Assessing coverage of the Bruce McArthur case

The role of the journalist and the public interest are interesting factors when assessing the coverage of the Bruce McArthur case. The necessity to sell a story that will be popular to readers and the necessity to further your own journalistic career can often get in the way of the important facts of a story. After speaking with Karen Fraser, it was found that journalists had been wrong about a number of facts, one suggesting that the serial killer Bruce McArthur was related to her husband, another had mixed up which piece of land he had owned. While it’s important to take into consideration that in today’s age of online news many journalists are under time pressure, these facts can prove to be detrimental and vitally important pieces of information to a story. The journalist needs to take into consideration his own morals and ethics when thinking how incorrect facts can affect somebody else’s situation.

In R.M Vaughan’s article, ‘Bruce McArthur, Gay Culture, and the Questionable Tone of Media Coverage’ he states that, ‘We would be equally ill advised to allow homophobia to creep into said discussions of consensual fetish sex or to read the sexual elements of the McArthur case as being unique to the LGBTQ community.’ While this may not be a direct and factual journalistic mistake, it is arguably equally as harmful. The journalists in question are conforming to societies general ideology that the gay community are regularly active in these activities and that they are ‘sexual deviants.’ On one hand, it is an important facet of the story to mention that McArthur was involved in BDSM with his victims. On the other hand, some journalists will be too focused on this one aspect, to the point where it undermines the rest of the story.

This in turn goes back to the idea of what public interest is. Yes, the public should know that consensual fetish sex was the method used by Bruce McArthur to commit these crimes. However, the journalist should not be adding fuel to the fire in a way that is going to suggest homosexual stereotypes and homophobic ideologies. The Ethical Journalism Network states that, ‘Just because the public is interested in something has nothing to do with whether it is in the public interest.’ This statement concludes the fundamental argument of this essay. While it is your duty as a journalist to enlighten and inform the public. The hard facts are far more important that satisfying public ideologies and selling a popular story.

Categories: Essays

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