Mosque killer dilemma: To name or not

The Christchurch mosque terrorist has a name which will live in infamy, and present the New Zealand news media with an enormous dilemma.

It is increasingly evident that the killer of 51 innocent people (and the wounding of 40 more) is determined to keep that name in front of the public. The best means of doing so from his isolation cell in the Prisoners of Extreme Risk Unit at Auckland Prison is through the courts. That automatically draws in news media that have an obligation to cover his interactions with the justice system.

Last week the only man in New Zealand ever sentenced to life imprisonment without parole used his right to judicial review. He applied to have his designation as a “terrorist entity” removed and changes made to his strict prison conditions.

An announcement by the Justice Ministry that his request would be heard in the High Court at Auckland on Thursday was duly reported and it was apparent some were news media were struggling with the dilemma they have faced since 15 March 2019: Should they give him the publicity he so desperately craves? In particular, should his name be published? Continue reading “Mosque killer dilemma: To name or not”

Reality check: Life has a deadline

Journalists are no strangers to death. They write about it with professional detachment…unless they are writing about one of their own.

I was sitting at my desk when I read an online story – reported with that professional detachment ­–about a body found in the surf.

The Northern Advocate reported on its website: “Tragedy has unfolded at a popular Whangārei Heads surf beach with the discovery of a man’s body in the water earlier this afternoon. Northland Police Senior Sergeant Shane Turner said a man of European descent and around 65-years-old was found dead in the surf at the southern end of Ocean Beach, around 35km from central Whangārei, shortly before 1.13pm.”

I read it with the same detachment I would have employed if I had written the story. It’s an approach that is central to unbiased reporting. It’s also a defence mechanism for journalists to avoid the cumulative effects of witnessing grief.

Continue reading “Reality check: Life has a deadline”