The death of Robin Williams is rightly a huge – and very, very sad – story.
But it raises important questions about how we report suicide.
I think we’re all a great deal wiser, more sensitive and more sensible about this issue.
But the coverage of Williams’s death reminds us that we have a real responsibility to get our tone, information and copytasting spot-on.
Personally, I thought even the detail that Williams hanged himself was a step too far, when he was such a hero and role model to so many people, and particularly so many young people.
There was a good piece in the Guardian on the concern over suicide coverage:
And the Samaritans charity has issued detailed guidance to journalists:
Interestingly, those guidelines raise no fundamental objection to the use of the words hanging or hanged, so maybe I am being unduly cautious and conservative.
Part of me thinks I would rather err on the side of caution than open myself to criticism that I had inadvertently put the idea of suicide into a vulnerable reader’s mind.
What I’m certain of, though, is that any reporter or news editor dealing with a story about suicide should familiarise themselves with those Samaritans guidelines.
They, after all, are the experts on this, not us.