How to cover suicide (via the Dart Center)

There was a great post today about covering suicide from the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma out of the Columbia Journalism School.

It’s an issue I’ve raised in classrooms and newsrooms: Suicide is a serious public health issue, yet we often look at our feet and wait for the moment to pass without a word being said.

My former ethics professor, Edward Wasserman (Knight Foundation professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University) talked about the issue in one of his columns for the Miami Herald, and it’s something we debated in class as well.

Most news organizations won’t touch suicide, and if they do, only if the victim is in the national spotlight or the attempt was in public. But in doing so we marginalize the others who have fallen to the same fate. Any time a member of our community is dramatically or violently taken from us, it is news and should be ethically and sensitively reported.

The article has some good tips about reporting on suicides in a way that raises awareness without inciting copycats or re-victimizing families. Here’s a few I really liked:

  • Include a sidebar with warning signs for depression or resources for getting help.
  • Don’t say the suicide came out of nowhere or was prompted by a single incident, like losing a job – depression exhibits warning signs, and the single cause oversimplifies the victim’s struggle.
  • Inform without sensationalizing (don’t refer to “skyrocketing” suicide rates or graphic crime scenes).
  • Use facts and an expert to educate your audience about depression and suicide.

Weather forecast wrong, people angry

I was once told in a television news class I took as an undergrad that the number one reason people watch the local nightly news is this: the weather.

My fiance’s mother is one of these people. Each night she turns on the local NBC affiliate, promptly takes a 40 minute cat-nap and has someone awake her to hear the next day’s temperature.

Today angry tweeters took to the Internet to proclaim their dismay that popular Chicago weather guy Tom Skilling got today’s nearly 100 degree forecast wrong. It was barely 75 degrees at 2 p.m.
[Read more…]

How to start a hashtag trend on Twitter

One year down…

It’s been a year since I graduated from Washington and Lee University. Being a year out was a bigger shock to my system than my actual graduation. I guess it’s just that adulthood has finally set in. It’s weird.

I thought it was a good time to reflect on the last year and take inventory:

Things that have changed: not having the mentorship of my professors, being hundreds of miles away from my best friends, lack of desire to go out after the sun goes down, ending work at 5 p.m. instead of beginning homework at 11 p.m.

Things I’ve learned: I took college for granted, I was in a community of caring that was unparalleled, my mom calls me more when I’m 12 minutes away than when I was 12 hours away,  I can still show my college ID for student discounts.

A year from now, I will have been married for 8 months with a master’s degree and a home of my own.

Here’s to the next 365 days.

Writing about beer and cicerones

For a class I’m taking at DePaul University (Reporting for Converged Newsrooms), we had to write a local story of our choice.

I chose to write about a new certification program that’s essentially the beer equivalent of a sommelier – the cicerone. (Read it here.)

Lo and behold, about a week and a half later, the New York Times decides it’s a topic worthy of their pages too. (Read it here).

But let the record stand: I had it first.