Some useful advice on how to approach 'death knocks'

The 'death-knock' is undoubtedly one of the most challenging aspects of being a journalist.

But however emotionally draining they may be, the role plays an important part in changing a death from a statistic into a story – writes Tony Bonnici on the Journalism Tips blog.

In a thoughtful blog post he has some useful tips about how journalists should approach this duty: “Without doubt one of the hardest, most emotionally draining jobs for the average reporter is the death knock. It is not, as many critics of the press will have you believe, a simple act of voyeurism into grief. If you believe that you are in the wrong job – many do and many leave."

Explaining why 'death-knocks' are important he says: "I genuine believe – as you should – that as reporters what we do is important and can make a difference.

“Of course I am not saying it will prevent all future deaths of a similar nature but in some cases it may help highlight and focus energy on a particular area, for example a rat run, a cycling accident at a junction, an industrial accident, or a murder.

“We are still there to tell a person's story.”

Some of his do's and don'ts.

DON'T

  • Rely entirely on social media
  • Lack confidence
  • Be scruffy
  • Go mob handed to a doorstep
  • Rush a family that is good enough to talk to you because of a deadline
  • Ever offer money for someone's story

DO:

  • Apologise for disturbing them
  • Establish you are speaking to an adult
  • Remember a person did not become important the moment they died
  • Ask for a photograph that best sums up their life.

Read the whole post here.

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