Updated Oct 9, 2010 – 10:27 am
News we don't report – suicide
Seattle police say a young woman committed suicide by hanging herself in a stairwell outside a frat house near the University of Washington campus. As we learn more about the woman, journalists in newsrooms around Seattle debate how and whether to tell the story.
It's a long-held belief in the news business that "we don't report suicides." That's a lesson taught in every newsroom I've been in. I heard it again today.
Some justify the reporting of the UW case because a woman's body was found near the all-male Phi Delta Theta fraternity. That's unusual, so it seems the media will cover this tragedy.
The press also covered the suicide of a Rutger's student, who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after a video of intimate moments with his gay partner was posted on the Internet. The story got national attention because it wasn't a "typical suicide." That case might result in new legislation regarding harassment.
I do not agree with any notions that define what is or isn't news, or what should or shouldn't be reported.
Those are old guidelines from an era when traditional news organizations controlled the information you receive. Those days are long gone, thankfully.
The same news organizations that report murders, fires and other crimes every single day of the week shouldn't be reluctant to discuss something like suicide. Is it not a reality that shakes up people in the community, just as a DUI accident might?
Everyone's life is significant, and I think everyone's death should be too – especially if we can learn something that will perhaps change another person's life.
The 20-year-old woman who died is Carly Henley – a beautiful girl who was a talented musician in the Seattle area. She had a lot of friends, including someone I know. Carly's friend tells me he wished it was an accident. "Maybe she just slipped and fell down the staircase," he says.
Police confirmed late in the day, Henley committed suicide by hanging.
Family and friends ask, "Why?" If there's an answer as to how her death might have been prevented, then we must talk about Carly.