A study titled ‘Do newspaper reports of suicide comply with standard suicide reporting guidelines? – a study from Bangalore, India’ was conducted by Prof. Prabha S Chandra, D Padmavathy, Anuroopa P and Mariamma Philip. The study findings showed that majority of reports on suicides in newspapers from Bangalore did not comply with standard guidelines of reporting.
Background: Several countries have prescribed standard guidelines for media professionals on suicide reporting. However, the implementation of these guidelines has been varied. Suicide rates in South Asia are one of the highest in the world, and it is known that media guidelines for suicide reporting are not followed adequately. However, there are no published reports available from this region.
Aim: This study aimed at assessing newspaper reports of suicide for quality of reporting based on standard reporting guidelines and to study differences between English and vernacular (Kannada) newspapers in Bangalore, South India.
Methods: A total of 341 newspaper reports of suicide from 550 newspapers (3 English and 3 Kannada) over 3 months were systematically assessed for compliance with reporting guidelines. Each report was evaluated on 2 domains and 36 parameters. Data were analyzed for frequency of inappropriate reporting and patterns compared between vernacular and English newspapers.
Results: In all, 87% of the reports were those of completed suicide. Non-compliant reporting – method of suicide was reported in 89% and 32% of reports were in prominent pages of the newspaper, 95% mentioned gender, 90% reported the name, 80% reported age and suicide location, 75% reported life events related to suicide, 70% reported occupation, 69% had headline explicity on suicide and 61% reported monocausality. Only 16% reported mental disorder related to suicide, and less than 3% included information on suicide prevention and helplines. Vernacular papers showed significantly better compliance in 16 of the 20 areas. However, protective characteristics were better reported in English newspapers.
Conclusion: Majority of reports on suicides in newspapers from Bangalore did not comply with standard guidelines of reporting. There is a strong need to evolve local guidelines and mechanisms for ensuring responsible reporting which have important implications in prevention of suicide.