The Morning Report
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It used to be you couldn’t jump off a bridge without getting your name in the paper.
In the 1970s and 1980s, dozens of Coronado Bridge jumpers were memorialized in the news pages of local newspapers. Even a 29-year-old Oceanside woman who survived her jump in 1987 was mentioned by name in a story.
Six months later, she returned to the bridge and jumped to her death.
Newspapers have gained a heart over the past 20 years. Today, most journalists wouldn’t think of naming a survivor of a suicide attempt unless she’s a celebrity or gives her permission. The news media has learned to respect the privacy of victims of all kinds of violence, and reporters take special care regarding suicide.
Complaints from mental-health professionals about suicide coverage have “made reporters fairly skittish about covering this stuff,” said Northwestern University journalism professor Loren Ghiglione, who’s writing a book about the reporting of suicide.
Reporters and editors are especially leery in the wake of studies that have suggested media coverage of high-profile suicides can create a “copycat effect,” inspiring others to kill themselves even if they would otherwise not consider suicide. Simply mentioning a suicide victim’s name in print can encourage “those who are vulnerable to feel that they will be noticed in death,” warns the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Nowadays, the San Diego news media rarely report on Coronado Bridge suicides and suicide attempts. (One exception came last New Year’s Eve when a fleeing suspect leaped over the edge and brought a police dog with him. The man survived, but the dog died.)
Coronado Bridge’s grim suicide toll has gotten even less attention. Newspaper database and Internet searches suggest there hasn’t been any extensive media coverage of bridge suicides since 2000, when the San Diego Reader published a cover story.
— RANDY DOTINGA