Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CPSU), Charles Sturt University
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Communication and Arts
This paper makes a case for a review of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (NHMRC, 2007a) and/or its accompanying documentation to more clearly acknowledge the beneficent role of journalism as an academic methodology and to resolve issues that currently force journalism academics to work around, rather than through, their universities’ Human Research Ethics Committees. In recent years the case has been made that, in addition to being a profession governed by an explicit, internationally-recognised ethical code, journalism is also a valuable academic research methodology (Lamble, 2004; Pearson & Patching, 2010). There are problems with this though, encapsulated in Richards (2010) description of ethics committees and journalism researchers as “uneasy bedfellows”. Richards argued that while, broadly speaking, ethics committees work well, requiring journalists to work slowly in sync with the cycle of committee meetings and to get signed consent from every interviewee, and to empower them to withdraw their comments at any time, can be seen as a form of censorship. Developments in this area include the establishment, this year, of a new peer-reviewed journal called Research Journalism that acknowledges the difficult relationship between ethics committees and academic journalists and seeks to provide a forum for publication of academic papers using journalism as a methodology, in doing this it is bringing these long standing difficulties into focus. The other major change is to do with Excellence in Research Australia and how it is handling the work done by academic journalists. This paper acknowledges that work needs to be done within academic journalism to better define and promote journalism research, but it also makes a case that better dialogue with and between ethics committees is needed to resolve impasses that can, and do, arise.