For press

Tragedies & Journalists a guide for more effective coverage

September 11, 2001. April 19, 1995.

Everyone knows what happened on the above dates. But you may remember others, too: The day of the storm that killed many people in your area; the day of the fire that killed innocent children; the day that someone murdered someone you knew.

Reporters, editors, photojournalists and news crews are involved in the coverage of many tragedies during their lifetimes. They range from wars to terrorist attacks to airplane crashes to natural disasters to fires to murders. All having victims. All affecting their communities. All creating lasting memories.

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Communicating Bad News A Guidance Pack

This booklet is intended to offer informal guidance in circumstances where journalists, their editors or managers are required to tell next-of-kin of the death of a colleague.

The advice is based on the experience and training of London’s Metropolitan Police. The Dart Centre is grateful to the Met’s Family Liaison Unit for its support.

Neither the Dart Centre nor the Metropolitan Police accept any responsibility for actions or outcomes which may follow from use of this document.

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Covering children and trauma

A dog attacks a preschooler on a playground, severely injuring the child. A father beats his infant son to death. A tornado tears through a community, trapping families in damaged homes. Terrorists strike on 9/11, leaving thousands of children to mourn lost parents.

When children are victims of violence, journalists have a responsibility to report the truth with compassion and sensitivity. Kids aren’t mini-adults; they deserve special consideration when they end up in the news.

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Trauma and journalism

Road accidents and plane crashes. Natural disaster. Famine and war. Crime and murder. Floods. Riots. Child abuse and torture. Rape and sexual violence. Genocide.

And the aftermath of all of those things. Loss. Bereavement. Extreme human distress.

Trauma is at the heart of news — and of the human condition. How it’s reported gives those who weren’t there their first understanding of what a traumatic event means. Personally. For their families and loved-ones. For their community and their nation. Indeed, for the world as a whole.

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