Tips for working with bereaved families

Following the Kerslake Review in the Manchester Arena bombing, BBC News North of England correspondent Judith Moritz and assignment editor Sunita Bhatti have put together advice for reporters covering sensitive stories and dealing with bereaved people. The supporting video clips feature Figen Murray, whose son Martyn Hett was killed in the attack. She explains the impact of being thrown into the media limelight at a time of intense trauma.


In the immediate aftermath of an incident…

  • Consider the safety of members of the public. Make sure people are safe if they are providing images/videos/information
  • Clearly identify yourself as a journalist when talking to people on the ground or on the phone
  • Be thoughtful of using UGC (user-generated content) images – are they too violent? Do they need a warning?
  • Consider when, and how often, to use images and sound of the point of death (ie the actual sound of the explosion)
  • Check tips and sources to make sure all information is accurate and responsible
  • Be accurate - check spellings of names, ages and times 
  • Consider the choice of experts to put on air - think about what they might say and what impact their interview could have
  • Make sure you are in touch with the newsgathering co-ordinator to share names of victims that are being identified
  • DO NOT relay the death of a relative 
  • Try to find acts of kindness too, not just focus on the 'bad' story - are people giving blood, raising money, providing shelter, etc.?


Figen Murray speaks about her experience with the media immediately after the Manchester Arena bombing


 Dealing with victims and bereaved families 

  • Make sure you are liaising with the newsgathering co-ordinator about who is making approaches to victims and bereaved families. Always go through the identified point of contact.
  • Treat victims and bereaved families with dignity and respect – do not intrude on grief. Remember that bereaved families have the right to say no to an interview. Don’t put them under pressure. Don’t make repeated bids if you have been turned down.
  • If you do secure an interview, check with the family whether it can be pooled to avoid further distress. If it's not pooled, are the family happy for a clip to be made available?
  • Are you sure you have proper informed consent for an interview? It can be a vulnerable time for people. Don't rush families when you do the interview. Give them the time and space to tell their story. 
  • Where possible let families choose images of their loved ones. If they can’t be reached, can the police press office/family liaison officer/family friend help to check that images aren’t causing further distress?
  • Show thoughtful compassion – e.g. "I’m sorry that this has happened to you and your family"
  • Be clear and fair when you ask for an interview about what context it will be used in.


Figen Murray talks about how journalists can best approach and talk to bereaved families





The BBC Academy runs a course on Interviewing Traumatised People.

Journalist and course trainer Jo Healey gives ten points for good practice for reporters covering emotionally sensitive stories.


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