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Michael Gawenda on The Journalist as Betrayer


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In her book The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcolm argued that if they are honest with themselves, most journalists know that ultimately, they betray the people they cover. What did she mean? Is she right? Do people who have been the subject of media coverage invariably feel betrayed?

Michael Gawenda has been a journalist and editor for four decades. If Malcolm is right, he has betrayed scores of people. After the Black Saturday bushfires, Gawenda led a research team that interviewed survivors of the fires who had suddenly found themselves in the media spotlight. Did they feel betrayed? Gawenda talks frankly about his personal experiences with people whose lives he exposed to public scrutiny—some of whom undoubtedly felt betrayed- and about the findings of the bushfire research.


Michael Gawenda

Michael Gawenda is a former editor in chief of The Age. He is a Walkley Award winning journalist, columnist and former foreign correspondent. He is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Journalism at the University of Melbourne. He is the author of American Notebook, A Personal and Pol... Read more


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