Kirsty Strickland: The benchmark has been raised for equality and responsibility in reporting

This article was originally printed in the National Newspaper on 11 December 2015.

IT was Human Rights Day yesterday and, fittingly, also the date of the Write to End Violence against Women Awards. Politicians, women’s groups, and media representatives all came together to reward this year’s successful batch of forward-thinking journalists and bloggers.

The coverage in the build-up to this year’s awards successfully encouraged discussion about the potentially harmful impact of careless reporting of violence against women. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, as the saying goes.

We look back on media norms from the past with a shake of the head and a weary sigh. It’s hard for us to imagine now how certain things were ever acceptable – 16-year-old page three girls being an uncomfortable and relatively recent example.

Practices become ingrained and accepted throughout newsrooms. If we aren’t to rely on hindsight in the future then we need to work to speed up positive change; to give responsible newspapers like The National our support for working to be better; and to tell the ones that fall short that we are over the Jeremy Kyle-style reporting, the ogling and the gore.

We’ve grown up a bit as a nation and we know that this isn’t the standard that should be accepted in 2015.

By giving their backing to The Write to End VAW Awards, The National sent out a clear message that they credit their readers with intelligence and maturity.

The deaths of women at the hands of their partners needn’t be sensationalised and salivated over.

Victims of rape don’t need their worthiness held up to the court of public opinion for verdict. This paper has trusted that people will read and care about these issues without the need for the tried-and-tested tabloid formula.

It is my hope that the New Year sees other Scottish newspapers pledge their commitment to responsible reporting of violence. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time writing for The National and have been heartened by the feedback I have received from readers in response to my articles.

Violence against women isn’t a subject that is always guaranteed to be well received.

Warmest congratulations to all the winners and to those shortlisted. The awards are down to the hard work and vision of Zero Tolerance and their partners. It is right that we celebrate them. Let us hope that in 2016 their benchmark is the one that all journalists use.

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