperson before they go to print/air and corrects them where they are wrong within the story.
This doesn’t happen in Tasmanian journalism and the fall out will be seen very clearly if the Terminations Bill fails to make it past our esteemed House of Review in the next several weeks.
Surely when a seasoned politician such as Jim Wilkinson is allowed to state without correction that the proposed bill allows abortions up to 38 and 39 weeks, that is poor and untrue journalism?
A fact check shows that an abortion at 38 and 39 weeks would never be performed by a legitimate doctor in any state in any country in the developed world, let alone Tasmania where abortion performing doctors are limited to terminations at 12 weeks by practicality before we even get to the question of whether it is safe for the woman.
In fact the proposed legislation would put a gestation limit into law for the first time in Tasmania. If you want to play ‘neutral’ with the truth, it is current legislation (put into existence with the vote of Mr Wilkinson in 2001) that allows abortions until the day of delivery.
Mr Wilkinson knows how to play the game with Tasmanian media and he is using it to his advantage on this issue, same sex marriage and euthanasia. He can state what he likes and never be called out as lying.
Imagine a Tasmania where we turn on the radio or pick up the Mercury, read or hear what both sides have to say on an issue and then get the cold, hard facts to help us see where each side’s bias lies.
That is real, healthy journalism. And that is what Tasmanians need right now.
*Nicole McBride helped to write the issues paper that led to the introduction of the Termination legislation when working with Family Planning Tasmania. She worked as a journalist many years ago in a different country, has worked as a PR operative in Tasmania for 18 years and is currently a communications professional with a not-for-profit.
• Tom Baxter: Nelson MLC’s abortion law claim: alarmist and extreme moral panic “His claim about the law is wrong, alarmist in the extreme, and fear-mongering,” Mr Baxter, Greens candidate for Nelson, said. “This sensitive topic deserves rational debate. He is entitled to oppose laws for marriage equality, dying with dignity and decriminalising abortion. But his extreme claim of ‘the ability of a woman to terminate as late as 38 weeks on social or economic grounds alone’ goes too far. It is wrong.” … “I challenge the member for Nelson to produce a single Tasmanian specialist in obstetrics or gynaecology who would call such belief reasonable, then perform a termination at anytime approaching 38 weeks on social or economic grounds alone.” … Dr Kevin Bonham described the comments as amongst “the silliest thing said by anyone even remotely prominent in the [abortion] debate so far” • Here