BethMellor’s Weblog

Postgraduate journalism, news and views.

Reporting on a tragedy – ‘Tycoon, 25, killed in Lamborghini crash’: Published in The Scotsman

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Last week, I had to make the most difficult phone call I have ever had to make.

“I’m sorry to have to ask you this, but I’m calling from The Scotsman and we understand that someone by this surname was killed in a car crash on the M8 last night. Was it a relative of yours?”

“Yes, it was my cousin.”

“I’m really sorry to hear that and want to offer you my condolences on behalf of The Scotsman. We would like to put an article about the car crash, paying tribute to your cousin, in tomorrow’s paper. Would you or any other relatives be able to talk to me for the article?”

The family did agree to talk, and the parents of the deceased spoke to a colleague of mine. This is the final article we produced:

http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/scotland/Tycoon-25–killed-.4883448.jp

Although making this call felt slightly intrusive into the privacy of a grieving family, it also gave the family a chance to have the final word about their son in a national newspaper. And, as my colleague pointed out, it can be comforting at times like this for families to know that the wider community is interested and cares about such a death.

The Gallardo

The Gallardo

The crash was, moreover, particularly newsworthy because the car involved was a Lamborghini Gallardo. Although focussed on the tragic loss suffered by one family, the article also highlighted the potential dangers of super cars (the Gallardo has a V-10 engine and can reach 60mph from a standing start in 3.9 seconds) and the dangers of speeding (the Police could not confirm the speed that the car was travelling but the Gallardo has a top speed of 196mph).

Intruding into people’s privacy is part of the job in journalism. The key to doing this with integrity, according to my colleagues at The Scotsman, is being respectful and understanding of their circumstances, even when your editor is threatening to drop the article if you don’t get a key quote from a member of the family for a piece.

Written by bethmellor

January 25, 2009 at 2:40 pm

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