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Guide to Reporting on Tragedy
April 13, 2023
Reporting on tragedy is a difficult task for any student journalist. Unfortunately, death is a part of life. Some people might argue that obituaries or coverage of a death in the school community is “not appropriate.” As a journalist, it is your responsibility to report the news of your school. Losing a school community member, whether it is a student, a teacher or another staff member, is news. Covering the life of someone lost is not only appropriate, it shows compassion and it acknowledges them as a person. Choosing to leave them out of the school newspaper or yearbook erases them from your school community. The bottom line is that when someone dies, everyone in your school community will know it happened and will be talking about it. Choosing not to cover it is like choosing to pretend it didn’t happen, which is not the job of a journalist.
Creating a Policy
It is really important to have a policy in place for how your publication will handle the death of a student, teacher or staff member in your school community. They are important to cover and should not be ignored. These tragedies will elicit strong emotions, which make it difficult to make important reporting decisions in the moment. Thinking through a policy ahead of time, allows cooler heads to prevail in the face of really difficult emotions.
Eagle Eye News Policy
- Any current student, staff member, faculty member or building administrator that dies during the year will be recognized in the school media.
- The media will publish factual information (date of birth, date of death, survivors, organizations, hobbies, interests) in a 300-word obituary including one mug shot if possible in The Eagle Eye and eagleeye.news.
- The school media will work to obtain permission from the deceased’s family before publishing any information regarding the cause of death, if permission is not granted, the editorial board reserves the final say in publication of cause of death. Suicide will not be listed as a cause of death.
- The school media will treat all deaths in a tasteful, respectful way.
- An issue, or portion of an issue, should not be dedicated to or in memory of the deceased.