Reporting Ben Cousins issue crossed boundaries

Reporting Ben Cousins issue crossed boundaries

JOURNALISTS commit themselves to four core principles governing their Code of Ethics: honesty, fairness, independence and respect for the rights of others.

It is therefore the responsibility of journalists to consider these principles carefully when reporting the news.

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It was most disappointing to see that the ongoing mental health issues of former football player Ben Cousins are still being reported across various media outlets.

It is particularly disturbing to hear Ben’s behaviour being described in such terms as “a Hollywood saga gone wrong”.

It is comments such as these that maintain the stigmatisation of mental health challenges facing many people in our communities.

It is not fair or respectful that Ben Cousins’ profile as a former AFL player is the reason to report on the state of his mental health.

How can he and his family rebuild their lives when the media continue to disrespect his right to privacy and show images of him in his Eagles football kit whenever he is involved in a public incident?

It may be a different matter if Ben Cousins was being interviewed by media as a mental health advocate to share his personal journey.

That may be helpful in delivering powerful messages to those experiencing similar challenges and reinforcing the fact that mental health issues are not confined to any particular profile in the community.

However, the recent media attention on Ben Cousins crossed ethical boundaries because he was at his most vulnerable and was not in a position to defend his actions.

To those journalists who reported on Ben Cousins I ask, how would you feel if someone you knew with a mental illness was the subject of media scrutiny?

–Julie Crews

Dr Crews is a lecturer in Business Ethics Edith Cowan University’s School of Business and Law.