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Colorado journalists' application and understanding of guidelines for reporting on sensitive topics: suicides




Miller, Sunday E., author
Wolfgang, David, advisor
Long, Marilee, committee member
Carcasson, Martín, committee member

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Research suggests news reporting on suicides that does not follow recommended guidelines can cause vulnerable people to imitate suicidal behavior. Reporting guidelines for suicide have been created and disseminated with mixed success rates. This study used structured in-depth interviews with Colorado newspaper journalists to examine the ways local journalists report on suicides and the extent to which they follow recommended reporting guidelines, as well as explored the influences and ethical decisions journalists encounter when covering suicide. Findings indicate journalists view guidelines as suggestions not requirements and that they violate them based on their morals or personal connection to suicide. The Hierarchical Model framework suggests various influences shape media content, which can explain the guidelines journalists consider and why they create content the way they do. The results of this study echos literature showing collaborative guideline creation and implementation is key to minimizing harm, destigmatizing mental illness, and changing suicide reporting practices.


2022 Spring.
Includes bibliographical references.

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hierarchical model
social cognitive theory
suicide reporting guidelines
parasocial interaction
Colorado journalists
suicide contagion


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