chapter  13
12 Pages

Law and ethics

ByCAROLE WATSON

It may not seem as important for fashion journalists to grasp media law and ethical codes of conduct as, say, reporters covering Crown Court trials or carrying out news investigations into corruption in high places. But covering the catwalk or commenting on the hot spring trends can take

a fashion writer into dangerous legal and ethical territory which could cause your employer reputational damage or even cost them thousands of pounds in fines or damages. You may be the best interviewer and writer in the world, with the brightest

style ideas, but a good grounding in media law and ethics is essential, particularly in this post-phone hacking and post-Leveson landscape. Further, you cannot assume, as a fashion journalist, that you may not

become involved in breaking news stories with legal and ethical implications – the Kate Moss cocaine allegations, the terrible suicide of Alexander McQueen and the John Galliano anti-Jewish diatribe immediately spring to mind. When the two planes hit New York’s Twin Towers on September 11, 2001,

the no-fly zone meant it was impossible for British newspapers and magazines to fly in experienced news reporters to report on the unfolding atrocity. Instead, they turned to their fashion journalists, already in Manhattan for

New York Fashion Week, to roll up their sleeves and pitch in. Some rose to the challenge and worked tirelessly round the clock on the grim news event. Others froze. A week later, Guardian fashion journalist Charlie Porter wrote an article

headlined ‘Catwalk to carnage’, reflecting:

Should I have gone down there when it happened? It is the question that has been troubling me these past days stuck in New York. My hotel is in Gramercy Park, about 50 blocks north of the site of the World Trade Centre. With hindsight, I know that I could have started to report straight away. But at the time it never even crossed my mind. I

stayed in my hotel watching the news and not leaving my room until it was over.