Behind The Scenes

Suicide policy re-visited

Some readers may have been surprised to see a brief news item posted on our Facebook page about a suicide at the Wal-Mart parking lot in neighboring Hinsdale, N.H., this week.

First and foremost, let me reiterate what the Reformer's policy is: The Reformer does not report on suicides, unless the incident is of a particularly newsworthy fashion. For example, if a person jumps off of the Interstate bridge during rush hour.

In this case, the suicide took place late at night, in the vacant parking lot of the store. In fact, I heard the initial call come over the scanner close to deadline, and drove past the Wal-Mart on my way home but did not notice anything out of the ordinary. However, the next day a reporter called the police and learned it had been a suicide. Because the police were looking for additional information on the incident, we felt it would be helpful to post the story in some fashion to possible help someone come forward.

Later in the day, we re-visited the coverage and the editorial board discussed whether there was a need to run this piece in the newspaper. We had the reporter reach out to the police again, to see if it would be helpful, and ultimately decided we had done enough.

It seemed that posting the story online, via Facebook, was the fastest, easiest way to reach out to the maximum number of people. And while the suicide did take place in a public venue, I made the ultimate decision that it did not meet the threshold of our stated policy (taking place close to midnight, in an isolated location).

These are tough choices we sometimes are forced to make on a regular basis in the newsroom.

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