There is a lively conversation about how journalists should cover traumatic events, and it’s time to harness that energy to facilitate change.
Wednesday’s post about the movement to omit the names and images of gunmen from news stories elicited a strong online response. People offered their various opinions on how journalists should cover traumatic events. While those opinions differ, responsible journalism is the shared goal.
The Society of Professional Journalists works each day to encourage and promote responsible journalism through its Code of Ethics, which is widely viewed as the industry’s standard. The reason it’s so widely accepted and referenced is that – at least in its current form – it’s the result of hours of discussions, public input and review.
The same rigor that serves as the foundation for the Society’s code should be applied to the conversation surrounding the coverage of traumatic events. The result will be an evidence- and practice-based document that provides journalists with guidelines for covering events spanning from suicides, natural disasters, domestic terrorism and mass shootings.
In the coming months, I’ll be working to bring together a group of journalists, journalism organizations, news organizations, ethicists, researchers, victim rights advocates and key interest groups. My hope is that the group will meet in person over two days to discuss best practices and create the document. Then, it will be open for public comment and discussion before its final adoption by members of the working group.
Then, an education campaign will be needed to disseminate the guidelines and inform journalists of their importance.
This will not happen overnight, however. To ensure this process is a success, there will need to be a lot of work and cooperation between different people, groups and organizations. I hope to have an update soon, and that will be posted to this blog.
If you’d like to be part of the working group, please feel free to sign up for more information below: