The devastating Grenfell Tower fire in West London has destroyed homes, families and changed lives forever. Many questions regarding the tragedy are yet to be answered and there are fears the local community will never receive the justice they deserve. In recent days it has been suggested that the authorities and the media have been trying to cover up the official death toll.
At least 79 people are either dead or missing and presumed dead, a number that could change as the police continue to carry out their investigation. There is a growing concern that they may never be able to identify all of the victims.
Many people on social media, including celebrities, have suggested that the media know that the official death toll is higher than the numbers being reported but they are intentionally refusing to publish the true figures.
On Thursday singer Lily Allen argued that the official death toll is being kept from the public, suggesting a possible conspiracy theory. Some Twitter users have claimed that there are more than 300 people missing and others have likened the possible cover-up to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.
How the media is reporting the death toll
The Metropolitan Police are responsible for releasing the number to the public and media organisations will report what is officially known as soon as they hear about it.
Accuracy is imperative when it comes to reporting. The media needs to be absolutely certain that the information they are releasing to the public is true. Suggesting a particular number without knowing for definite can cause significant issues. Therefore, the media will only report the facts when they become available.
As well as accuracy, a media organisation will be judged on the reliability of its journalism. This must be well-sourced and supported by strong evidence. Verified facts must form the basis of all news, not rumour and speculation.
The police also have a responsibility to be accurate. They will not speculate on an exact number because the final death toll could be very different. The horrendous images that have been released of the tower’s interior show the scale of the task at hand.
The media needs to be clear in declaring what they know and what they don’t know. It is the responsibility of the police to announce the number of fatalities and this is the number that the media will publish.