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Professor Keith Hawton adds his expert insights into the rethinking of reporting on suicide in the press, and taking special care.

Holding hands cut out

Extract from article in the Press Gazette by Richard Best, IPSO complaints committee deputy chair:

"It’s got to top the long list of things that keep editors awake at night: the prospect of a reader killing themselves because of a story. It doesn’t get any worse.

But like so many of the landmines that line the route to producing a website, magazine or newspaper with compelling content, the obvious danger zones are often the least likely to blow up in your face.

Those can be planned and accounted for, you can seek expert help.

We all know that it’s the apparently innocuous and straightforward stories that sporadically turn round and bite you.

 

Any British journalist worth their salt will be aware that changes to the Editors’ Code at the beginning of the year included the introduction of a new Clause 5: “When reporting suicide, to prevent simulative acts care should be taken to avoid excessive detail of the method used, while taking into account the media’s right to report legal proceedings.”

 

While it’s unlikely to win any Plain English awards, it is the addition of the word “simulative” that is key, and should be a red flag to editors when they consider how they report suicides. The same term is likely to feature prominently in deliberations of IPSO’s Complaints Committee when considering a potential Clause 5 breach."