The Media and the Massacre

By Sonya Voumard Transit Lounge

Sonya Voumard’s The Media and the Massacre is a chilling portrayal of journalism, betrayal,  and storytelling surrounding the 1996 Port Arthur massacre. Inspired, in part, by renowned American author Janet Malcolm’s famously controversial work The Journalist and the Murderer, Voumard’s elegant new work of literary nonfiction examines the fascinating theme of ‘the writer’s treachery.’ The author brings to bear her own journalistic experiences, ideas and practices in a riveting inquiry into her profession that is part-memoir and part ethical investigation.

One of her case studies is the  2009 book Born or Bred? by two prominent journalists – Robert Wainwright and Paola Totaro – about the perpetrator of the Port Arthur massacre, Martin Bryant, and his mother Carleen Bryant. Carleen sued, and received an undisclosed settlement, over the best-selling book’s use of her personal manuscript.

In the lead-up to the 20th anniversary of the Port Arthur massacre, The Media and the Massacre explores the nature of journalistic intent and many of the wider moral and social issues of the storytelling surrounding the events and their place in our cultural memory.

Sonya Voumard

Sonya Voumard is a journalist, author and academic whose work has been widely published in major Australian newspapers, magazines and literary journals. Her first novel Political Animals, published in 2008, was inspired by her time as a political correspondent for the Age in Canberra. She has lectured for many years in creative nonfiction and journalism at UTS where she recently graduated with a Doctorate of Creative Arts, which explored the ethics of storytelling. Her most recent works have appeared in Griffith Review and Meanjin. She lives in Sydney.

Judges' report

Twenty years after the Port Arthur shootings, Sonya Voumard returns to this catastrophe and the way it was reported. A journalist herself, Voumard takes the reader through what it is like on the ground, and the decisions that are involved, in reporting from a major event as it unfolds; she also focuses her attentive eye on the relationship between Carleen Bryant, the mother of the murderer, and the two journalists who used her personal manuscript in a bestselling book about the perpetrator, an action that would result in a legal settlement. The Media and the Massacre interrogates both the practice of journalism and the effects on those who are the focus of journalistic attention. It is a searching inquiry into the ownership of stories that also charts significant changes in newspapers and the journalistic profession over the last decade. It’s both a compelling story and a humane and scrupulous investigation into the responsibilities of journalists.

Further reading


‘[Voumard ]is frank and exhaustive in the search for answers, openly grappling with the temptation to delve deeper and the risk of re-traumatising her subjects… Voumard interviews a wide network of people, and intersperses extracts from the public record with her own experiences as she revisits landmarks and reflects on the trauma of the massacre. The result is a compelling and engaging book that speculates on the role of the journalist and more widely on the industry itself, raising questions that linger in the mind of the reader.’ Anaya Latter, Readings

‘A  fascinating case study in media betrayal… An intelligent reflection on the two faces of journalism: a noble pursuit of truth and an exploitation of individual rights.’ Carol Middleton, Australian Book Review