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To tweet or not tweet during a funeral?

By Leonard Martinez
Published On: Nov 21 2012 05:20:59 PM CST
Updated On: Mar 17 2014 12:54:56 AM CDT

ABC-7 at 5 Weekend

EL PASO, Texas -

Actor Sherman Hemsley was finally buried on Wednesday, Nov. 21 after a four-month legal battle.

Some members of local media livetweeted from inside Sherman Hemsley's funeral service at an East El Paso church, including tweeting a couple of pictures. View some of the tweets here.

Whether or not to livetweet at a funeral is something journalists are having to deal with as the nature of delivering news has changed.

"The reporting of a celebrity's passing is important for the community to allow them to mourn and to offer their respect to the deceased. That said, the use of electronic devices in and during the funeral does seem disrespectful. Even in a culture where media is everywhere, boundaries need to be perspective," said Dr. Richard D. Pineda, an associate professor in the Department of Communication and currently serves as the associate director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies at UTEP.

Steve Buttry, Digital Transformation Editor at Digital First Media, wrote a blog in October titled "Should a journalist livetweet a funeral? If so, how?"

Buttry's tips include to err on the side of restraint, consider newsworthiness, and to consider asking the family.

"Where you tweet from matters. If you are covering a funeral where space has been set aside for the media, tweeting won't be a distraction to mourners. If you are sitting in a pew shoulder to shoulder with mourners, your constant tweeting from your phone will be a huge annoyance," Buttry wrote in the blog. "If the funeral has an overflow situation (as a couple I covered did), the annex for overflow seating might be less offensive a setting than in the church. Once I was able to sit alone in the back row of chairs set up in the church basement, listening on loudspeakers from the basement. I couldn't see, but I was comfortable taking notes and wouldn't have felt conspicuous tweeting about what I heard. Deb's blog recounted that reporter Daniel M. Jimenez  tweeted the trooper's funeral from a simulcast he was watching in a gymnasium. While the atmosphere is still somber in an overflow situation, it's not as intense as the being right in the same room as the service."

Read Buttry's full blog here.


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