Reporting (carefully) on suicide

We had a pretty good discussion this morning at the 11 o’clock meeting about how we report responsibly on suicide. The conversation came up because of the story we did Tuesday about the young man who took his life as he was being taken into custody by police.

What you missed if you weren’t there:

  • We don’t report on suicides that don’t become public events.
  • We never refer to a “successful” or “unsuccessful” suicide attempt. (Why would we want to imply that a person who kills himself has succeeded?)
  • Delving into why someone has killed himself is inappropriate. We can never really know what motivates someone to take this step.
  • There is scientific evidence that suicide “contagion” does exist, and we in the media bear a special responsibility to be knowledgeable about how our reporting can contribute to that phenomenon.

The Dart Center has excellent resources for helping journalists navigate on this tricky terrain, if you’re interested.

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