The death of an individual is a matter of public record and their death may affect a community as well as those who knew the individual personally, says IPSO. Journalists have a basic right to report the fact of a person’s death but the Editors’ Code of Practice is clear that in cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. The Code also has specific rules about reporting suicide.
There has been considerable discussion of the reporting of deaths and inquests this year, often in response to breaking news of serious incidents. In response to this discussion, and questions from editors and journalists, IPSO have produced guidance on this topic.
The new guidance contains a framework for editors and journalists as well as relevant case studies. It encourages editors and journalists to consider key questions in line with the Code on a number of issues including the reporting of inquests; coverage of funerals; writing obituaries; and considerations around reporting the breaking news of a death.
The guidance is aimed at editors and journalists. However, says IPSO, members of the public may find the guidance useful in understanding the editorial decision-making behind these sensitive stories.
Charlotte Urwin, Head of Standards, said: “Among the most difficult requests from journalists for pre-publication advice that IPSO receives are those relating to the reporting of deaths, and there are specific considerations which editors and journalists must take into account when doing so.
This guidance provides editors and journalists with a framework for thinking through these questions. We hope it will be used by editors and journalists at all our 2,500 online and printed publications to support their work”.
Links / further reading: read the full guidance here.