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Handling Media

Unlike other losses, the grief associated with a homicide is no longer private. When a homicide occurs, it quickly becomes public information; in fact, some families endure the horror of finding out through TV, the internet or the radio etc. that their loved one has died – before the police have even notified them. Homicide investigations make news headlines, so as a victim of crime you may find yourself at the centre of media attention.
You might want to share your story with the media as part of your recovery process, to help the police catch the offender, to raise awareness of crime or for fundraising purposes. But you might also find the attention of journalists intrusive and upsetting — especially as you are trying to come to terms with what has happened.

With every type of crime, reporters have to be careful about what they report on, in case they say things that could affect the result of a trial in court. As a victim of crime, you also have to be careful about what you say publicly. For example, you might say something that a court decides would make it impossible for the accused to get a fair trial, which could lead to the case being dropped.

Some points to consider:

  • Journalists are under pressure to air stories and if they cannot speak to the victims’ families, they will often speak to friends or others associated with the case who don’t have accurate information. Victims of homicide may overcome this by releasing a statement from the family; speak with the Police officer in charge of your case before you do this.
  • The media can sometimes assist in police inquires but the attention may be intrusive. For example, they may follow you home, pretend to be someone other than the media, sit outside your driveway, take photos etc. when you are grieving, or you may hear or read something about your families and friends that is disturbing.
  • Once a photo has been released to the media, they have the authority to use this photo to support other stories, and the families will have no control over how and when the photo may appear. If families are unhappy with a certain photograph or video extract of their loved one being aired, they have the right to contact that media outlet, and ask to replace that with another of the family’s choice.
  • Families have the right to negotiate editorial rights over their story. Some magazines/newspapers offer this, others don’t. It is recommended that families negotiate this upfront, with a view to approving the final copy before it runs to print, this means there are no surprises when the story is aired. The media do not always have your best interests in mind.
What can I do about media attention?

Here are some helpful suggestions to guide you:

  • Nominate someone you trust to speak on behalf of the family.
  • Use an answerphone to filter calls.
  • Decide with the family and friends what information you want to share with the public.
  • Discuss with police/family liaison what photos you want to give to the media.
  • Do remember any footage of photos/videos that you allow the media to use can be used in the future.
  • When possible, ask police to notify you of media releases they are making before they release them to the media.
  • If you choose to speak with the media, ask for any questions in advance and ask to check if being recorded.
  • If you choose not to speak to the media, then you can simply say ‘no comment’.
  • Be aware of incorrect information given by friends or others that is disturbing.
  • Remember there is no such thing as ‘off the record’ – media will use anything you say at any time.
How can QHVSG help with the media?

QHVSG offers the following services for its members in relation to dealing with the media:

  • Assistance with writing press statements (usually following the crime, or the trial of the offender)
  • Court support volunteers available during court to liaise with the media on your behalf, either to refuse interviews, or to organize a one-off press statement on the day
  • Management of a “Preferred Journalism List” – this includes contact details for those Journalists only who have demonstrated tact and compassion when reporting on sensitive issues such as homicide
  • Support and guidance on how to deal and work with the media

Journalists are bound by a Code of Ethics. Click on the links if you are concerned about how you are being treated by media practices.

Print and digital media codes can be found here
Radio codes of practice can be found here
Television codes of practice can be found here

If you have any complaints regarding the media’s behaviour, you may direct them to:

The Australian Press Council
1800 025 712

Australian Communication and Media Authority
1800 226 667

Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance
1300 656 512

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