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Our policy on reporting suicides
December 23, 2013 - Rob Weaver
I can't explain why a person would decide, in the days before a major holiday such as Christmas, to take his or her own life. I can't completely fathom why anyone would commit suicide. In a way, I hope I never do understand.
It's often assumed a person takes this final act in order to end their suffering. Sometimes, it seems, the person wants to inflict suffering on others, or else is oblivious to the pain their loss will cause. Infrequently, a person seeks to inflict suffering on himself or herself.
Sunday, a person chose to end his life at a residence in Tiffin. He did so in private.
A report on the city of Tiffin's Twitter page concerning a body being found at a Clay Street home prompted other news media outlets to relay that information. Some of our staffers have been asked why we did not. That is because the reporter covering spot news Sunday already had discerned what had happened.
Allow me to remind our readers of The Advertiser-Tribune's policy concerning suicides. In general, we do not report when someone commits suicide in private, away from public view. While the act remains a tragedy, it is not illegal to take one's own life.
We will report when someone takes his or her own life when the act occurs in public or in a manner which makes the incident a matter of public safety. Years ago, a resident of a Seneca County village took his own life outside, along a state route, despite efforts of law enforcement personnel to dissuade him. Recently, a man killed himself at a state nature preserve using a technique that easily could have injured or killed someone else.
While this policy concerning reporting of suicides may seem clear, situations can arise which cloud the issue. For example, we have reported a death that had the appearance of a homicide, but later was ruled to be suicide.
Despite the immediacy of Internet-based communication, and the speed with which information can be disseminated by anyone with a cellphone, tablet or laptop, we intend to retain this policy, while wishing we never had to have formulated it to begin with, let alone never apply it again.
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