Since we launched our Family Court Reporting Watch we’ve been trying to work out the best way to achieve the desired results – better reporting of family law and cases in the family courts. It’s been a bit of a learning curve and we’re continually adjusting our approach.
When material is published online it can travel fast. That means that inaccuracies or misleading narratives can be all over the place before we’ve got our boots on. So we think it’s really important that we respond as soon as possible, in the hope that our corrections or explanations or alternative views can keep up or at any rate be not too far behind the original story as it whizzes around on social media.
But we also know that in the long run the better way to achieve the desired result is to help journalists do it better in the first place. So it’s important that we build relationships, and that we try not to be patronising or humiliating or just plain rude.
There’s a tension there. We’re not sure we’ve always got it right – and certainly some of the journalists we’ve criticised or asked to correct things are not sure we’ve always got it right.
Whilst we won’t generally wait for a correction to be made before we publish a blog post, we will always do our best to notify the journalist or publication in question of our post and of what we would like to happen. To that end we’re trying to build a network of contacts so we can get the message to the right person as swiftly as possible – but it isn’t always immediately obvious who should be contacted. Some journalists publish their twitter handle on their web profile associated with a particular newspaper, other’s don’t. Some publications have a reader’s editor, others a web form for “complaints” (we don’t view all our feedback as a complaint). What isn’t always available is an email address for the individual journalist, which would be the surest way of ensuring that the person we are criticising or making a request of has seen what we say and can respond promptly.
At the end of the day we are not journalists, although I hope we are gaining an increasing appreciation of the practical difficulties of the journalistic endeavour. We know that the job of a journalist is tough, and whilst we think it is not too much to ask that they do it with balance and accuracy, we do recognise mistakes are made and that people have different takes on things.
We’d quite like to hear from individual journalists about how you think we should raise issues with the work of journalists – where is the balance between courtesy and prompt and public challenge? And have we got the balance right? What could we change or do more / less of?
You can feed back to us by commenting on this blog post, by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org – or by coming to an event we are planning to hold in the early part of 2017 to launch the Media Guide we have put together to help journalists with their family court reporting, provisionally titled :
Reporting the Family Courts – Are we doing it justice?
A collaborative discussion between those working in and reporting on the family justice system.
Feature Pic (Carrot nose) courtesy of Ben Husmann on Flickr – thanks!