‘We report the world as it is, not as we want it to be’: Journalistic negotiation of news routines, roles and responsibilities when reporting on suicide
Yaqub, Michael Mead
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Media coverage of suicide can play a pivotal role in raising public awareness of an important public health issue. But research suggests that reporting on suicide can potentially influence vulnerable individuals to emulate suicidal behavior. To encourage the responsible reporting of suicide as a public health issue, media guidelines have been developed worldwide, including in the US. Based on interviews with 50 US journalists, this study explores journalists’ awareness of and attitudes toward suicide reporting risks and US media guidelines. Through the lens of suicide news reporting, this is a study examining how journalists view their professional roles and sense of social responsibility when reporting on issues, like suicide, with potential public health consequences. We find that while the journalists interviewed want to cover suicide responsibly, and as a public health issue, they often deviate from media guidelines. In many cases, journalistic convention, routines, and imperatives conflict with or hinder guideline compliance. Moreover, many journalists deliberately disregard suicide reporting guidelines because they clash with journalists’ perceived responsibility and role of serving the public via full disclosure of information.
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