2020 RTDNA Edward R. Murrow Awards Celebration

Coverage guidelines we hoped you'd never need

May 16, 2018 01:30

NEW: Join the RTDNA Ethics Committee July 18 for a live discussion of ethical coverage of mass shootings. It's guidance we hope you never need, but important to plan for. Register here.

They’re among the most traumatic breaking news stories a journalist may ever cover. One too many of us have had to report on, perhaps even more than once:

Mass shootings.

We can’t help but be affected when these tragedies take place in our own communities. In a school whose halls we’ve walked. A house of worship whose pews we’ve sat in. A mall where we’ve covered holiday shopping and done our own.

When a shooting takes place in your community, it’s sure to be a difficult and emotional time for everyone – including journalists working in your newsroom to provide desperately sought information.

And, as in any breaking news situation, reporting accurately and completely may be particularly challenging.

After a mass shooting has occurred is no time to be trying to reason through the difficult ethical decisions such coverage warrants.

Ensure your newsroom is prepared by planning ahead, even – especially – for the kinds of situations we hope never to see.

Start with our coverage guidelines for mass shootings.
While these guidelines are not meant to provide a definitive answer for every possible scenario, the will guide your newsroom in developing your coverage plan for these catastrophic events, including:
  • How to ensure your own and others’ safety on a scene.
  • How to apply our Code of Ethics’ guiding principles of accuracy and transparency when much is unknown or uncertain.
  • How to put information in the appropriate context.
  • How to avoid the contagion effect.
Study these with your newsroom. Develop your plan. We hope you’ll never need to use it.

RTDNA's series of nearly 40 coverage guidelines is designed to assist journalists and newsroom managers with ethical and operational situations from native advertising and avoiding conflicts of interest to covering race, children, crime and more. 


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