Conference to highlight issues surrounding reporting of suicides

A former East Midlands newspaper editor editor has joined forces with a charity and the press watchdog to help combat what is described as the “irresponsible reporting of suicide.”

Keith Perch (pictured), who is now head of journalism at the University of Derby, has teamed up with The Samaritans and the Independent Press Standards Organisation to raise awareness about issues surrounding coverage of such tragedies.

Keith, a former editor of the Derby Telegraph, Leicester Mercury and South Wales Echo, will to host a conference – aimed at regional journalists - on 24 April at the university.

Around 30 regional newspaper editors have signed up to attend the workshop, which will feature presentations by Lorna Fraser, media adviser at The Samaritans, and Professor David Gunnell, from the University of Bristol.

In a blog post about the conference, Keith wrote: “There is compelling evidence that irresponsible reporting of suicides by media leads to extra deaths. Get it wrong and people die.

“When I was editor of regional newspapers, I don’t think I knew this. I was vaguely aware of evidence that linked the reporting of suicide to imitative deaths in a cluster of suicides in South Wales.

“However, there is now no doubt and there is no excuse for not knowing. The increasing evidence has led to changes in the Editors’ Code of Practice which now explicitly states that 'to prevent simulative acts, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail of the method used’.

“The Samaritans have worked tirelessly in recent years to build a detailed set of guidelines for reporters on how best to cover suicide. They also offer a full media advisory service, which includes both media training and pre-publication advice. However, they find it difficult to get their message out to reporters working in local and regional media.”

The conference is open to journalists working for newspapers, or working as freelances, while academics who teach student journalists are also welcome.

It will be held at the University of Derby’s main Kedleston Road campus from 11am on Monday 24 April, and is set to let around 90 minutes – with a free lunch included. To sign up or find out more, click here.