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Arizona Republic intern jumps off paper's parking garage to kill self

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Frank_Ridgeway, Dec 23, 2011.

  1. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Paper didn't mention he was an intern there, but the alt weekly reported it.

    http://jimromenesko.com/2011/12/23/arizona-republic-intern-dies-after-jumping-off-newspaper-building/
     
  2. Seems like a glaring oversight not to mention the intern worked at the paper when he killed himself on the paper's property. Suicides often get different treatment in news stories, however.

    Practice in my shop(s) was if it occurred in a public place, or involved a notable person, it was reported fully. Private scenes and private citizens often went unreported. But this sounds public to me, especially considering the Republic ran a story.
     
  3. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I feel sorry for the folks at the paper. My father-in-law saw someone land near him years ago when he was walking to work in a high-rise area of a large city. It would be difficult to erase such a scene from memory.
     
  4. jlee

    jlee Active Member

    The student jumped off a parking garage in the middle of downtown. That warrants coverage no matter who does it.

    That being the case, I think the Republic has to tread lightly as an employer and news organization. Identifying the person as a student identifies him or her to a certain point, but saying he or she was a breaking news intern at the paper before the police have released the name (and possibly before the next of kin could be contacted) is trimming the list of possible victims to about five (maybe even one at this time of the year).

    So, a question for all, if you see a suicide victim and you can identify the person before the police, at what point do you report the name?
     
  5. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    At most papers I've worked at, the guideline was 24 hours or until police had a chance to notify the family, whatever came first. The issue with one department was that they would drag their feet on the notification, to the point where a slew of false information would spread as people speculated who that person was who offed themselves in such a public manner. (Also, to clarify: Only "public spectacle" and noteworthy public figures were identified in suicide stories.)

    Given what happened here with the AZ Republic, in that it was a former employee, I probably wouldn't have run anything until it was official, and at that point, you REALLY need to include that he was a former employee of the paper. I don't care if he was just a paperboy for two weeks, if you don't mention that and you have an aggressive alt weekly in the same town, someone is going to call you out on it.
     
  6. Turtle Wexler

    Turtle Wexler Member

    I understand your concern for narrowing the list of possibilities, but the alt weekly article implied he was one of several breaking news interns. He was also a current, not former, intern; and he was being paid by the Republic.

    Given that he died in a suicide attempt from the paper's building, I don't see how you can possibly omit the employment detail from the story. That comes right up to the line of unethical, in my opinion.

    I hope that when the identity is released the paper circles back and reports this story fully. And if they don't, I expect the alt weekly to take them to task.
     
  7. jlee

    jlee Active Member

    Good points. Would saying he's an intern at the paper be sufficient, then?

    On the one hand, you're narrowing the scope to identify him or her, but on the other hand, you're unnecessarily scaring people who close to interns that don't work on the breaking-news desk.
     
  8. Turtle Wexler

    Turtle Wexler Member

    Yes, but consider the following:

    "A gunman, believed to be a disgruntled former employee, opened fire at the Acme Company offices today. Two people were killed and a dozen more injured. The victims have not been identified. The gunman is still at large."

    With that fairly routine statement you've scared the hell out of anyone close to an employee of Acme, anyone close to a former employee of Acme, and anyone who lives in the area of the Acme offices.

    In journalism it is not our job to hold back information based on the possibility of who might become needlessly worried.
     
  9. mediaguy

    mediaguy Active Member

    You don't write that he's an intern because an alt-weekly might out you. You write that he's an intern because it establishes his connection to the place he chose to die. I think a public suicide can merit coverage, and unless there are tight deadline issues, it's not good reporting to shelve that information for the next day's paper.

    But if he wasn't pronounced dead until 11 p.m., there might have been justification in holding off with the intern info without naming him -- saying he's a student makes him one of 30,000, saying he's a Republic intern makes him one of what, 20?

    Having said that, I don't see any kind of second-day story or follow-up at AZcentral.com, nearly 24 hours later.
     
  10. jackfinarelli

    jackfinarelli Member

    Can we offer a "rest in peace" to a person who would appear to have been a troubled soul... ?
     
  11. Blitz

    Blitz Active Member

    Indeed.
    RIP, young man.
     
  12. Drip

    Drip Active Member

    RIP
     
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