Sallyanne Duncan, Jackie Newton

A better death in a digital age: Post-Leveson indicators for more responsible reporting of the bereaved

Reporting death has always been a controversial and sensitive subject for both the bereaved and journalists, but after revelations from the Leveson Inquiry of poor ethical behaviour towards the bereaved this form of reporting is likely to come under greater scrutiny. Research indicates journalists would welcome further guidance, particularly in relation to using social media. The bereaved also would appreciate a more equitable relationship with the media. Through interviews with journalists and bereavement groups, this paper explores their views on the effect the Leveson Inquiry might have on reporting bereaved people, lessons that can be learned, and on any measures which could be adopted in the future.

Keywords: death reporting, bereaved, death knock, Leveson, ethics, regional press


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Note on the contributor

Dr Sallyanne Duncan is Programme Director of the MLitt Digital Journalism course at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland. Her research focuses on reporting trauma, suicide and mental health, and bereavement, particularly concerning the individual family. She has published on narrative styles in death reporting, the ethics of reporting women asylum seekers, ethics codes for bloggers, and with Jackie Newton on preparing novice journalists for the death knock and the use of social media in death reporting. Her doctoral thesis examined the pressures placed on, and the processes undertaken by, journalists who cover large-scale disasters and personal traumatic experiences. Email:

Jackie Newton is a senior lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University and a former print reporter and editor. A psychology graduate with a Master's in educational management, she is particularly interested in journalists' relations with the bereaved and associated sensitive interviewing. She has published on bereaved families' varying responses to news media intrusion and written papers and a book chapter on death reporting with Dr Sallyanne Duncan of the University of Strathclyde. She has also worked on journalism education initiatives with the Merseyside branch of Support After Murder and Manslaughter. Email: