The messenger

Many newsrooms around the country have rules about covering suicides. It may seem macabre, but questions regarding coverage come up frequently, especially at daily newspapers.

The rules at many papers go like this: We don’t cover suicides unless the victim is a well-known person; it somehow becomes a public event; it’s a murder-suicide; or it is of a particularly bizarre nature.

At this paper we’ve never been much on following the conventions of the mainstream media. And besides, basing what you do on rules is not the way to go. Reflection and reasoning, if you have the time, should be the route to follow. One person involved in this story called the idea of writing about a suicide “unseemly.” We thought about it and don’t think that’s the case.

The death of Donna McDaniel (see “Last Words” by Steven T. Jones, page 18) is an example of a suicide that should be examined, and it’s got nothing to do with rules. It’s because her story illustrates a larger issue about stress in the workplace and how a large institution deals with that stress, a suicide and its aftermath. We contacted the family and found that they, too, thought the issues surrounding her death needed airing.

We also know that taking one’s life is a complex behavior that is the result of a combination of catalytic factors, and the workplace was only one.