Teaching responsible suicide reporting (RSR) : using storytelling as a pedagogy to advance media reporting of suicide

Duncan, Sallyanne and Luce, Ann (2020) Teaching responsible suicide reporting (RSR) : using storytelling as a pedagogy to advance media reporting of suicide. Journalism Education, 9 (1). pp. 18-31.

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    Abstract

    Reporting suicide is an important but challenging area of journalism practice. Learning how to report this complex, distressing subject is vital for journalists if they are to avoid contributing to the 800,000 annual suicidal deaths worldwide (WHO, 2019). Tuition on suicide reporting in higher education tends to be didactic and theoretical, focussing on media guidelines and codes of conduct. Thereafter, journalists’ ability to implement this guidance is mixed. To address this, the authors devised the Responsible Suicide Reporting Model (RSR) which is grounded in news-work and embeds media guidelines within journalistic storytelling, consisting of a typology of suicide narratives and 'othering', ethical rules and a standard of moderation. This study tests the effectiveness of teaching the RSR Model using storytelling-as-pedagogy and problem-based learning. Firstly, we investigated students' perspectives on current educational offerings on suicide reporting through a survey of 229 students in the UK and Ireland who had no exposure to the RSR model. We then ran workshops with 80 students in the UK, teaching them the RSR model. The results showed that students with no exposure to the model–while they seemed to be aware of the theory of responsible suicide reporting–did not know how to implement it. Students who participated in workshops, where the RSR model was used, reported a greater understanding of responsible suicide reporting, believing they became better critically reflective practitioners.