Christina Rolles, Head of Communications at The Lullaby Trust, talks about how the charity can support journalists reporting on sudden infant deaths.
The sudden and unexpected death of a baby is a shocking and tragic event and in recent times, a rare occurrence. This means that there can be sometimes be media attention surrounding the circumstances of a death and the family involved.
While reporting on a death is in the public interest, it is important to remember that these are families who are going through immense trauma and are extremely vulnerable. The manner in which the death of their child is reported can have a tremendous impact. When done well; media coverage can help a family to feel supported by the wider community and potentially help raise awareness. However, sensationalist and inaccurate reporting can cause much additional hurt and grief.
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), sometimes known as cot death, is when a seemingly healthy baby dies and no cause is found. There can be a lack of understanding around the processes that take place after a SIDS death so is important that journalists understand these so they can report on any death accurately.
It is a requirement in the UK that all sudden and unexpected infant deaths are reported to the Coroner and the police. The police will investigate all sudden infant deaths. In some regions it will be the Child Abuse Investigation Team that investigates sudden infant deaths. This is standard procedure so does not suggest that there is any wrongdoing.
Similarly, an inquest is common practice if the cause of death remains unknown. Parents may be called as witnesses and the purpose is to find out who died, how and when and to further establish the cause of death.
To assist journalists to report on sudden infant deaths sensitively and accurately, we have put together some guidelines in consultation with several bereaved families who have experienced media coverage of their child’s death which we hope will be helpful to journalists writing about this topic.
The Lullaby Trust’s five top five key pieces of advice for journalists reporting on a sudden infant death are:
If you are writing an article about SIDS or a sudden unexpected death in infancy, The Lullaby Trust can offer support by:
Contact The Lullaby Trust Communications team on 020 7802 3202 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About IPSO's external resources page
This page lists organisations that offer guidance and advice for journalists and others, along with numbers of press offices, which you may find useful for articles you are writing on a variety of topics.
Journalists are not obliged to follow the guidelines, which are separate to the Editors' Code of Practice, but may find it useful to refer to this information when reporting on sensitive and challenging issues.
It is not an exhaustive list and we hope the page will grow organically as we become aware of new or other resources which may be of interest to journalists. If you are an organisation, and would like information to be featured on this page, please contact Standards Officer Rosemary Douce at email@example.com