How to Address Media Coverage of DV Homicides

media coverage

Interacting with the Media – Tips for Crime Victims
As a victim of crime you may find media attention upsetting or helpful. You might be contacted by the media or perhaps you would like to communicate with the media but are not sure how to do so. The press can be an important ally in some cases. However, for victims seeking privacy, it can be difficult to know how to interact with members of the media. Above all, remember the choice is yours. The following tips were developed to give crime victims practical advice related to working with the media.
• If you do not want direct interaction with the press but find that it is hard to avoid the press, it might be helpful to appoint a spokesperson who will speak on your behalf. A spokesperson can be anyone you trust who is willing to protect your privacy and represent you and your family in a positive way. A spokesperson can release statements at your request, respond to press inquiries or accompany you to interviews if you decide to speak to the press.
• You are entitled to grieve in private. You can refuse permission for reporters and cameras to be present at a funeral or burial.
• You have no obligation to provide an interview, even if you have done so in the past. If you decide to grant an interview, you can try to set conditions for the interview (such as time, location, protection of your identity, etc.). The media may not agree to your terms but if they refuse, you can withdraw.
• You can refuse to answer inappropriate questions.
• You have the right to be treated with dignity, courtesy and respect.
• You can exclude children from interviews.
• You can file a complaint with a reporter’s employer, victim service providers or the police if you feel harassed by reporters.
• You can complain and seek a correction if a report contains inaccurate information.
• You can remind the media that Wisconsin Statute Chapter 950.055(1) states: “The legislature urges the news media to use restraint in revealing the identity of child victims or witnesses, especially in sensitive cases.”
• You can remind journalists that The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics states that “the media must guard against invading a person’s right to privacy. The media should not pander to morbid curiosity about details of vice and crime.” The Code of Ethics also cautions against identifying juvenile victims of sex crimes.
• You can remind radio and television media that the Radio-TV News Directors’ Ethics Code states: ““Reject sensationalism or misleading emphasis in any form. Respect the dignity, privacy and well-being of people with whom they deal.”
• You can request that offensive visuals be omitted from a story.
• You can issue your own statement to the press or ask a local official to help you release a statement to the press.

Created by the Wisconsin Crime Victims Council and the Wisconsin Department of Justice Office of Crime Victim Services, 2009

 
Getting Information to the Media: Tips for Victims of Crime
Victims of crime, or their spokesperson(s), can communicate directly with members of the news media by issuing a press statement or press release. Victims should be mindful of any information that could compromise the criminal investigation or affect trial proceedings. It is a good idea to seek advice from victim witness staff and/or the prosecutor to be sure that public comments will not cause problems with the case.
WHAT IS A PRESS STATEMENT?
A press statement is a brief written document used to communicate with members of the press. It can provide information or make a request. It might announce a memorial service or the establishment of a memorial fund. Some victim press statements make an appeal to the community for information about an unsolved crime and provide the number to call with information, such as Crime Stoppers or local law enforcement. Press statements might thank the community for their support and/or make an appeal for privacy. A press release can be used to announce a press conference or an upcoming event.
HOW DO I GET MY STATEMENT TO THE PRESS?
Press statement can be mailed, faxed or emailed directly to media organizations. Contact information is often available on the news organization’s website (on a “Contact Us” page). If it isn’t clear who to contact at a particular media source, it may be useful to call the media organization and ask to speak with a news editor. Introduce yourself to the news editor and ask for their suggestion about how to submit a statement. (They are also the people to speak to if there is a mistake or inaccuracy with an article.) Sometimes officials associated with the criminal case, such as prosecutors or victim witness staff, can assist victims with getting their statement to the press.
HOW DO I WRITE IT?
There is a format commonly used by the media that can be followed when submitting a press release/statement. A quick internet search will provide many examples of press releases. The basic format below is a good template to use:
SAMPLE PRESS RELEASE
NEWS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE For more information, contact: [date] [Contact Information] DOE FAMILY ISSUES STATEMENT <City>, <State>, <Date> – The family of [victim] issued the following statement today: [The STATEMENT or body of the text is written here. At the end of the release, indicate that the release is ended. This lets the journalists know they received the entire release. Type “End” on the first line after your statement is completed. If your statement goes over one page, type “MORE” at the bottom of the first page.] For additional information: The Doe family will not respond to media inquiries. John Brown is the family’s media spokesman. He can be reached at: [include contact information such as phone, cell, fax, email, address]. –END– FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: These words should appear before the body of the text. In this sample they are placed in the left-hand margin, just under the letterhead. Every letter is capitalized. Headline: One sentence. Use proper title case, capitalizing every word except for the following articles: of, it, the, a, an, from, and, is, by …Use a boldface type. Dateline: This should be the city your press release is issued from and the date you are mailing your release. Contact Information: Skip a line or two after the statement and list the name, title, telephone and fax numbers of your spokesperson. When choosing which contact information to include, keep in mind that reporters often work on deadlines and may try to contact the spokesperson after hours.

Created by the Wisconsin Crime Victims Council and the Wisconsin Department of Justice Office of Crime Victim Services, 2009

 

Are you a reporter looking to cover a domestic violence homicide?  Here are guidelines to sensitively and respectfully covering a case:

Guide to Best Practices in Media Coverage

What can the media do to shape community perceptions of domestic violence?

1. Place the crime in the context of domestic violence.

2. Acknowledge that domestic violence is not a private matter.

3. Look into prior history of domestic violence and let the story evolve.

4. Convey that domestic violence is a pattern of behavior that often escalates when a victim is trying to leave, or has left, the relationship.

5. Illustrate the warning signs of an abusive relationship.

6. When interviewing a domestic violence survivor, consider the safety and confidentiality needs of the interviewee.

7. Avoid calling domestic violence a “relationship problem.”

8. Do not focus on the victim’s behavior or use victim-blaming language.

9. Do not assume some cultures or classes are violent, and others are not.

10. Avoid using sources emotionally connected to the abuser or sources that do not have significant information about the crime or those involved.

11. Avoid treating domestic violence crimes as an inexplicable tragedy, beyond the reach of community action.

12. Provide information and resources: warning signs, how to help, safety planning, hotline numbers.

 

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