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Tips for Journalists Covering Mass Shootings

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For journalists who attended yesterday's #EIJ18 session on covering mass shootings, you'll find the tip sheet attached to this post. The sheet is also a wonderful resource for journalists who didn't attend the session or #EIJ18. Additional resources, including those from Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) and the Society of Professional Journalists, are listed at the bottom.

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Tips for Journalists Covering Mass Shootings

  1. 1. Reporting on Mass Shootings * Resources compiled for Excellence in Journalism 2018 * Mass shootings with at least four victims occur as often as nine out of every 10 days in the United States, according to the Gun Violence Archive. As a result, newsrooms across the country are often tasked with reporting on shootings and their aftermaths. This document hopes to provide journalists and newsrooms with some best practices during those difficult times. General Suggestions: • Journalists should not interfere with active shooter or hostage situations. While the urge to conduct original reporting is strong, journalists can endanger lives by trying to contact people and suspects during active situations. Additionally, journalists should not try to gain access to locations involved in active shooting situations. • The safety of victims and first responders is paramount. News organizations should not report information that would risk people’s lives. • Journalists should be cautious when interviewing victims – especially children – during or immediately after shootings. Interviews may endanger victims during shootings. Additionally, the information is often incorrect. • News organizations should use delays on live broadcasts whenever possible. Active shooting situations are often unpredictable. Journalists, editors and producers have a responsibility to protect viewers and listeners from trauma. • News organizations and journalists should shun, avoid and discourage speculation and the use of unverified information. People rely on journalists for information about loved ones and public safety during active shootings. Journalists must be clear about what is known and what is not known. The public should also be warned that information may change during breaking news events. • News organizations and journalists should not romanticize the suspect or perpetrator through flashy graphics or repeated exposure. The public deserves to know who is suspected of committing such a terrible event. News organizations should feel free to report the suspect’s name and show his or her image, but not excessively. • News organizations should be mindful of the physical and mental safety of their newsroom staff. Journalists, editors and producers should not be put in harm’s way to report on active shooting situations. Additionally, staff should be able to receive emotional and mental health support after covering mass shootings. Additional Resources: Resources from the Dart Center: http://bit.ly/DartMass SPJ Code of Ethics: http://bit.ly/ethicspj Resources from Poynter: http://bit.ly/PoynterMass RTDNA Code of Ethics: http://bit.ly/RTDNAcode RTDNA Guidelines: http://bit.ly/RTDNAguidelines RTDNA Video: http://bit.ly/RTDNAvid

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