|Photo: B.J. West|
Anyone who has subbed a UK tabloid journalist's copy will know that Fleet Street has always operated under slightly different ethical standards (as in none) than the rest of the journalistic world. Quotes are routinely manufactured, stories are beaten up to within an inch of their lives and reporters will misrepresent themselves at the drop of a hat if there's a sniff of a front page in it.
It seems now, though, that ethics-free journalism is building a beach-head here. Emailing MPs under an assumed names, reporters at the Herald Sun in Melbourne sought to entrap candidates in the Victorian election over campaign donations and mandatory sentencing.
There have been no denials from the Murdoch camp and Crikey's report on the scandal suggests the attempted entrapment was methodical.
By the way, those outside the industry may be interested to know that there is indeed a formal code of ethics in Australian journalism. This particular writer might be jaded after so many years in the industry, but I would wager that at least 70 per cent of journalists would not know what the code contained and a goodly portion would not even know that it exists.
With respect to the News Ltd hacks' behaviour, it's worth pointing to clause 8: "Use fair, responsible and honest means to obtain material. Identify yourself and your employer before obtaining any interview for publication or broadcast. Never exploit a person’s vulnerability or ignorance of media practice."