The future of court reporting in Australia: open justice, fairness and accuracy

Deb Waterhouse-Watson

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


When Yahoo7 journalist Krystal Johnson caused a mistrial in a high-profile Victorian murder case in August 2016, both Johnson and the online news service received harsh criticism on mainstream and social media. Johnson broke ‘the golden rule’ of covering courts – publishing information from the victim’s social media account which had been withheld from the jury – but in the aftermath of the mistrial, broader concerns were raised about the training journalists receive about covering courts; the impact of budget and staffing cuts; and the future of the court round in the digital age. Today, stories must be filed ever-more rapidly to meet demand for online news, and copy editing is becoming more sparse, or outsourced, so that there are fewer opportunities for experienced eyes to pick up on errors.
Drawing on interviews with current and former court reporters from Victoria, NSW and QLD, conducted August-November 2016, this paper explores some of the ways court reporting practices in Australia have changed over the last decade. In contrast to the portrayal of Krystal Johnson as ‘over-zealous’ and ‘bungling’, the court reporters I spoke to emphasised the need for meticulous attention to detail (greater than other news rounds) and the specific expertise required to do the court round well. For some reporters, concerns about training, budgetary restrictions, and the impact of online media were less immediate than legislation and conventions governing access to information that can impede journalists’ access to information and (in some cases severely) limit what they can print about court proceedings. The paper considers how these factors impact on journalists’ abilities to report ‘fairly and accurately’ on court proceedings. It also evaluates how they affect the administration of ‘open justice’, which is the media’s key role in the Australian legal system.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2017
EventCommunication Worlds: Access, Voice, Diversity, Engagement: Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA) - University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Duration: 4 Jul 20177 Jul 2017


ConferenceCommunication Worlds: Access, Voice, Diversity, Engagement


  • court reporting
  • journalism
  • open justice


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