When it comes to suicide, speaking about the subject can be hard for many. Nobody wants to offend another person and you can never be sure the type of response you will receive. Although talking about it is hard enough, reporting on the subject can often be even more tough.
People in our society tend to be very hard on the media; this criticism can be both negative and positive. Since people are so critical on everything the media produces, it can make the jobs of reporters and writers even more difficult and stressful. Suicide is an especially tricky subject for many of the different media outlets.
This past week a story was reported in Canada about a boy who committed suicide after being bullied at school. Although the story was tragic, it seemed that the columnist went a little overboard with describing how beautiful this young boy was and how horrible the events were that took place. I am not denying that this boy’s story is a short and heartbreaking one, nobody should be bullied into his situation, but it seems as though the author of this story has gone a little over the top when it comes to journalistic guidelines. I’m not the only one who thinks so, either.
A writer from the Ottawa Citizen in Canada was also a little overwhelmed after reading that column. This writer chose to look at the story from a different angle, a journalistic angle. The Canadian guidelines on suicide coverage is brought up in this news article. It is fairly cut and dry what journalists should and should not do when reporting a suicide. The main thing to remember is to not glamorize the event or make the person seem like a hero. These are two things that seem to have been ignored in the column.
Even though I’m glad to see stories like this young boy’s being reported, I believe that every reporter should follow the same basic guidelines when speaking about touchy subjects like suicide. One of the main problems with coverage on suicide is that it could potentially bring about copycat suicides, which I’ve also spoken about in my previous blog posts. When it comes to depression and suicidal thoughts, many different aspects can be triggers, including a news story on suicide.
Many media outlets have taken a stance on reporting about suicide and have come up with their own guidelines. Some of the newer rules on suicide reporting make it necessary to state whether or not the individual ever received any sort of treatment for mental illness or substance abuse. The new guidelines work hard to ensure that there is no romanticizing of the event. Suicide is serious and real. Nobody, especially journalists, want to be responsible for more people taking their own lives.
This subject is being looked at, not only in the United States, but around the world as well. Journalists in Australia are working hard to eliminate the taboo of reporting on suicide. They state that, although it is important to cover these stories, it is just as important to go about this subject carefully.
To see these new guidelines and coverage of this subject in the United States, as well as other countries, is very important. This is a critical time for journalists as well as audiences all over. Finding the line between what is appropriate to report and what is not can be difficult, I’m just glad to see more and more people opening up and willing to talk.