Guidelines for Authors of AOD Media Watch

The aim of AOD Media Watch is to encourage balanced and evidence-based media coverage of Alcohol & Other Drug (AOD)-related issues. For this to be effective, the authors of AOD Media Watch need to both engage the community in the reporting of AOD-related issues and also enhance the integrity of journalistic coverage of these issues. This requires the author to tread a fine line between being a little edgy, possibly using intelligent humour to engage the community, while not personally attacking journalists – it is important that authors are respectful to the journalist and focus on the content of their work. Similarly, AOD Media Watch is not aligned with any political party so articles should be bi-partisan, focusing on correcting misinformation, highlighting how the journalist could have presented the information in a way that would be less stigmatising, or how the piece could have effects that unintentionally increase harm to the community. In doing so, it is important that the reasons for suggested amendments to an inaccurate or unsatisfactory post should be supported by evidence. In this way, we are providing journalists with constructive feedback. Articles should be between 400 and 800 words in length and written in a way that a lay person could understand. They should have a key thesis that is adhered to throughout the article.

AOD Media Watch seeks to foster a spirit of collaboration with the media, to provide constructive feedback, and to be a resource that journalists return to over and over. With this in mind, when writing a response to an article, AOD authors should use this checklist:

  • The current focus of AOD Media Watch is on stories that a) stigmatise (such as through language, salacious tone, dehumanisation of subjects) and/or b) misinform (including only providing one side of an argument). Only stories that meet one or both of these criteria will be accepted for a response on AOD Media Watch.
  • When you have an idea of what you want to say, contact AOD Media Watch with a brief summary of your main points. Two AOD Media Watch reference group members will assess your proposal against the above criteria to endorse your submission.
  • Responses should be no more than 800 words in length and written in a way that the layperson can understand. Once submitted, they must be peer-reviewed by two reference group members before publication. Rather than single out one article/journalist/media outlet, seek to identify a worrying trend and reference a cluster of stories that apply. Link to these and name the outlet rather than the journalist; exceptions being opinion articles, in which instances journalists may be named. Maintain a tone of respect.
  • AOD Media Watch is bipartisan and not aligned with any particular political party, so responses should reflect this.
  • Not every media outlet has an interest in providing harm-reduction advice, but your response could be an opportunity to provide it.
  • Pick your battles. When assessing a misinformation or stigmatising article there will be some really obvious points to hone in on… and then there are the pedantic things that even our own team might not have total consensus on. Making too many points dilutes whatever the most important message is.
  • Finally, it’s also good to praise whenever the piece gets something right.
  • When your response has been peer-reviewed and is ready to be published, email a copy to the journalist whose stories you referenced. This is out of courtesy and offers the journalist an opportunity to reply, but can also be used as an opportunity to offer AOD Media Watch as a resource for their future articles.