autism in the media

Reporting on Autism in the Media

Recently two people who are well-known one within the fashion world and one in the cooking world both took their own lives. I won’t name them out of respect for their families. 

Yesterday two programs on the ABC discussed the reporting of these people within the media. 

You can watch a clip from Media Watch here

The guidelines around reporting suicide are laid out here

This post isn’t going to discuss suicide, but it got me thinking.

Are there any rules and regulations like they have around reporting on suicide around reporting on autism?

I emailed the Australian Press Council who provided me with a statement on principles. You can read it here.

In particular points one to six which come under the headings of 

  1. Accuracy and clarity
  2. Fairness and balance
  3. Privacy and avoidance of harm
  4. Integrity and transparency

The point of this blog post is to highlight that whilst there are some guidelines in place, they are general and we do not have a specific set of rules laid out for reporting on stories where autism is involved ie. the Melbourne school kid who was attacked by spanners outside a school, or the tragic shootings in Margaret River. These are merely guidelines and not a set of rules around the reporting of autism within the media. 

Take the Margaret River shootings for one moment. I’m sorry if this is going to trigger anything for anyone but I just wanted to highlight my point. 

Whilst the story is a tragic one indeed, not once was the fact that the children were autistic and if it was it wasn’t the main headline. Instead they focused on the tragic events and reported what had happened. 

But one reporter went so far as to use the headline “Good bloke, shot wife, daughter and her four kids then himself”

— The Sunday Telegraph, 13 May, 2018

The reporter was slammed by various other journalists and others and you can read about that here

So isn’t it about time that we had a set of rules and regulations that journalists have to abide by when reporting on Autism much like they do with suicide? I’m sure they have other sets of rules for reporting on sexual assault, or race hate crimes.

I don’t like to see inaccurate stories about autism being written and I am sure that you don’t either. 

So maybe it’s time that we changed that? 

It’s something that we probably need to talk about…


 In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14 and the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 and the domestic violence help line is on 0808 2000 247Other international helplines can be found at