Bereaved journalist to outline death-knock plan to PCC

Journalist Chris Wheal is to meet representatives from the Press Complaints Commission next week for talks on how the press could modify its behaviour to improve the reporting of deaths.

Next Monday’s meeting comes a month after Wheal blogged movingly about being on the receiving end of widespread press attention after his nine-year-old nephew Jamie Bray died in a tragic accident on a rope swing.

Wheal, who acted as his family’s press point-of-contact after his nephew’s death, had previously suggested the Editors’ Code of Practice could be changed when it comes to dealing with the bereaved.

That recommendation came after he revealed that journalists contacted his family even though they had asked to be left alone and that one publication even then offered money for their story.

In an extensive blog post today, Wheal outlines a number of suggestions he aims to put to the PCC to help better inform bereaved families about dealing with the press.

Wheal suggests that a standardised leaflet, an example of which he has drafted, could be prepared to help families. Police liaison officers, often the first point of contact after a tragedy, could also be trained to outline possible press interest, he says.

In addition, Wheal has suggested bereaved families be put in touch with someone with media experience who can act for them and advise them on collating the information that the press might find useful.

“Grieving families with little or no experience of the press need to be given a better understanding of how journalists work and the stories they seek,” he wrote.

“They need to be told in plain language that the press is supportive, wants to help, wants to pay tribute to their loved one.”

Wheal said a series of pre-determined categories could be established to enable the press to understand the wishes of the family.

The press advisor could then be used to communicate to the waiting media the terms under which the bereaved wished to deal with the media.

A full breakdown of the proposals can be found on Chris Wheal’s blog.

A spokesman for the PCC said: “We look forward to meeting with Chris Wheal next week and informing him about the public service the PCC provides as well as listening to any suggestions he would like to make.

“Many people already use the PCC’s services to deal with harassment and to take advice. The PCC works closely with the police, government departments, family liaison officers, coroners’ courts, bereavement help groups and many others.

“We promote our services wherever possible and full details are available in dedicated leaflets already provided by the PCC and on our website.”

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