Profiling: Journalism 2.0

One of the funny things about the growing popularity of social media – particularly MySpace and Facebook – is the way the mainstream press is now relying on information gleaned from profiles to sensationalise their stories.

Every time a celebrity, athlete or multi-million dollar heiress gets a little bit of media coverage for something  the media are quick to delve into their online profiles for compelling pictures and anecdotal evidence to make the case against them.

The same goes for “alleged” arsonists. The name of the one man so far charged over the fires in Victoria has been released.

As soon as the name was released the muckrackers journalists in newsrooms around the country were no doubt scanning MySpace, Facebook and their ilk looking for information. Then you start getting stories like this. Based solely on reactions on the social networks. Then there’s this quote from the Daily Mail in the UK:

“Arson suspect Sokaluk is said to have worked as a gardener at Melbourne’s Monash University, but had lost his job amid rumoured mental health problems.

His page on a social website shows an uneducated man looking for love. Alongside a photo taken of himself in a mirror, Sokaluk writes: ‘Sex sells but love larst for ever.’

Writing about himself he says: ‘I’m a young happy male who wants to meet a young loven female to marrid.’

As to who he would like to meet, he writes: ‘Like to meet my sole mate not some old hag.’

He says his favourite TV shows are CSI, cops, documentaries and ‘histery’.”

No doubt all the spelling mistakes were included to show just how intelligent this guy is. Not very. Clearly. Here’s his MySpace profile. I hate MySpace. He also hates books. They put him to sleep.

Profiling – using ethnicity, assumptions based on the nature of a crime, and psychological profiles, to catch bad guys is one of those murky areas – it works, but it’s not politically correct. Particularly the ethnic profiling stuff.  But the profile of an arsonist I posted last week pretty much stacks up with what is in the public sphere about this guy. He even mentions Mother Nature, and is reported to have been rejected by the volunteer firefighters.

“My hero is mother earth  –  with out her we all would be dead.”


Amy says:

Not quite on topic but I wanted to ask you (thinking you probably know what with the law and journalism studies and all) – what are the legalities of a journalist naming someone in spite of a suppression order?

The Courier Mail ‘outed’ this person (by name and photograph) on Saturday and as far as I know the name was suppressed until yesterday.

Nathan says:

I think, and I did get a high distinction in media law, that the Victorian court’s suppression order only has jurisdiction in Melbourne. It’s like the case with Underbelly – how it wasn’t allowed to be shown in Victoria.

That rule probably needs to change with the global nature of the media.

Nathan says:

Here’s an article from the Press Council.

Nathan says:

That article wasn’t hugely relevant – just dealt mainly with why suppression orders fly in the face of the principle of an open court.

Nathan says:

Here’s a post on Suppression orders that basically makes the point I was making but better.