Sensitive Journalism

 

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By Casey Bukro

Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists

Allowing for time to grieve, journalists in Plymouth, England, are taking a break from interviewing relatives of six people, including a three-year-old girl, killed in a mass shooting in the port city in southwest England..

Instead, the local Plymouth Live website and newspapers are focusing their coverage on the five victims who lived in the city of 262,100 population. England, with some of the world’s strictest gun control laws, has not seen a mass shooting since 2010.

“This is more than a news story for us,” digital editor Edd Moore told the Press Gazette. “We’re local people who live in and around the city and I’ve never known an incident that has had quite such a profound devastating impact on the city and quite frankly it’s just one of those where the residents deserve the space to grieve….”

As a result, local reporters have decided to forego the usual practice of knocking on the doors of the bereaved for interviews.

“We all know people who are affected by this,” said Moore. “So as far as decision-making goes, it didn’t even feel like a decision to us — it’s just doing the right thing.”

Plymouth Live also declined temporarily to use a photo of the 22-year-old shooter, who killed himself. And though social media was flooded with footage from the shooting scene and unverified information, Plymouth Live decided against using any of it until reliable information is available.

Moore added: “Our readers appreciate the fact that we’ve been as sensitive as we possibly can be in our reporting of this. It’s just reinforced to me how important it is to listen to your readers and…consider what you would want to read if you were affected yourself.”

Americans too, are touched indirectly by this tragedy. In 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers departed Plymouth, England, for the New World and established Plymouth Colony, the second English settlement in what is now the United States of America.

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The Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists was founded in 2001 by the Chicago Headline Club (Chicago professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists) and Loyola University Chicago Center for Ethics and Social Justice. It partnered with the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2013. It is a free service.

Professional journalists are invited to contact the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists for guidance on ethics. Call 866-DILEMMA or ethicsadvicelineforjournalists.org.

 

 

 

 

 

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