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Journalists and the bereaved : constructing a positive approach to the teaching of death reporting

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  • Broadcasting
  • Education
  • Philosophy


The Millie Dowler affair and subsequent Leveson Inquiry have highlighted some of the worst aspects of relations between the news media and the bereaved. It has previously been documented (Duncan and Newton, 2010) that even before the phone hacking revelations reporters generally viewed the death knock negatively and found their role within the tragedy to be ethically dubious. This paper suggests that journalism educators could assume the role of presenting the death knock and subsequent contact with the bereaved in a more holistic, constructive fashion, and considers how the stories that journalists tell about the bereaved become personal narratives of grief. Evidence from journalists, editors and bereaved families is drawn on to support the assertion that death reporting can often be in the best tradition of public service journalism, and should be sited within the more positive, personal aspects of commemorative journalism – ‘a journalism of feeling as well as fact’ (Kitch, 2010). This paper also suggests the relationship between journalists and the bereaved can become much more equitable than current teaching suggests and relates evidence gathered to models of grief and bereavement pioneered in sociology and bereavement counselling.

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