Compassion, ethics guide suicide coverage
Today’s cover story examining the self-inflicted death of an 11-year-old boy was published after a tremendous amount of conversation, fact-checking and consideration for the family.
We first heard about the death on Tuesday, Dec. 15, but unlike many of the region’s other papers, we decided to hold it to investigate further. It is our responsibility to question how a child in our town could end up following such a tragic path. Our bigger responsibility is to do so with great care, and from a point of educating the public, not sensationalizing, trivializing or romanticizing this horrible event. We felt like a three-sentence story about this would be, quite frankly, the worst way to handle it. Our intent was not to hide this story or bury it.
Suicides are complicated issues to report on accurately.
Many studies have proven that newspapers often irresponsibly report on suicides, which indirectly leads to copycats. Investigating proved quickly to be the right thing to do. As soon as we began to ask questions, accusations surfaced that alleged parental abuse and neglect by the state. All of these needed context and investigation before we felt like we could ever mention this death.
Our intent was not to offend, to shock, or capitalize on this horrible incident. We want to inform our community that we have serious problems that are killing our youth. Without bringing this to the attention of our readership, we risk allowing another child to wander away without understanding how many of us truly care for their health and well-being.
Lastly, and most importantly, our hearts go out to the family, friends and classmates of the young man. This is the worst type of tragedy, one that was truly preventable, and we plead with our community to do everything in its power to keep this from happening again.
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