Media intrusion on private grief

edits this blog. Twitter: @chblm

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Freelance journalist Chris Wheal offered to help his sister handle the media interest when her nine-year old son, Jamie Bray, died in a tragic accident on his swing ten days ago. 

Wheal has written a thoughtful and illuminating account of his experiences on his blog. It's a tale in which not all the stereotypes are played out:

"Not a single national news organisation rang me. I am guessing most did not contact Hampshire police, so would not have got my statement with my contact details. They relied on PA and cuttings. It was classic 'churnalism'."

Wheal monitored the coverage (there are links to the stories at the bottom of his blog), seeing how a story in the local paper, the Southern Daily Echo, was picked up:

"The Telegraph ran it virtually word for word but added its best guess at my sister's house price - £800,000 it speculated."

And he reports from the front-line of journalistic intrusion: 

"The News in Portsmouth sent a reporter to doorstep my sister. He was met with a torrent of abuse. Just as a warning to others [his bold here]: Jamie's pump action water gun is now by their front door loaded with horse piss. Please stay away, for your own health and safety."


He later got an apology from the News


Unusually in these circumstances, Wheal, as a journalist, can see both sides of the irreconcilable differences between individuals and the media. 

Wheal's insights throw light on the distress and anger media attention can create, especially for people who have no experience of such attention and no warning that they are about to receive it - until they are hit by an event that itself has turned their lives upside down. 


Chris Wheal was interviewed about his experiences on the Today programme this morning

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