Journalism 101 Ethics Checklist for Reporting Suicides in the Media
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Journalism 101 Ethics Checklist for Reporting Suicides in the Media

This ethics checklist establishes effective and responsible regulations for reporting suicide stories.

Objective: Establish effective and responsible regulations for reporting suicide stories.

Purpose: To acknowledge the societal impact of reporting the delicate nature of suicide related incidents.

Preamble: The nature of suicide reporting must be responsible and accountable for the way in which stories are produced. The methods and practices we set in place will dictate proper procedure is followed to reduce negative impact on the community that reads and reflects on our journalistic proceedings and production. We value a thoughtful account of what effect on our readers that our stories have and take a justifiable approach to responsible reporting of all stories. While no journalistic practice could ever be as black and white as text we print, we will enforce this code of ethics in our approach to covering suicide that will reduce the externalized potential troubles of reporting without thinking of the effects and adhering to this code to notify the public in a respectable manner without encouraging publicity for similar events to come.


- Identify the problem before beginning your draft. Who is involved? Identify as much as possible about the individual to determine the scope of the issue. Make distinctions between the environmental impacts at play to provide background.

- Cover public events in a different manner than private. Public events concern more stakeholders who are possible witnesses to the events. Are there sensitive individuals who may be exposed to the scenario? Do people need to be told to avoid the area? Is a scene starting to form?

- Address each issue by situation and identify the cause before establishing a tone to the report.

- If the family can be contacted respect their wishes if a private matter is preferred not to be reported and no public threat is present.

- When critical and legitimate public service is eminent, surpass commercial expectations in favor of covering the story. Never let financial aspects interfere with the merit of journalistic exercise.

-Maintain journalistic merit by not injecting further drama or emotion into the story.

-Stations should be very careful when broadcasting live images to keep a far enough zoom out to refrain from showing the actions of possible suicide because of the unknown nature of the viewing audience.

- Avoid editorial content. Just as in a crime scene situation, refrain from offering filler through personal opinion or reasoning.

-Maintain an informational tone and manner. Give only confirmed details and specify when any other statements are represented that are unconfirmed.

-Remember all legal responsibilities and regulations. Adhere to the withholding of naming information in event of a death before the family has been notified by the appropriate authorities.

- Give updates as to the response or estimated arrival times for any services including police, ambulance, or fire.

- Gather all possible details before beginning any report to try and present a flow of what information has been generated from trusted sources and present a progression of time with any relevant information from background or primary sources.

- Avoid character assassination or leading the audience towards a judgment of any individuals involved. In no case should the information being given be seen as slanderous or false. Carry the story with equal integrity to any other story.

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Comments (1)

Very interesting, I enjoyed reading it....thanks