Newspaper reporting on a cluster of suicides in the UK: a study of article characteristics using PRINTQUAL

Ann John, Keith Hawton, David Gunnell, Keith Lloyd, Jonathan Scourfield, Phillip A Jones, Ann Luce, Amanda Marchant, Steve Platt, Sian Price, Michael S Dennis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
426 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Media reporting may influence suicide clusters through imitation or contagion. In 2008 there was extensive national and international newspaper coverage of a cluster of suicides in young people in the Bridgend area of South Wales, U.K.

Aims: To explore the quantity and quality of newspaper reporting during the identified cluster.

Method: Searches were conducted for articles on suicide in Bridgend for six months before and after the defined cluster (26th June 2007 – 16th September 2008). Frequency, quality (using the PRINTQUAL instrument) and sensationalism were examined.

Results: 577 newspaper articles were identified. One in seven articles included the suicide method in the headline, 47.3% referred to earlier suicides and 44% used phrases which guidelines suggest should be avoided. Only 13% included sources of information or advice.

Limitations: Other types of media reporting were excluded. There was no evidence of social media playing a significant role.

Conclusions: A high level of poor quality and sensationalist reporting was found during an ongoing suicide cluster at the very time when good quality reporting could be considered important. A broad awareness of media guidelines, and expansion and adherence to press codes of practice are required by journalists to ensure ethical reporting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-25
Number of pages9
JournalCrisis: Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention
Issue number1
Early online date22 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017

Structured keywords

  • SASH


  • suicide cluster
  • newspaper reporting
  • guidelines


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