Suicide, a Topic that Opens a Debate on What Journalism is for: A Study on Portuguese Journalists’ Perceptions

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Abstract

Reporting on suicide has been a matter of concern for decades due to possible harmful effects. Media guidelines have been developed to facilitate responsible suicide reporting. However, there is no consensus among journalists on the newsworthiness of suicide. Through a random sample survey (n = 491) corresponding to 10% of the total number of national journalist licences, and based on 12 interviews, this study explores for the first time Portuguese journalists’ experiences and perceptions of suicide reporting, and their knowledge of existing guidelines. Portuguese journalists are divided over the newsworthiness of suicide, but there is agreement on reporting suicide in the case of celebrities, as a social phenomenon, and amid efforts to promote mental health. More than half of the respondents answered that suicides should be reported to raise people’s awareness of warning signs and encourage public debate, mirroring the view of professionals from other countries. Almost 60% stated not knowing the guidelines for responsible suicide reporting. This study, which surveyed the largest sample of journalists ever to be questioned about suicide reporting, shows that there has been a change in Portuguese journalism practices in that regard and indicates that the topic should be included in education and/or training.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalJournalism Studies -
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Jun 2022

Keywords

  • Journalism
  • Suicide
  • Prevention
  • Guidelines
  • Ethics
  • Portugal

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