“Man drowns himself using murdered wife’s head: police.”
That headline and story from Australia’s the Age were OK to publish and didn’t break any guidelines, Australia’s Press Council ruled.
When asked about the ruling, The Age’s editor-in-chief Mark Forbes told iMediaEthics the judgment stands for itself.
The Age stood by the the Jan. 6 story as “a standard newswire report of a murder-suicide” based on information from the police, and noted the story was newsworthy and that the paper included information for people to get help.
The short story, which credits information to the Associated Press and Reuters, reports that a 72-year-old German man “strangled and dismembered his wife, entombed her head in concrete and then used the concrete block as a weight to drown himself in a lake” in Austria. The bottom of the article includes information for people who “may be distressed.”
“The publication said the elements of murder and suicide, together with the European location meant the issues of method and location were not directly relevant to an Australian audience, and so did not breach the Coverage of Suicide Standards,” the press council reported.
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The press council agreed that the story was in the public interest because it was “unusual.”
“A warning to readers may have warranted consideration, however the Council recognises this is not necessary in all cases,” the press council remarked.
Ultimately the council said the article was fine and accepted the Age’s explanation.
Relevant press council guidelines included not offending readers unless it’s in the public interest and the guidelines for reporting on suicide. The suicide guidelines advise:
“In deciding whether to report an individual instance of suicide, consideration should be given to whether at least one of the following criteria is satisfied: (a) clear and informed consent* has been provided by appropriate relatives or close friends*; or (b) reporting the death as suicide is clearly in the public interest.
“The method and location of a suicide should not be described in detail (e.g., a particular drug or cliff) unless the public interest in doing so clearly outweighs the risk, if any, of causing further suicides. This applies especially to methods or locations which may not be well known by people contemplating suicide.”