Facing a sharp increase in the suicide rate among young adults, a national workshop was convened in 1989 to address the possibility of media-related suicide contagion.
Public health officials, psychologists and news media professionals concluded that certain types of news reporting on suicide did, indeed, contribute to copycat attempts and could serve to glamorize the act.
Newspapers and other traditional forms of media further tightened guidelines on how, why and when to report on suicide.
The Napa Valley Register will always use the utmost discretion when reporting on suicide. In general, we will not report on attempted suicide.
The Napa Valley community should exercise similar discretion.
In the more than 20 years that have passed since that 1989 workshop, many new forms of communication have developed. Readers are more involved in the story than ever before. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, online story comments and mobile devices are wonderful ways to share information with our friends, family and neighbors — near and far.
With more public words comes the need for ever-increasing temperance.
What is shared and why needs to be considered with every click of a camera phone and every push of the “SEND” button.
The spate of suicides among gay teenagers that spread through the nation in the fall demonstrates the rippling power of the modern-day social media.
Filters on the information superhighway are few and Facebook walls are thin.
Examine the value of the information you are putting out into the world against its potential harm.
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As a newspaper, we report facts pertinent to the story that add value for the reader. We don’t typically count details of attempted suicide among them.
There are exceptions, one of which we reported Wednesday night when multiple public agencies and more than 100 county jail inmates were affected. Such public influence necessitates coverage.
We limit that coverage to essential detail and endeavor to include information on suicide prevention resources in our reporting.
There’s nothing glamorous, clever or endearing about suicide. And there’s no pleasure to be found in the pain of others.
Two links on our Facebook page have been deleted this week due to the crude nature of reader comments attached to the news coverage.
We moderate online comments on our website. We don’t have similar preemptive luxury on Facebook.
In 1989, reader input was typically limited to letters to the editor and phone calls to the newsroom. The valuable content found its voice in print.
Today, you can claim to be anyone online and say almost anything — however hazy its value — with relative impunity.
New communication tools present new unfiltered challenges.
Treat these tools with respect and choose your words — whether spoken, written, Tweeted or texted — carefully.