Chris Wheal gave a very thoughtful interview to BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning about death knocking based on how he and his family were treated by the media following the death of his young nephew in an accident.
One of the points Chris made was that the NUJ's Code of Conduct on intrusion into grief is stronger than that of the Editors' Code of Practice, which underpins the work of the Press Complaints Commission.
The NUJ Code states journalists should "do nothing to intrude into anybody’s private life, grief or distress unless justified by overriding consideration of the public interest."
The Editors' Code on intrusion into grief says: "In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively."
Chris said that although journalists were interested in the story of the death of his nephew there was no public interest angle.
He also made a more general point about journalists and death knocking: "Journalists hardened themselves to make these calls. By hardening ourselves we forget the impact of our actions."
- To give a personal view, I've death knocked when working for a local paper and a news agency and found families were often surprisingly willing to talk to the press. Chris made the point on Today that his nephew's parents were private people who did want to talk to journalists.
- For more comments on death knocking see post below.