Recently, a public suicide in the Walmart parking lot lit up the web. Not only that, but my phone also lit up. Friends and family alike were all trying to find out who died and what happened.
Although, I appreciate the fact that the community turned to us, the Mountain Advocate, for a report on the breaking news, please understand that, for the victims’ sakes (both the deceased and the family), we always leave it up to the authorities to release any names or personal information about the person who committed suicide.
This policy seemed to upset some people who (like everyone who is ‘wired’ on the web) expected us to release the name and details RIGHT THEN on our website.
All we put on the web was that there was, indeed, a shooting, but that it was self-inflicted. This we reported only to keep people from thinking there was a murder committed once news of a ‘shooting’ was spread.
It’s sad enough that a person has become so mentally, socially or spiritually lost that they feel there is nothing left for them in this life. But, for a close family member to have to find out second or third hand about this terrible tragedy, either over the web or from anyone other than the proper authorities, would be both unscrupulous and immoral on the part of the media.
Therefore, until the authorities publicly release any information on a suicide, either enacted in public or private, we will not do so.
I don’t know about anyone out there, but I know I would be utterly devastated if someone posted over the web that my husband, sister or mother had committed suicide. I know my first question would be “Is it really true, or is someone just being mean?” Then I’d question if it were really my family member or someone with the same name.
I personally have covered reports of shootings that turned out to be suicides. I stuck around long enough to get verification from law enforcement that a person died from a self-inflicted wound. At that point, I left. I did not ask any more questions, did not even ask the name of the deceased. I simply walked away and let the authorities do their jobs.
Please understand, this policy remains in place out of respect for the families, who are also victims of a suicide.
Therefore, this is one time I, nor anyone at this paper, will apologize to anyone for not releasing the name in this tragic incident, even though it happened in a public place.
Our condolences to the family.