The Globe and Mail’s Andre Picard reports on the recent suicide of a 19-year-old law student who jumped from a high rise residence at the University of Ottawa, and asks: “Is that news? If so, how detailed should the news reports be? Will drawing attention to the tragedy be helpful or harmful?”
Whether to report a suicide is a dilemma every journalist will face, some time — not least because our usual assumptions about the benefits, rights and freedoms of information are challenged by numerous suicide experts with a barrage of advice. Canadian Psychiatric Association guidelines (pdf) for media state that
“media coverage of suicide is proven to lead to copycat suicides.” The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention warns media, “Suicide Contagion is Real.” The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention has a publication for media with specific recommendations “to discourage imitative or copycat suicides.”
Noting there were 3,743 Canadian suicides in the last year for which stats are available, Picard asks: “Should we be turning a blind eye to this carnage so as to not offend sensibilities? Or should we be shining a light on suicide deaths – most of them preventable – to highlight the underlying cause, which is often untreated mental illness?”
Picard’s answer: “The seemingly compassionate rules are a convenient excuse for avoiding discussion of (and reporting on) an issue that makes us highly uncomfortable.”
My answer: there’s no one-size-fits-all solution on reporting suicide. Judgement is needed in every instance — and because there is rarely time for education and reflection on a news story, researching and thinking about the issue in advance is needed.
Continue Reading Should suicide be reported?
A column by The Globe and Mail‘s Margaret Wente so closely resembles one written by The New York Times‘s Maureen Dowd that at least one blog is suggesting she stole it. Anne McNeilly asks whether it was just a bizarre coincidence.
Continue Reading Wente and Dowd cell phone columns: Too close to call?
When big, national media showed up in Woodstock, Ont. to cover the abduction of Victoria (Tori) Stafford, the story changed. There was a desire among local journos, writes Bruce Urquhart, from the Woodstock Sentinel-Review, not to be scooped by out-of-town reporters that, unfortunately, pushed them toward pack journalism.
Continue Reading When national media descends on a small town story
Reporter Krista Erickson acted inappropriately and with “journalistic zeal” said CBC News publisher John Cruickshank in a letter to the Conservative Party. The party had complained of “collusion” to the CBC Ombudsman after Erickson provided questions to an MP to ask before the Ethics Committee. Erickson, said Cruickshank, has been reassigned from the Ottawa bureau to Toronto.
Continue Reading CBC reporter reassigned after Tories complain
Journalists using social networking sites, photo sharing sites and other new media technologies to gather information face new ethical challenges. Journalists are being forced to re-evaluate such questions as “What is in the public domain?” and “Is it okay to publish information obtained by ‘lurking?'” This Online Journalism Blog post describes some of those challenges and reviews a new book called Online Journalism Ethics: Traditions and Transitions by Cecilia Friend and Jane B. Singer that journalism educators may find helpful in adapting their ethics courses.
Continue Reading Teaching online journalism ethics
Reporters in every media now record audio for use on the web, with audio slideshows, multimedia packages and other forms of online journalism, in addition to those who do it in radio. As they are learning, software makes all kinds of things possible when editing raw audio. So, what’s acceptable and what’s not when it comes to editing audio for journalistic purposes?
I was asked recently for a set of dos and don’ts. As a former news reporter and producer for CBC Radio News and now a broadcast journalism professor, here are the rules I have learned, developed and pass on to my students.
Continue Reading Ethical guidelines for editing audio