Guidelines for Amber Alerts
Television and radio stations should provide the information necessary for the safe return of a missing child. News staff should insure information is factual and detailed and carefully evaluate its validity before going on the air.
News staff should find answers to the following questions when making decisions to broadcast or stop broadcasting an Amber Alert:
News managers should meet with the state or local agency charged with the responsibility of issuing Amber Alerts. Broadcasters should have an understanding of the criteria agencies will use and understand how and when Amber Alerts are issued in their area.
News managers and producers should determine the circumstances of an Amber Alert abduction. States have different criteria for issuing Amber Alerts. Each station should establish its own criteria for determining how to broadcast them. Consider the following questions. Is it a parental abduction? Is it a domestic dispute? Is the child in danger? If the child is in danger, every effort should be made to provide the needed information to the public as quickly as possible.
When an Amber Alert is issued, news managers and producers should determine if the Amber Alert is relevant to their area. Is there a possibility the abductor could be in or traveling through your viewing/listening area? Can a photo be shown on the air? Can you direct your audience to a website to see the photo? Every effort should be made to use a photograph.
News managers and producers should be aware of the technical systems their station would utilize in broadcasting an Amber Alert. For television, will you break into programming or simply run a crawl? Does the system you utilize to create crawls allow use of a photograph? In radio, is there a source of sound you can obtain quickly that can aid in getting the information out?
Photographs provided by law enforcement or family members to aid in the Amber Alert search should be used by the broadcaster if the photo might aid in the return of the abducted child.
If, after the child is located it is determined that the abduction involved possible sexual abuse, photographs and/or video of the child should not continue to be aired. The name of the child also should no longer be used. Every effort should be made to protect the child's identity once sexual abuse is involved.
News managers and producers should determine if their continued participation in broadcasting a particular Amber Alert is beneficial to the public. Evaluate whether continued coverage is necessary.
Created by the Radio Television Digital News Association Ethics Committee.