The ABC copped a lot of criticism yesterday for a headline about a truly horrible story of the man charged over an incident that resulted in a dead woman and a critically ill baby. Rightly so.

It’s worth pointing out, however, that the ABC was not the only publication to use this headline. It appears in some form or another on The Herald Sun, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, The West Australian, Yahoo News, 7 News, and many others. The ABC happened to be the first one I saw, but it’s also true that we expect more from the ABC. It is Australia’s most trusted media organisation and it needs to maintain its high standards if it is to keep that trust.

While this site is mostly dedicated to critiquing terrible reporting of men’s violence against women, I should do more to show that not all reporting is as bad as the few that appear in these posts.

For example, the ABC reported yesterday on the horrific story of ongoing violent and degrading abuse 24 year old Wade Richard Burgess committed against his partner while she was pregnant with their child. The headline did everything right. It put the perpetrator at the front of the sentence, made it clear that he had committed violence crimes against his partner and included a comment from the judge that put the nature of domestic abuse into the wider social context, rather than just depicting it as a single isolated incident.

The full article was an excellent example of the very difficult job of court reporting, which requires summing what can sometimes be weeks of complex evidence into 800 plain English words that makes sense of the crime, explains the law and does not erase the victim. Anyone who thinks this is easy should give it a try some time.

Ideally the article should have included helpline details for domestic abuse services at the end, but other than that, it was everything this kind of reporting should be.

If this could become the standard, I would be (very happily) out of a job.

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