Why news media outlets don’t report on suicides

KHON2

For several hours Thursday night, police shut down the north-bound lanes of the H-2 Freeway near the Meheula Pkwy. overpass. Traffic had to be re-routed to a nearby off-ramp, causing major backup and headaches for drivers.

The reason, as officially stated by police and many news outlets including KHON2, was an “ongoing police investigation.” No one mentioned what really happened, though it was known that someone jumped from the overpass and died.

KHON2′s general policy, which is also true for many news outlets, is not to report on suicides unless there is a larger impact on the general public, and even then, we tend to focus on the effects rather than the event itself. It’s a practice that’s supported by many experts in the community.

“Publicizing information that would cause further anguish to the family and friends of the victim for no good reason seems to have more harm than benefits to the public,” said Gerald Kato, communications professor at the University of Hawaii. “The news media do not publish details of a suicide because it would do no good.”

“I think the station’s policy on not reporting suicides shows a lot of sensitivity and understanding that the way in which suicide is reported can have an impact on vulnerable people,” said Nancy Deeley, suicide prevention coordinator for the state Department of Health. “Since there is a lot of stigma around suicide, mentioning it in a short report like the road closure where people are so inconvenienced might generate a lot of anger.”

The news team at KHON2 evaluates each situation before deciding whether or not a suicide is a pertinent fact to the story. In the case of the death on the H-2 Freeway, we believed it was not.

For more information on suicide prevention, click here or call the state’s 24-hour crisis line at 808-832-3100.

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