Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why Did the Enquirer ID the Student Who Attempted Suicide?

The choice to name the student who attempted suicide at LaSalle High School was the wrong one to make. I am trying to rack my brain to figure out the reasons for doing it. It's not information that is really going to drive readers to find out more by reading the paper. If they want to know about the case, adding the name isn't going to drive up circulation. I can see the argument that publishing all of the information known is good, but that assumes an extreme viewpoint where privacy is deemed wrong.

The technical reason I can see the Enquirer using is the strong likelihood that the student will be charged with a crime for bringing the gun to class and firing it, if nothing else. Naming suspects or potential suspects in crimes is an acceptable journalistic practice. Joe Deters likely won't let the case go anywhere, to help the school, if nothing else, but that's the type of story that could be written in a month or so once events play out. In that story that name of the student would then be far more relevant.

In this case at this time there is no good reason to name the student, who according to the article is under 18 years old. The young man's medical condition is not known. We don't know if he will even survive, let alone in what condition. Adding his name to the public sphere doesn't serve a purpose to the community. The Enquirer made a big mistake.

UPDATE #1: The Enquirer posted a response on why they named the student.  The response is lacking in my opinion.  It appears they did it for clarity because there was allegedly false information out there.  Also they did it because the name was already known, including allegedly being given to LaSalle parents by the School. It appears to me that not a whole lot of thought went into the act of publishing the name.  The Enquirer may want to rethink their policy and practices.  Hell, most of the time they don't report when suicide attempts happen, whether successful or not.

UPDATE #2: CityBeat has also named the student in a blog post today, based on the Enquirer article.

1 comment:

  1. "Hell, most of the time don't report when suicide attempts happen, whether successful or not."

    Are those attempts in public? Usually a public attempt receives a report. I agree that private attempts shouldn't be published, although there are circumstances where that rule should be waived. For example, if someone offs himself at home and leaves behind a note saying: "I planted 6 bombs at my workplace," then there had better be some publicity of that.

    As I said at Aggregator Jim's site, I agree with the decision. But I could listen to an argument for not rushing to a decision.

    The other point is we have a lot of ultraignorant people who think there should be armed personnel at every school, damn the cost and the added risk. Under those circumstances, I think every detail of an incident like this needs to be publicized in order to try to get through to empty heads. The incidents of armed violence at schools are few and far between, but when they do occur, many of them are from within, rather than someone attacking from the outside. You could have 65 armed personnel at a building, and they would be fortunate to stop this type of event.

    This also illustrates the disconnect between reality and the rantings of gun people. Gun people will first insist that the solution is to deal with mental illness. Never mind that this statement is incredibly obvious and never attached to any specific solution. Then, in the same breath, they call for armed personnel at every school. The solution, of course, is better education for gun people. And better politicians who don't listen to gun people. In time, we'll have more sensible people, fewer gun people, and fewer problems. It's simple when you break it down.


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