The story of John and Jennifer Deaves aired on Nine Network’s 60 Minutes program on 6 April 2008. Titled ‘Forbidden Love,’ it was concerned with genetic sexual attraction or GSA. The report’s poor ethical standards have attracted widespread criticism, including; the omission of relevant available information, use of misleading language, and the interviewing of children, all measures designed to present the story in a particular soft way, even though the material is highly controversial and deals with issues of legality and morality. This case study will highlight unethical standards in the report, discuss effects on stakeholders, and suggest better professional practice.
The story defined GSA as “an attraction that develops between people who, generally speaking, have not been raised together and don’t have a taboo”. The consensus of viewers and commentators was that the story was presented in such a way to present GSA as a common and normal, as opposed to illegal and immoral - although admittedly “many” people would find it so. Clause one of the Media Entertainment Arts Alliance (MEAA) code of ethics states that journalists should: “report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all relevant facts”. A number of key facts were omitted from the story. In the interview the couple gives the impression they had but three brief encounters before they fell in love eight years ago. Mr Deaves ex-wife shortly revealed the couple had been in continual contact since Jennifer was 15. Journalist Andrew Bolt suggests this exposes an incestuous predator rather than a GSA victim: “Overton hid, ignored or overlooked facts that showed Deaves might have groomed his daughter when she was still a child, and that harm he’s caused since with his incest might have in fact been deadly”. Although now the parents of toddler Celeste, the couple had another child that died shortly after birth of a congenital heart defect. This was omitted from the...
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