Sunday, October 24, 2010

Should the T&T media be more ethical in their coverage of tragedy and grief?

By K. Wilson

How often do you open the newspaper or watch the  7 o'clock news and see the scenes of horrific accidents with the bodies of the victims sprawled out uncovered on the highway, a street or in a drain. What effect does this have on the mother, father, children and other relatives of these victims who would be scarred for life?
For example, a couple of months ago a municipal police officer was shot and killed in an attempted carjacking by bandits along the Uriah Butler Highway near the Grand Bazaar traffic lights. The picture of him lying dead on the road, still holding his car keys, was on the front page of all the major newspapers and shown on prime time newscasts on different TV stations. This was one of the most insensitive coverage of a story that I’ve seen in recent times with reporters going so far as to visit the family at their home in such an obvious time of grief and place a camera and microphone in their faces, asking them asinine questions, such as, how they felt about what has happened. 
I am questioning the ethics of our media and after some research I learned that there really aren’t any established set of rules or guidelines of ethical behaviour for local journalists. However, I looked at the code of ethics for the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), part of which states: Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children. Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief. Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. 
Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance. I wish our local media will take note of this and be more responsible and sensitive in their reporting.

NB: Only Newsday front pages were used in this article as they were the only ones accessible via the local newspaper online archiving system.


Do you think the local media should be more ethical in their coverage of tragedy and grief?



selma said...

coming to think about it, doesn't the SPJ have rules for protecting minors like in the Sean Luke incident? what about the "slappin" that Ian Alleyn covered on his show, where all parties involved are under 18.i saw Mr. Alleyn's clip on Youtube and he asked the boy to identify the other minors my name and there home, the camera person also took footage of the license plate number of the vehicle in the garage. this is the high of irresponsibility. not to mention tastelessness.

Adanna said...

Again...the media is profit driven..the focus of many news houses is to sell the most copies that they can, to be the best among all competitors. Sadly it is done through sensationalism and distastefulness. Ironically the covers used were those of the Newsday which is the most distasteful of all the dailies in Trinidad and Tobago.

Yes the media should be more ethical in their coverage. When dealing with situations like murders, rape, death etc they should be much more sensitive; some horrific details should not be divulged or illustrated but guess what the media won't stop.