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Jun 23 2011

Academic Exercises

Covering Campus Suicide

A three-part curriculum to help prepare journalism students for the difficult process of covering suicide on or near a college campus.

Photo: Emmanuel Dunand / AFP / Getty Images: 
At Rutgers University, fellow  ...

Photo: Emmanuel Dunand / AFP / Getty Images: At Rutgers University, fellow students pay their respects on to Tyler Clementi, who killed himself shortly after being filmed and broadcast over the Internet during a gay encounter.

Overview

This learning activity is designed to help prepare journalism students for the difficult process of covering suicide on or near a college campus. It is built around a classroom scenario that unfolds over time and requires students to apply background readings, make real-time decisions and produce breaking news and a follow up story. It includes instructor guidelines with a suggested timeline, tips and discussion questions. The resource list includes readings and websites for understanding and reporting on suicide.  The scenario is fictional, although it has been informed by accounts of suicides on college campuses during the last few years.

In this module, students will:

  • Gain a basic understanding of suicide, including an elementary grasp of the psychology and motives or reasons behind it.
  • Develop an awareness of the ethical and practical issues that arise when the news media cover a suicide. 
  • Discuss whether it’s appropriate to use social media (i.e. Facebook) in such stories.
  • Discuss how to approach grieving family members and friends.
  • Write a “breaking story” for a website and longer articles for print.

This curriculum module is a product of Randal Beam's Dart Academic Fellowship, held at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in June, 2010.

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Randal Beam

  • Randal Beam is an associate professor at the University of Washington Department of Communication. He teaches courses on journalism and the mass media and is a co-author of “The American Journalist in the 21st Century: U.S. News People at the Dawn of a New Millennium.”

Will T. Mari

  • Will T. Mari is a doctoral student in the department of communication at the University of Washington.

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