Covering suicide responsibly

For Quill, Julie Scelfo writes about how to cover suicide responsibly. Scelfo references a New York Times article that looked into a website where people shared suicide methods and encouragement. It contained graphic details, specific terminology and the name of the website. The Times included a note about the decision-making process, “Editors decided to identify the site and the preservative used in many of the suicides — as some other news outlets have done — in order to fully inform readers about the dangers they pose, particularly to the young and vulnerable.”

The SPJ Code of Ethics tells journalists to minimize harm in their reporting. In the Quill article, SPJ Director of Ethics and Diversity Rod Hicks commented, “Reporting on something … just because some other news organization has, is not a good reason to do it. It’s not all about what you write; it’s sometimes about what you don’t write.” Journalists also need to “show compassion for those who may be affected by the news coverage.” It is important to bring awareness and provide recourses for those thinking of suicide, but it’s also important to remember that writing about it does make it more accessible and known to their audience.