Patti Bacchus is the latest politician attempting to control the media.
The outspoken chair of the Vancouver School Board is demanding the media adhere to guidelines from the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention on how suicides are reported in the press.
Among the guidelines is not publishing photos of the deceased, banning front-page coverage and disallowing repetitive coverage.
Bacchus fears, and rightly so, that it could inspire copycat incidents, especially with young people. Bacchus should understand this is totally unrealistic in today's Internet world. The sad and horrific Amanda Todd case was known to many because of the Internet. Were the media to ignore this story or downplay it because the Patti Bacchuses of the world felt we should?
Amanda Todd could be named Canada's Newsmaker of the Year by Canadian Press later this month. Media coverage of this case has raised suicide awareness to the point where something is being done about it. Maybe some young people have stopped being bullies because of Amanda Todd.
Suicides are seldom reported in the media. Rare exceptions include Amanda's case, a public figure or when a suicide is performed in a public place.
One can sometimes figure out when a person has taken their own life by reading the obituary column. "Suddenly at home" is one clue, another is the charity of choice. In some cases, families want it to be known in the hope it will
let other grieving families know they're not alone.
Some have suggested the media should print the names of all suicide victims because then maybe, finally, society will wake up and realize there's a major epidemic.
Bacchus has done many fine things in her tenure as chair of the largest school board in B.C., to the point where she's been encouraged to run provincially. This appears to be a case of blaming the media, rather than the system itself, for the problems of bullying and teen suicide.
- Herald Editor James M. Miller