OUR VIEW: Much to consider on a sensitive subject
In July, Time magazine highlighted the Canadian Medical Association Journal's research that showed "some specific journalistic practices about a death by suicide may make suicide contagion worse."
"Our goal is not to blame journalists; it's not to tell journalists how to do their jobs," Dr. Ayal Schaffer told Time. "But it is to provide a pretty strong research base to support specific guidelines about how reporting suicide should be done."
Most often, The Daily Republic does not report on suicide. We've set a clear policy in recent years due to the sensitivity of the subject, and we use research-based guidelines in that policy. When we hear of a local death and learn it was suicide, we typically move on without reporting it.
One exception is when a suicide — or an attempted suicide — becomes a public matter. That was the case Friday night. You likely read the headline Saturday, "Man shoots, injures self before football game."
The accompanying story explained that, according to authorities, a suicidal man shot himself resulting in minor injuries at the site of a high school football game in Chamberlain. The shooting, which occurred following a high-speed chase, was adjacent to the school's football stadium.
When authorities surrounded the vehicle, the man got out and shot himself. The game was delayed, as players and fans were evacuated from the stadium.
Immediately Friday night and over the weekend, some readers contacted The Daily Republic to voice their displeasure with our decision to report on the matter.
While we recognize that this is a difficult time for this man, his friends and his family, we feel it's important to note we did not name the person.
Our decision to report on this also factored in the harm this man put others in by bringing a gun to a high school athletic event.
The Daily Republic's reporters and editors considered the sensitivity of this unusual, talk-about incident Friday night, but ultimately decided that our duty was to inform the public of what happened in a public setting. We felt it was also our job to report the successes of local law enforcement and school district employees who properly followed protocol to handle a scary and potentially unsafe situation.
We considered our responsibilities and we reported only what we felt was necessary to the story. There may be additional follow-up reporting from Friday's matter, but we'll wait to gather additional information, such as pending criminal charges, before that happens.
The World Health Organization says close to 1 million people die annually to suicide. Research also shows that suicide is a very complex issue, and the media is one of many factors to influence it.
We don't take that lightly, and we will always be sensitive when reporting on it.