Portsmouth newspaper, The News, has been censured by the Press Complaints Commission for reporting excessive detail of a suicide.
A woman complained to the press watchdog that an article published in the paper on 3 December headlined ‘Pill woman telephoned number to say goodbye’ intruded into grief and shock at the death of her mother.
All the details that made up the story had come from an inquest into the death.
Publishing its ruling today, the PCC said newspapers are ‘quite entitled to report inquests but when doing so they must take account of the requirements of the editors’ code”.
Upholding the complaint, the PCC said that after initially defending the level of information in the article, the editor acknowledged that a certain reference might be considered excessive.
He agreed to amend the online version of the story and circulated information to all staff about the requirements when reporting suicide.
Stephen Abell, PCC director, said today: “The code makes clear that ‘care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used’ when reporting suicides, because of the risk of copycat actions.
The PCC rejected a second complaint that the newspaper had failed to handle publication sensitively.
The PCC ruled: ‘The commission quite understood the complainant’s distress at reading details about how her late mother had been found. However, it did not consider that the newspaper had failed to deal with publication sensitively in breach of the code.
‘The commission started from the position that the reporting of inquests was an important function of the press, especially for local and regional papers.
‘It was right in a free society that newspapers should be able to cover hearings held in public and inform a community about the death of one of its members.
‘The commission was satisfied that the newspaper had not handled the information in a flippant or careless manner, and that the story was a serious reflection of a tragic incident.
‘It understood the complainant’s particular concern about the headline and was pleased that the editor had agreed to amend it online. However, it did not consider that this amounted to a breach of the code.”