The Sun has revealed that it agreed to offer training to staff on the reporting of suicide following an article by columnist Jeremy Clarkson that decribed people who jump under trains as ‘selfish”.
The paper also agreed to lend its support to a campaign against mental health discrimination as part of a deal settling a complaint by five groups linked to suicide victims and their families.
The groups Samaritans, Mind, Rethink Mental Illness, Sane and PAPYRUS (Prevention of Young Suicide) complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the comment article from last December breached Clause 5 of the Editors’ Code (intrusion into grief).
The groups said Clarkson’s use of ‘graphic imagery’and a ‘flippant’tone had ‘violated the dignity of people who had died by suicide and intruded into the grief of their families”.
Clarkson suggested in the article that trains should start moving again as soon as possible after a suicide, that the 200 people a year who end their lives in this way were “selfish” and that the authorities should just ‘pick up the big bits of what’s left of the victim, get the train moving as quickly as possible” – with further vivid comment in this vein.
The PCC negotiated a meeting between representatives of Samaritans – acting on behalf of the complainants – and representatives of The Sun to discuss the article and the broader issues.
Following the meeting, The Sun told the PCC that it defended the columnist’s right to “hold a view that others strongly opposed” but added that the paper “accepted that parts of the column had overstepped the mark”. The Sun apologised for the offence caused and the piece does not appear on paper’s website.
The PCC said that the Sun had “agreed to training in reporting suicide sensitively to be conducted by Samaritans”.
The PCC said: “It also agreed to support the Time to Change campaign against mental health discrimination led by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness and to offer training to its staff on mental health reporting…
“In addition, both parties agreed to contribute to future discussions about the terms of clause 5 of the code and how it relates to groups of people bereaved in a certain way rather than individual bereavements.”
Nicola Peckett, Head of Communications at Samaritans, said: ‘We’ve had a long and constructive relationship with The Sun and are pleased that we were able to resolve this complaint.
‘It’s important for journalists to be aware of the sensitivities of reporting suicide. Whilst it’s vital to challenge stigma and de-mystify the issue, reporting needs to ensure it doesn’t lead to copycat deaths or intrude into the grief and shock of readers.
‘The training we provide allows journalists to fully understand the effect their reporting can have on both vulnerable people and those bereaved by suicide.”
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