LJWorld.com weblogs At Whit's End

LJWorld.com's most popular stories for Wednesday, May 11 and a note about covering suicide


Happy humid Thursday. It looks like we may see another round of thunderstorms this afternoon, but we'll have more on that later. The National Weather Service has us in the "slight" risk zone.

Below are the most-viewed stories from LJWorld.com for Wednesday, May 12, 2011. The dissolution of the Kansas Arts Commission is likely the biggest news of the week. It was not only the most-viewed story, but the top three most-commented items were about the Kansas Arts Commission, too.

LJWorld.com most-viewed stories for Wednesday, May 12

  1. Brownback administration lays off Kansas Arts Commission employees
  2. NWS cancels severe thunderstorm watch for Douglas County
  3. Downtown Lawrence retailers split on extending hours
  4. Town Talk: Varsity House may avoid wrecking ball as part of Oread apartment project; debate about downtown events brewing at City Hall; more news about downtown boutiques
  5. LifeStar helicopter called to scene of shooting in 800 block of Randall Road

Most commented items in the past 24 hours

  1. Brownback administration lays off Kansas Arts Commission employees
  2. Poll: Do you agree with Gov. Sam Brownback's decision to abolish the Kansas Arts Commission?
  3. Supporters of Kansas Arts Commission vow to overturn Brownback's decision to eliminate agency
  4. LTE: Legislating morality
  5. Democrats argue Brownback attempting to control, influence state government agencies

A note about covering suicide

I've had a lot of questions via Twitter, email and phone about why we didn't cover a suicide in the Checkers parking lot that happened Wednesday afternoon, yet we covered a possible suicide attempt that required a LifeStar helicopter in the same day.

Generally, our policy is that we do not cover suicides. The possible suicide attempt in the 800 block of Randall Road was initially reported as an accidental shooting, which is something we do report. When we realized it was a suicide, we did not delete our coverage, but adjusted it appropriately.

There have been rare exceptions to this policy.

If you're interested in reading more about the topic of suicide and news coverage, a good resource is a PDF developed by multiple agencies called "Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide."

Also, if you or someone you know is considering suicide, please call the National Hopeline Network at 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also visit the Headquarters Counseling Center website for suicide prevention resources in Kansas.

4:49 p.m. update

Here are the most-viewed stories on the website so far today. See everyone tomorrow!

  1. Town Talk: Arts store to open in West Lawrence; Groundbreaking for Bowersock on Monday; Lawrence firm named at Top 10 Small Business for KC; Area tech showcase next week
  2. Eudora woman sues Overland Park for discrimination related to bipolar disorder
  3. Brownback: $14B budget deal ‘victory for Kansas’
  4. Democrats argue Brownback attempting to control, influence state government agencies
  5. Poll: Do you agree with Gov. Sam Brownback’s decision to abolish the Kansas Arts Commission?


wmathews 6 years, 7 months ago

It was a suicide. That's exactly what I was referring to with my note about suicide coverage.

TopJayhawk 6 years, 7 months ago

The LJW as with most of the population is scared to death of suicide. PUN INTENDED.

Can't talk about it. Heck if we ignore it, it might just go away.

TheStonesSuck 6 years, 7 months ago

someone committed suicide in the parking lot, apparently. I was driving by as the cops and medical guys were there. It was a newer van with OK tags. It's really a shame when someone does that. If I ever felt that overwhelmed, I'd just move to a different country and start over.

Joan Kelly 6 years, 7 months ago

I think the PDF you provided is a good resource. In it the multiple agencies that assembled it suggest "Covering suicide carefully, even briefly, can change public misperceptions and correct myths, which can encourage those who are vulnerable or at risk to seek help."

Maybe the ljworld should take that into consideration.

I have not posted on this website very often, mostly because I like to pick my battles, but I will say I have been less and less impressed with the policies of ljworld.com.

On a similar note, I also think it is wrong that when reporting on a death, they open the articles up to comments (which many other sites refuse to do). What are they hoping to accomplish? Condolences can always be sent via memorial sites or on funeral home pages. Perhaps they want the comment section to provide more information on the story? But that seems like lazy journalism.

wmathews 6 years, 7 months ago

Thanks for the feedback. I think you make some good points about the PDF.

As far as comments on reporting about deaths go, we do sometimes have moderated comments on stories. That is where we filter all comments on that story before they're posted. I ask myself a lot of questions before I make the decision to enable moderated comments, because it's not one I take lightly.

I think with all stories there is a discussion to be had that can be valuable. That's why we have the flagging system for comments — so if you find a comment to be out of line, you can let me know.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 7 months ago

No, not a metaphorical earthquake, it will be a spiritual one!

One that will shake the very foundations of your faith!

DillonBarnes 6 years, 7 months ago

Just got the title of this blog, well done. Took me long enough.

wmathews 6 years, 7 months ago

I didn't come up with it! The title and header image are creations of Did_I_Say_That.

KansasPerson 6 years, 7 months ago

Hi Whitney,

Has this been the policy of the J-W all along? I'm asking because when someone we knew committed suicide about eight years ago (and it was covered), we were told by someone at the newspaper that the J-W covers a suicide if it occurs in a public place, but not otherwise (like at home).

wmathews 6 years, 7 months ago

As I said in the post, there are rare exceptions to the policy. It sounds like what you're describing may have been an exception.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 7 months ago

"Generally, our policy is that we do not cover suicides."

That's a very good policy, I think. Not only because it would be so painful for the families that are affected, but also because suicides, like premarital pregnancies, tend to be catching.

Kelly Johnson 6 years, 7 months ago

My opinion is that not mentioning suicides contributes to the stigma of mental health issues. Especially in Lawrence, where we don't even have a mental health unit in our hospital. Too many people are going without needed services or are being underserved.

I'm not necessarily saying the person should be identified as I understand it might cause further pain to the family of the deceased, but if articles involving sex crimes can be written without identifying victims or perpetrators, there's no reason articles about suicide couldn't be done that way as well.

TopJayhawk 6 years, 7 months ago

the LJW is afraid of the subject. They do not, as most folks in Lawrence understand it.

YOu are right. Lawrence, for all of it's self-described enlightenment don't even have a psyc unit at LMH. This is because LMH cannot make a lot of money offering that service.

One thing about LMH, if you have a malady that does not have a high profit potential (like a psyc unit) they don't want to have anything to do with you and will dump you somewhere else.

Lawrence needs a psyc unit, but you will not get one as you folks talk a good game, but when it comes down to it, they don't want to have anything to do with you.

dogsandcats 6 years, 7 months ago

I agree with PopcoRN. Why not have a policy to cover suicides, especially when they occur in public, but not release the name. Would this not be more ethical than leaving people to speculate and spread rumors?

Kris_H 6 years, 7 months ago

As a person with past experience in the mental health field and someone who has lost personal friends to suicide, I say report them. Thoughtfully, respectfully, and without releasing grisly details, without names and home locations. But please do monitor any comments if you decide to leave them enabled, because there are always those who don't know how to behave themselves.

People need to remember and realize that depression can kill. It's not something you can tell someone to just man up and get over. It's a serious psycho-physiological illness. Depression may not be the only reason for suicides, but it's a big one.

If by reporting it, someone else may decide to take action to find help for themselves or a loved one before it's too late, that would be a good thing.

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