Our View: Reporting on suicide is tough; here’s what we’re doing (editorial)
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Reporting on suicide is one of the toughest jobs for a small-town newspaper.
There’s a real need to balance sensitivity to those who grieve with providing information to readers. There’s also the danger that reporting on suicide — especially when a young person is involved — might lead to copycat attempts.
Given that we live in a region with a higher-than-average suicide rate, and that rate has been rising, news outlets also have a responsibility to help in any way possible.
To provide some guidance, public health officials in Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin counties recently hosted a training session about reporting on suicide. Newsroom staff members from the Vail Daily, as well as other papers in the Colorado Mountain News Media network, including The Aspen Times and the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, attended that session.
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There was a lot of information presented, of course, but the session’s main topics included suggestions of how to write about suicide — and, more important, how not to write about it.
Reporters were advised to avoid sensational headlines, quoting from notes left behind and publishing photos of the scene or writing about how someone died by suicide — which is the phrase this newspaper will use in the future.
Reporters instead were encouraged to report on suicide as a public health issue, seeking advice from suicide prevention experts and, perhaps most important, providing information about suicide’s warning signs and resources for those seeking help.
Locally, Speak Up Reach Out provides help for people in crisis and those who are worried about them. The group meets at the Avon Police Department on the third Thursday of every month if you’d like to get involved.
In a better world, this and other newspapers wouldn’t have to worry about reporting on the suicide of your — and our — friends and loved ones.
But we live in this world, and this newspaper will try to help. One way to do that is to abide by the sensible guidelines provided in that seminar. To learn more about this nationwide effort, and to read the media recommendations for reporting on suicide, visit http://reportingonsuicide.org.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Krista Driscoll and Business Editor Scott Miller.
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