Resource Guide for Reporters Covers Issues of Death and Dying

Journalists' resources on end-of-life issues

In 1997, the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation in Washington produced and disseminated a journalists' resource guide on end-of-life issues.

The guide was intended to be a resource to help journalists understand the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court's June 1997 ruling on physician-assisted suicide.

In addition, given the growing awareness of the importance of end-of-life issues, the goal of this project was to provide reporters with balanced information to help them navigate the medical, legal, social, and emotional issues that present themselves in the course of reporting stories that deal with death and dying.

Key Results

Project staff produced:

  • A guidebook entitled Covering The Issues Of Death And Dying (Guide), that surveys a range of issues, including physician-assisted suicide and the hospice movement, and provides information concerning their legal and economic ramifications.

    It also provides tools for reporters such as story ideas, references, and suggestions for further reading. The Guide includes a reference section on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) SUPPORT study on how to improve end-of-life decision-making and reduce the frequency of a mechanically supported, painful, and prolonged dying process.

    Written by journalists and distributed free, the Guide also is posted on the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation's Web site.

    The organization distributed about 1,000 copies to health, business, environment, and political reporters on its mailing list. Approximately 450 copies of the Guide in electronic format were downloaded in 1999. In 1999, RWJF funded a reprinting of 600 copies of the Guide for further distribution at seminars.
  • End-of-Life Issues, was a shorter document that summarized information presented in the Guide. It was originally intended to be a chapter in the Health Reporters Handbook, a planned product that never was published. Instead, it was distributed to reporters as an independent document, particularly for those wanting a shorter version of the Guide. Approximately 1,000 copies have been disseminated.

Funding

RWJF funded the project with a grant of $39,000 between May 1997 and November 1997.