This week saw the third and final meeting of our Journalists’ Advisory Panel for this year. As so often in September, I am left reflecting on how quickly the year has gone by – and I can’t believe that we have finished our meetings for the year already!
The final meeting is also a chance to reflect on just how far the panel has come since it first met in January and the important contribution it has made to a number of IPSO’s projects.
The nature of our work means that we often speak to senior editorial staff at the newspapers and magazines we regulate. We recognised that the one voice we didn’t always hear was that of journalists working below the level of editor, so in response we set up the Journalists’ Advisory Panel (as well as a Reader Panel to work in conjunction).
There are seven journalists on the panel, representing national and local newspapers, as well as magazines. It’s a place to discuss the many issues that face journalists today, which range from how to ensure compliance with press standards or wide ranging debates about the future of journalism.
Already, the panel have made a difference to how IPSO works. Their comments on the social media guidance we published earlier this year were extremely valuable in strengthening the guidance and making it practical for journalists working in newsrooms today.
At the meeting this week, we talked about how to report deaths and inquests whilst complying with the requirements of the Code. There’s been considerable discussion of how deaths should be reported in recent months, particularly following tragic events such as the Grenfell Tower fire and recent terror attacks.
In response to this debate, and at the request of the panel themselves, IPSO developed some draft guidance on this topic which the journalists discussed at the meeting, which we’ll be publishing shortly alongside the guidance on reporting featuring transgender individuals and social media guidance that we made available earlier this year.
Journalists recognise this is a challenging area. The fact of someone’s death is not private; deaths affect communities as well as individuals, and are a legitimate subject for reporting. However, deaths and inquests are by their nature often extremely emotional situations. Journalists should show sensitivity towards individuals in a state of grief or shock. Reporting should be handled sensitively and appropriate consideration given to the wishes and needs of the bereaved.
The discussion on Tuesday demonstrated the real value of the panel. The journalists were able to discuss some challenging matters in a nuanced way, whilst also sharing the practical steps that they follow to comply with the Code.
Their contribution has been invaluable and we look forward to publishing the guidance shortly and carrying on with further work next year.