In light of the recent terror attacks, I believe that the media is obliged to report these attacks with a high level of care. The reach of terrorism is always extremely limited and terrorist organizations heavily rely on the media attention their attacks create to spread fear. The role of the media should not be to widen this reach, but moderate it.
These are some guidelines I believe might be important to follow.
– Treat it as a crime, until local law enforcement says it has been a terror attack.
– Ignore statements by ISIS, al Qaeda and such. What they are saying is propaganda and should therefore be ignored. By repeating their statements, you spread propaganda and therefore make the attack more successful. Just because they make the claim, that they have orchestrated something, does not mean anything.
– People feel the need to upload videos and images taken during attacks. Other people have the urge to search for these videos. Refrain from using these videos. The information value of these videos for the public is extremely limited, unless your goal is it to show people in distress.
– Images of the perpetrator should only be used when law enforcement asks the media to do so. What you might believe is reporting is in fact a glorification of attackers?
– Report facts and not feelings. Of course, people had been confused and scared during the attack. There is no point in putting emphasis on that, unless you wish to spread fear and uncertainty further.
– Only report things that are important for the public to know. Overreporting makes things more difficult for law enforcement and makes it harder for the public to understand.
– Try not to report everything law enforcement does live. If you want or not, you might help the attackers.
– If the whole event is still unfolding, does the general audience really need to know the names, genders and ages of the victims? Let the families come to terms first and then, later, we might join them in their grief.
– If you make a claim, that later proves to be false, at least have the decency to report your correction with a similar emphasis than your original statement. Otherwise the misleading claim is going to stick with the audience.