Public Editor

An unusual question about suicide coverage

A good question from a reader this morning:

"have they identified the suicide victim at crown center's san francisco tower yet?"

She's referring to a story that ran on yesterday morning and in the print edition today. It says the victim "reportedly had been talking about suicide in the last couple of months."

The reporter tells me police haven't closed the investigation yet, but it does appear to be a suicide at this point. If that's the case, The Star wouldn't name the victim. However, if it were to turn out to be a homicide, the victim would then be named.

I agree with The Star's policy on suicides. Those that happen in private places are not reported on at all. If the suicide occurs in a public place, The Star would report on the incident, but not the identity of the deceased. The exception would be if it's a public figure, in which case the victim would usually be named.

There can be exceptions. I'm especially imagining those cases where the survivors wish to bring the victim's plight to the public's attention to prevent others from falling into the same situation. In those cases, I can see how naming a private citizen would serve a purpose for the greater public's knowledge. Most of the time, though, I don't see anything other than prurient interest that would be served.

Do you disagree with The Star's policy? Let me know and I'll air any dissent.