OPINION: We need to talk about how Melissa Hoskins' death is being covered.

Two weeks ago 32-year-old Melissa Hoskins died after being hit by a 4WD ute near her family's home in Adelaide.

The vehicle was allegedly being driven by her husband - Rohan Dennis.

According to The Australian, it was about 8pm when Melissa was allegedly dragged for sometime along the street.

She died from her injuries in hospital, leaving behind two young children just five days after Christmas.

Melissa died days after Christmas. Image: Instagram.


Rohan was charged with dangerous driving causing death as well as driving without due care and attention and endangering life.

Melissa's death was plastered across every news site in the country - including ours - and even made its way abroad. 

Because Melissa and Rohan were both champion Australian cyclists who have represented our country at the Olympics.

Because they, and their children, were the picture of a 'perfect' Aussie family whose lives have now been upended by tragedy.

Because the details being shared - the fact they were supposed to attend a belated street Christmas party that night. The fact Rohan shared a happy snap of the beaming family on Christmas Day. The fact they were planning to buy a vineyard in the Adelaide Hills - all reveal a sinister juxtaposition to the shocking way Melissa died, and the alleged crimes involved. 

We don't yet know the details of how and why Melissa was hit by that car on that night. A court of law will determine that. There's no denying the newsworthiness of this story, but what the widespread coverage has shown us is that we still don't know how to report alleged violence against women. 

Choosing images of the couple on their wedding day alongside headlines about Rohan being charged over Melissa's death, adds a strange romantic overtone to a story about an alleged crime.


Choosing to label Rohan as a 'world champion cyclist' in headlines, but only refer to Melissa as 'his wife' as if to remind people that he (not she), is an important and revered Australian figure. 

These are just two frequent examples of the subtle, yet troubling way this story is being covered. 

A minute silence for Melissa at the weekend. Post continues after video.

Video via AusCycling

As Director of the National Women's Safety Alliance, Katherine Berney, wrote for Women's Agenda, "the subtext of all of this, of course, is to say 'this is a complete aberration, this is a nice guy, an OLYMPIAN no less, we need the whole story. This should never have happened.'"

We don't yet know if this alleged crime is domestic violence - that hasn't been confirmed. But regardless of whether it is or not, gender biased media coverage is alive and well.

We are not claiming to get this right 100 per cent of the time ourselves - writing about alleged crimes like this is nuanced and tricky. But at Mamamia we write a lot of stories in this space, and we do our best to make sure we're helping to change the way these stories are told.


Now, more than ever, it's important to call out biases, troubled language and subtle ways the media is contributing to the problem. We will be keeping an even closer eye on our own coverage in 2024 - because often the 'mistakes' are seemingly innocent.

The problem is - every romanticised image, and every slightly swayed headline is doing a disservice to women. 

We don't yet know the circumstances that led to Melissa Hoskin's devastating death. We just know her husband has been charged with dangerous driving.

Regardless, we owe it to Melissa to centre her in her own story.

On December 30, two kids lost their mum after she was struck by a ute allegedly being driven by their dad, on their street. She was an Olympic champion. According to friends she had an infectious smile and a wicked laugh. According to family she had a big heart, a freewheeling spirit and a zest for life.

As this story unfolds, don't forget to read the headlines with a critical eye.

Because we still aren't getting this right - even after decades reporting about alleged crimes involving women.

Feature image: AAP/Joe Castro.