The frenzied coverage of Natasha Singhs death

IN Media Practice | 22/04/2002
The frenzied coverage of Natasha Singhs death

The frenzied coverage of Natasha Singhs death

 

The coverage violated all norms. Isn`t the media travesty of her death our chance to acknowledge how urgently we need to change, asks her TV journalist friend, Sonia Verma.

 

What precautions should be taken while covering a suicide? We present a few below, every one of which was violated in the manner in which a few tv news channels covered the death of Delhi photographer Natasha Singh, daughter in law of a prominent politician.

News coverage guidelines from the American Association of Suicidology

1. In order to discourage copycat suicides, avoid or minimize reporting specific details of the method the victim used in taking his/her life, avoid descriptions of a suicide as "unexplainable" such as "he had everything going for him" avoid reporting romanticized versions of the reasons for the suicide, e.g. "they wanted to be together for all eternity."

2. Avoid reporting simplistic reasons for suicides such as "the boy committed suicide because he has to wear braces on his teeth." The rationale for suicidal thoughts are much deeper.

3. Consider how you play the story. Consider minimizing harm by not playing the story in pre-show teases. Consider not using the photo of the person who killed him/herself. It will make the suicide less glamorous to someone considering imitating the act.

4. Report suicide in a straightforward manner so suicide does not appear to be exciting. Reports should not make the suicidal person appear admirable nor should they seem to approve of suicide as an alternative.

5. Present alternatives to suicide, such as calling a suicide hotline or getting counseling.

6. Whenever possible, present examples of positive outcomes of people in suicidal crisis.

 

Reprinted with permission. The author is News Editor, New Delhi Television.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MEDIA DIVIDE

Sonia Verma

Natasha Singh was one of my closest friends. Besides dealing with the tragedy of her shocking death, for her family and friends perhaps the most difficult part was coming face to face with (for lack of a better way to describe it) the media on hunt. Sunday morning, when we reached Hyatt Hotel to identify Natasha`s body, the first thing a senior police officer told us tersely was "she has been murdered--shot thrice in the back." Dealing with the shock of that plus informing her mother and brothers in Goa was hard enough but then suddenly a full-fledged assault was on us and on our TV screens. An assault which meant her brothers had to see the first glimpse of their dead sister wrapped in a white sheet on a stretcher, which is clearly stopped by enthusiastic cameramen and the shroud parted to show her battered face in close up--not once or twice but beamed relentlessly into drawing rooms around India as part of a 24 hours breaking news cycle. To people who had no idea who she was when she was alive, suddenly knew every gruesome detail about her death.

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