Court Reportage (Assessed Reflection)



Look, I know you’ve read so many of these already, or are just about to start, so how about we make a deal?


If you promise to give 100% to reading and marking this, I promise every once in a while I’ll provide you with some of the most useless facts humanity has amassed during its brief period of existence in the cosmos.


Sounds like a fair deal yeah?


Since I can’t actually see or hear you, I’m going to assume you accepted the deal, which is great news!


Ok, I’ll give you one just to warm up and then I’ll start my reflection.




The most frequently named bugs in the Bible are: Locust (24), Moth (11), Grasshopper (10), Scorpion (10), Caterpillar (9), and Bee (4).


Vince Lombardi once said: “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” Albeit a considerably ambitious comparison, journalists would likely follow Lombardi’s words.


Objectivity as a concept is, theoretically, impossible. In spite of this, the pursuit of it should never be given up and, if there’s any situation where the values of fairness, balance and accuracy are strived for just that little bit harder, it would be when considering court reportage.


So delicate is the brain, even the slightest suggestion of guilt or innocence could be enough to tilt one’s opinion of a party, who are entitled to a fair trial if we are to call our democracy a functioning one.


Despite the considerable sway their owning individuals may have over them, The Age and Herald Sun are publications with reporters striving to uphold these values (for the most part) when it comes to court reportage. Combine this with the relatively digestible length of its reports, and they become the most enticing options when considering which publication to write my two court reports for.


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When it comes to explaining why I selected Herald Sun for my Bonacci report and The Age for the jury dismissal report, the best I can offer is my ‘feel’ for both publications. It’s an incredibly abstract concept, I know, but for whatever reason I saw the ‘jucier’ report (Bonacci) as being more suitable to Herald Sun, and the more straightforward report (jury dismissal) fit for The Age. Additionally, it could also be attributed to me reading about Bonacci in the Herald Sun, and the jury dismissal case in The Age.


You can’t inhale through your nose and talk at the same time.


In regards to the angle I selected, I looked to lead with whatever was most attention grabbing, and then delve into the specifics aspects later on in the piece.


In the Bonacci case, Magistrate Daniel Muling’s comment (he hadn’t dealt with an appeal like this in his 20 years in the legal system) was the detail of most importance in relation to ‘pulling’ the reader in, and so it was with that angle I approached the story.


For the jury dismissal report, the jury dismissal itself was the most attention grabbing, even more potent when combined with the fact it’s relating to a private school student, something always of interest when concerning newsworthiness.


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Concerning the main legal implications, these reports, as well as the majority of court reports, take into the account the potential for defamation and contempt of court. In terms of defamation, it always comes down to finding the balance between:

  • The community’s right to a free press and…
  • An individual’s right to an undamaged reputation


This issue was most relevant in the jury dismissal case, specifically the accused’s identity. Though I had originally named the person on trial, it later became clear it would violate a factor:

  • Does it lower a person in the estimation of ‘right thinking people’?


In removing the person’s name, the community’s right to a free press is still being upheld (they are aware of the murder charge and discharged jury), as is the individual’s reputation (through not being explicitly identified).


The Bonacci case was slightly simpler. I just had to make sure everything was as passive as it could possibly be in my reportage, as contempt of court would otherwise be possible when Bonacci faces trial at a later date.


No word in the English language rhymes with ‘month’, ‘orange’, ‘silver’, or ‘purple’.


From an ethical standpoint, it comes back to the tried and true pillars situated at journalism’s core:

  • Fairness
  • Balance
  • Accuracy


As outlined at the beginning of the reflection, if ever there was a situation where these concepts required that little extra adherence, it’d be in court reportage.


To uphold fairness, I had to ensure passive voice was employed throughout. Even the slightest deviation from it could alter one’s view of the accused or the prosecution, thus compromising any judgement they’d receive from the public.


For balance, it came down to structure. In any situation where the Magistrate or Judge spoke, I tried to include the response or the counterclaims of those said lawmaker was referencing. This can be difficult in situations where the parties aren’t allowed or don’t provide a response, but balance must be strived for nonetheless.


For accuracy? Names, charges and comments were a must. I didn’t include any quotes I even remotely doubted, and I called the relevant courts to obtain a court reference number and the names of the people who heard the case in order to cross check my own recounts of the case.


It will never be easy to maintain these standards, but they must be strived for in any piece of journalism, and especially in regards to reportage as delicate as that of courts.


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To take these stories further, the avenues aren’t too complex. For Bonnaci, the best way to follow up would be to attend his trial on the 5th October, while for the jury dismissal case it would’ve been great to attend the trial once it got back underway the next day (ah, the joys of uni timetables).


In summary, court reportage never has and never will be easy. It’s an incredibly difficult balancing act between the public interest and an individual’s right to a fair trial. All we can do in the never-ending journey for perfect objectivity is use fairness, balance, and accuracy as the points on our journalistic compass, and pray to Rupert Murdoch God it turns out alright.




Hey, thanks so much for getting through this, hopefully those facts will come in handy at some point down the line. Its been great conversing with you, even though, to be honest, I feel like I’ve been doing all the talking. If you notice this is a bit longer than the average reflection should be, just take out all the facts as well as this longwinded last paragraph and hopefully it’s more around the mark afterwards.

Thanks again, and hey, here’s one for the road:


The word “queue” is the only word in the English language still pronounced the same way when the last four letters are removed.






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David Zita Written by:

Born and bred in Melbourne, Australia. Passions: AFL, Tennis, Writing, Presenting Goal: Sports Journalist Quote to live by: 'Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.'

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