Reporting and writing about death

death-rundown1

With the recent events surrounding the tragic death of Adrian Peterson’s son – and the way the reporting of it was handled by the media – I wanted to get the take of three journalists I respect and discuss how they deal with reporting and writing about someone who has died. Thus, I talked with Sean Jensen – formerly of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Chicago Sun-Times and the one to break the story that the critically-injured boy was actually Peterson’s son. I also brought in SI.com’s Doug Farrar and New York Times bestselling author Jeff Pearlman, who vehemently disagreed that week through social media on whether sending condolences in a blog post about the news was appropriate for a journalist (here was Pearlman’s blog post on the matter).

With Jensen, we talked about his process for breaking this particular story, what he will and will not ask while reporting on a topic as sensitive as this, and how high we should be jumping to be the first to scoop the death of a famous person.

With Farrar, we discussed his process on writing about the Peterson story, why some fantasy football writers would try to pimp their sites during the ongoing story, and why Farrar might or might not continue to send out his thoughts and condolences when writing a similar kind of piece in the future.

With Pearlman, we gathered his thoughts on why you never, ever, ever write your condolences on a news piece about somebody’s death, how he reported on the death of a former college basketball player two days after 9/11, and whether it ever would be appropriate to try to contact Adrian Peterson during that time to find out information.

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