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1981
Volume 44, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 0810-2686
  • E-ISSN: 2517-620X

Abstract

Newspapers regularly publish stories about people who have died suddenly or in unusual circumstances and the effect of these deaths on families and communities. The practice by which a journalist writes such a story is called the ‘death knock’; the journalist seeks out the deceased’s family to interview them for a story about their loss. The death knock is challenging and controversial. It has been criticized as an unethical intrusion on grief and privacy and shown to have negative effects on bereaved people and journalists. It has also been defended as an act of inclusion, giving the bereaved control over stories that may be written anyway, and a form of public service journalism that can have benefits for families, communities and journalists. Traditionally a knock on the door, the death knock is also done via phone and e-mail, and recently, in a practice termed the ‘digital death knock’, using social media. This article reports on the findings of a 2021 survey of Australian journalists and their current death knock practice and it will do this within the framework of research in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. In these countries, journalists are doing the ‘digital death knock’ because of time and competition pressures and available technology; however, this raises ethical concerns about their reproduction of social media material without the permission or knowledge of its owners. This article will discuss the extent to which social media has impacted death knock practice in Australia.

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2022-11-01
2024-07-22
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