Media Reporting of Fatalities


This weekend (14/15 June 2014) was a rather tragic affair with two SCUBA diving fatalities off the Irish coast (Donegal and Cork) and then a double fatality in the English Channel from Steve Johnson’s Channel Diver.

As a moderator of The Dive Forum I was approached by someone on Channel Diver to inform me of a rather biased and unhelpful news broadcast made by BBC South East News so that if it did come up, I could remove it.  This 1:46 clip has been grabbed from the BBC iPlayer app and was shown on BBC South East last night (16 June 14)

(Note: I have written to both BBC South East News and BBC Newswatch criticising the tone and inferences made in this news item but have yet to hear back from them.)

Compare this to the Argus news report of the same event: simple and no inferences or conjecture, just the facts as they are known.

I spend a considerable amount of time trying to defend a ‘Just Culture’ within recreational and technical diving so that others can learn from the mistakes we make by reporting incidents. Fatalities are obviously an emotive subject, especially when this is a recreational activity and we are supposed to be having fun, but having media clips like that linked above do nothing to help this ‘Just Culture’.  The majority of fatalities are down to a number of known issues and therefore the specific causality isn’t that important (we are unlikely to learn more there) but what we do need to know is why certain choices or decisions were made which meant that the training and experience we have didn’t prevent the incident from reaching its unfortunate conclusion.

There are people out there who know what happened and it is their choice (rightly so) to keep the information they have to themselves. The challenge is getting the balance right behind protecting friend’s and colleague’s reputations at the same time as being able to learn from the mistakes we all make, irrespective of our experience, knowledge and outlook on life.

One thing is clear though, having biased and ill-informed media reporting is never going to help even if it does provide a ‘story’ for the 6’o clock news.

On a more positive note, David Strike, an ex-Royal Australian Navy Fleet Clearance Diver, produced a series of articles on dealing with the media in the event that an incident occurs. If you want to read more about it, you can download the articles from here.

Safe Diving…

One response to “Media Reporting of Fatalities

  1. We had a similar problem in Jersey back in March. The initial news report in the local paper bore no resemblance to the incident we were involved in. Fortunately the casualty’s brother-in-law was a local police officer, so there after all comments from her family and the divers involved went through him, only the facts were reported, it was a real shame they didn’t get their fact right before they printed, made a difficult time even harder.

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