The Pakenham Gazette, a weekly Australian newspaper, included too much information about a young man’s suicide, didn’t contact his family before publication, invaded the family’s privacy and upset his family, the Australian Press Council ruled.
The young man’s grandmother complained to the press council about the article saying it was a private matter and that the young man’s mother didn’t know or OK that the article would be published. In response, the Gazette said it didn’t make any errors, it wasn’t sensational and got the information from the young man’s stepmother. The newspaper admitted it didn’t contact the mother of the boy because she didn’t live within the circulation area of the newspaper.
The press council pointed to its standards, including its specific guidelines for reporting on suicide, which showed that the newspaper crossed the line. The council’s “Specific Standards relating to Coverage of Suicide” dictate that news outlets should have “clear and informed consent” from the family if the suicide is not in the public interest. In addition, the council requires news outlets to include “information about appropriate 24-hour crisis support services or other sources of assistance” when reporting on suicide.
“The reporting of the circumstances of the suicide in the degree of detail that was included amounted to an unreasonable intrusion on his mother’s reasonable expectation of privacy,” the council ruled, and therefore “caused substantial distress.”
“Neither aspect was sufficiently justified in the public interest,” the press council said.
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After the complaint, the Gazette trained its staff on how to report on suicide and created a new policy “to include a number for assistance on all articles related to suicide.”
Moving forward, the newspaper promised it would start requiring “future articles relating to suicide” to contact an “appropriate contact” before publication. Read the ruling here.
The Gazette has a circulation of about 10,000, its website says.
iMediaEthics has written to the Gazette for more information about the training its staff undertook.