Visiting faculty testimonial: Judith Townend

Read Erasmus Mundus scholar Judith Townend's report on her scholarship visit, which took her from City University London to the University of Technology, Sydney.

2014.06.06 | Bettina Andersen

Erasmus Mundus scholar Judith Townend, City University London

Overall the visit provided a wonderful and rewarding opportunity to discuss media legal issues and the problems faced by journalists and researchers alike, and meet staff and students at City’s Erasmus Mundus partner, UTS. I am extremely grateful. 

The stories coming out of the Australian courts will be familiar to UK journalists and researchers: concerns about the number and nature of reporting restrictions in criminal and civil cases, the under-resourcing and pressures of daily court reporting, and the challenges for opening up legal information online. My Erasmus Mundus trip to the University of Technology, Sydney enabled me to directly compare the experiences of court reporters and researchers in the UK and Australia, drawing on City University London’s ‘Open Justice in the Digital Era’ project two years previously.

A highlight and focal point was the ‘Justice Open and Shut’ event on 4 June 2014, hosted by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ) at UTS, which examined suppression orders and court reporting in the digital age. Attended by media and law students, as well as legal and journalism researchers and practitioners, the seminar heard from academics, working court reporters (revealing the worrying practice of ‘silent listing’ of cases in one magistrates’ court), lawyers and a judge.

Associate Professor Tom Morton, director of the ACIJ at UTS, and Professor Mark Pearson, Griffith University, described how they had successfully gained permission from the Mental Health Review Tribunal to name a forensic patient in an ABC radio documentary and their own research.

My own paper discussed the communication and recording of reporting restrictions in the UK, drawing attention to a recent proposal for a restricted-access reporting restrictions database and public online list of cases with active postponement orders.

The visit provided time for discussions with Professor Wendy Bacon, visiting fellow at UTS, who had helped me with the original visit proposal, and award-winning journalist and lecturer Sharon Davis, whose research on court reporting and suppression orders had inspired the UTS seminar.

I was introduced to Erasmus Mundus Master’s students who, despite looming deadlines for their coursework, found time to tell me about their experiences on the course and future plans. I also met lecturer and journalist Helen Vatsikopoulos, who visited City University London as part of the Erasmus Mundus exchange earlier in the month.

There was also a chance to meet Dr Catriona Bonfiglioli, a senior lecturer in journalism at UTS (and former Erasmus Mundus participant), the chief executive officer of the Rule of Law Institute Australia at UTS, Kate Burns, and Professor Lesley Hitchens, Dean of UTS Law School and a specialist in media policy and regulation.

I managed to squeeze in visits to the University of Sydney (to speak about my doctoral research on defamation and privacy), and the University of Melbourne, for a New Media Entrepreneurs conference, and meet Dr Margaret Simons and Dr Denis Muller at the Centre for Advancing Journalism. Denis, with whom I am collaborating on a forthcoming conference paper, very kindly arranged meetings with journalists and a lawyer to assist with my Australian research, for which I am very grateful – another highlight of the trip. I will be reporting my comparative findings in more detail at the IAMCR conference in July.

Overall the visit provided a wonderful and rewarding opportunity to discuss media legal issues and the problems faced by journalists and researchers alike, and meet staff and students at City’s Erasmus Mundus partner, UTS. I am extremely grateful to City University London for giving me this academically stimulating experience, the Erasmus Mundus journalism programme for facilitating and funding the visit and to UTS colleagues for their hospitality and generosity with their time at a busy time of year.

 

Judith Townend, City University London, was an Erasmus Mundus Visiting Scholar at University of Technology, Sydney, from 26 May to 6 June 2014.

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