Tips from Journalists for Long-Form Stories

Seasoned journalists offer advice on covering suicide.

 Sabrina Rubin Erdely, Contributing Editor, Rolling Stone

  • Tell the story from a ground level view; begin with what it is like to be one of the kids.

Reporting on Three Levels:

  • Start with micro reporting, personal detail from main characters, getting to know them and verifying information

  • Then cast a wider net

  • This is how you get people to open up 

Two Challenges of Writing:

  • Instead of making it a sad story, think of it as horror movie, suspenseful

  • Be aware of how vulnerable and uncertain they were: Is the suicide cluster over?


Michael de Yoanna, Reporter,

  • I’m an investigative guy so I want mostly numbers. I like to see what the trend is.

  • We put all details in the story: names, gruesome details

  • When writing about someone who died, I put a picture of them up on my monitor


On interviewing survivors/family members:

Michael de YoannaReporter, 

  • The first words out of my mouth are, “Sorry for your loss.”


Sabrina Rubin Erdely, Contributing Editor, Rolling Stone

  • Never apologize for a question you’re about to ask. If you do, you’re injecting discomfort into the conversation.


Maiken Scott, Behavioral Health Reporter, WHYY

  • Talk to them like you would to a friend.


Christopher (Kit) Lukas, Writer, Actor, Director, TV Producer and Author of Blue Genes: A Memoir of Loss and Survival and Silent Grief: Living in the Wake of Suicide

  • I haven’t met a survivor yet who doesn’t want to tell their story. Just let them talk. I end interview with, “Is there anything I haven’t touched?”