If ever court reporting was a minefield for any self-respecting journalist to cover for their media masters, it has become so much more dangerous with the reach of social media.
The new-generation media has also presented a myriad of headaches and practical and ethical problems for media managers as well.
It is now a case of double jeopardy for reporting police and court items.
A few weeks ago police were warning that online comments could jeopardise the case against Adrian Bayley, the man accused of raping and murdering the Melbourne ABC reporter Jill Meagher.
Facebook pages, blogs and tweets were raucous with condemnation, with comments and with conversation about it. You cannot but sympathise with the emotional trauma the murder of the Irish-born woman prompted. The outpouring of grief was understandable.
But what prompted the cautions was not the emotional connections, but the legal risks they posed for the court case against Ms Meagher’s alleged killer.
Some have incited hatred, while others were disgusting in the sorts of messages they sought to portray.
Media outlets too have had to wear the sometimes nasty, ugly and emotive spewing of invective and bile by people who want to comment on news stories and the subjects of news articles online. In many cases, as in the case of The Leader, we have had to block access to some stories, simply because they’re like a red rag to a raging bull.
Stark raving mad doesn’t adequately explain some of the rants we receive from readers intent on wreaking havoc and hatred.
The advent of social media, and the rapid speed with which it can be used, not least by newspapers and media outlets to post breaking news items, has presented us with a conundrum.
Nowhere was it more accentuated than with the arrest of a former Catholic priest yesterday in Armidale on 25 charges of child sex abuse against three girls, dating back to 1975 and spanning some 13 years.
While some information was being circulated early in the day, by the time the court case was heard, there were suppression orders in place which posed a quandary for media and necessitated the removal of earlier reports.
For many it represented a case of “What to do now?” because it’s like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted. The fact that interstate blogs are carrying items with no heed for the court orders makes it all the more bizarre.