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Reporting suicides

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Mr. X, Dec 24, 2006.

  1. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    I would be interested in learning newspapers' policies on reporting suicides.

    In an interview with the boys' soccer coach of the high school I cover for a weekly, he made reference to his players coming out flat because some of them knew the student who died.

    That was the first I heard of the student's death. I sent an e-mail to our publisher, who basically controls all editorial content, and asked if he knew about this. He said he did and it was not reported because it was a suicide.

    At dailies I have worked at, the rules were that suicides are not reported, unless someone prominent is involved or if it takes place in public.

    I think a case could be made that this suicide should have been reported because a few weeks earlier, a student's death in a traffic collision near midnight on a Saturday night was reported extensively. I think both these deaths could be used as the starting point for a story on the problems of the city's youth and what can be done about them.
     
  2. DyePack

    DyePack New Member

    Huh?
     
  3. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    I thought stories, columns and editorials should be done with the theme of "Nothing good happens after midnight," to try to encourage youth to be home earlier.

    There is also a move by the City Council to institute a youth anti-loitering ordinance to keep them from cause troubles in the business district.
     
  4. sportschick

    sportschick Active Member

  5. awriter

    awriter Active Member

    Mr. X,
    Why are you so hung up on this kid's suicide? And what makes you think your story is going to change the kids' behavior?
     
  6. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    Let me try this again.

    I am interested in learning newspapers' policies on reporting suicides.

    The weekly I write for did not report on the suicide of a high school student.

    At dailies I have worked at, the rules were that suicides are not reported, unless someone prominent is involved or if it takes place in public.
     
  7. Flash

    Flash Guest

    Being tucked into bed by 11:59 p.m. won't prevent a troubled young man from taking his own life ...
     
  8. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    The impression I got was that the suicide was not reported because it was a suicide.
     
  9. novelist_wannabe

    novelist_wannabe Well-Known Member

    I know of one paper where a guy committed suicide and this was mentioned in the paper, and the paper took a lot of heat for it. I never really understood that. If someone walks in and shoots a guy in his bathroom, that's news, but if the guy shoots himself in the bathroom, it's not? That's an interesting standard to have. Having done a handful of death stories, I can tell you that the fact a story is in the paper isn't going to hurt the family of a suicide commiter any more than they're already hurting.
     
  10. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    Not if the deceased is a minor.
    (Same with sexual assault victims.)
     
  11. Herbert Anchovy

    Herbert Anchovy Active Member

    The bereaved are often at risk of suicide themselves. The legal hot water a reporter can get into is conjectural bullshit about why the person took his or her life. There are also privacy laws to consider.
     
  12. wickedwritah

    wickedwritah Guest

    And privacy, period.

    The rule of generally not reporting suicides is a good one. If we did, sadly some people would do it just for the publicity aspect.

    Well, you'll likely ask: Wicked, that's why the people who do it in public do it there, for the press, so what's different? When someone jumps in front of a train and shuts down public transit for three hours, we kind of have to report about it.
     
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