The Hindu has topped in an assessment of multiple English newspapers for responsible reporting of suicide-related news.
The study — The Application of a Scorecard Tool for Assessing and Engaging Media on Responsible Reporting of Suicide-Related News in India — was conducted by the Department of Psychiatry, Voluntary Health Services and SNEHA Suicide Prevention Centre, Centre for Mental Health Law and Policy, Indian Law Society and Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Nossal Institute for Global Health, University of Melbourne.
The authors developed a scorecard to assess and rate media reports on suicides. The scorecard consisted of 10 positive and 10 negative parameters. They applied the scorecard to 1,318 reports on suicide from nine English newspapers with the highest readership in the country, between April 1 and June 20, 2020. The average positive score across all newspapers was 1.32 and average negative score was 3.31.
The Hindu scored 2.71 in positive parameters and 2.35 in negative parameters. In comparison with other newspapers, it had the highest score in positive parameters and lowest in negative parameters.
The positive parameters in the scorecard included presence of help-seeking information such as national or state-level support services, 24/7 crisis helplines, report establishes a link to poor mental health, link to drug/alcohol abuse, comments from mental health and suicide prevention experts and links to hopeful stories.
Use of criminalising language, attention-grabbing headlines, mentioning and describing method of suicide/attempted suicide in the article, has accompanying photographs and is on the front page of the newspaper were among the negative parameters.
However, the findings also revealed that most newspapers performed poorly on both scorecards. There was a higher prevalence of negative reporting practices in the articles compared to positive practices. While over 50% of articles met one criterion of verified information and facts from official sources, over 50% articles mentioned the method of suicides, had attention-grabbing headlines and used criminalising language.
The study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.