The Australian Daily Mail broke guidelines for reporting on suicide with a May 2017 story about a man who attempted suicide inside a train station, the Australian Press Council ruled.
The article reported on the incident as an attempted suicide and explained the method the man employed. Both of those steps broke suicide reporting guidelines since neither served the public interest. In addition, the Mail didn’t contact the man’s family or close friends to get consent in reporting on the attempted suicide.
The Mail used “explicit language” in its article as well. Although the press council said the Mail didn’t break guidelines for publishing offensive or distressing language, it found the description of events didn’t “exercise special sensitivity and moderation in reporting.”
The press council released Specific Standards for Coverage of Suicide in 2014, which advise in part:
- news outlets can report on a death by suicide if family or close friends give consent, or if it’s in the public interest
- news outlets shouldn’t describe “method and location” of death
- news outlets shouldn’t “sensationalise, glamorise or trivialise,” or “inappropriately stigmatise”
- news outlets should sensitively report information and not give “undue prominence”
- news outlets should include information about how to get help
The press council’s general guidelines also remind journalists not to invade privacy and to “avoid causing or contributing materially to substantial offence, distress or prejudice, or a substantial risk to health or safety, unless doing so is sufficiently in the public interest.”
iMediaEthics wrote earlier this month about best practices for reporting on suicide, in the wake of designer Kate Spade’s death. The U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone line, which is free and operates 24 hours a day, is 1-800-273-8255.
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