As with most policies, especially when communicating them to a diverse public, it’s best to be blunt, so we’ll spare you the hyperbole.
Generally, we do not report on suicides taking place in a private residence, unless the person is a public official or figure, or has recently been in the news. Public suicides are typically reported, but even then, there’s a complicated set of guidelines that come into play.
On Thursday, a Burbank police officer named in an FBI probe into the department shot and killed himself on a residential street corner. It continues to be covered extensively due to the nature of the act and his status in the federal investigation.
But when a woman jumped to her death from a top floor of the Burbank Holiday Inn this summer, it was reported as a news brief, without her name. The death occurred in the public eye, but the woman herself was not a public figure.
And in other cases, there are periodic suicides that occur in private that we choose not to report because it would either be gratuitous, or cause more harm.
The act of suicide, no matter the setting or method, represents one of the most tragic points of human desperation. Reporting them is never an easy task, nevermind the pain and suffering that only get compounded when affected loved ones see it played out in print.
But we wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t roll up our sleeves and report that tragedy when it represents a significant impact to the general public, either to a news event, public safety or otherwise.