I received this email from a Romenesko reader early this morning:
I’m deeply troubled by the Cincinnati Enquirer’s decision to name the 17-year-old boy who tried to kill himself in class yesterday. Especially since I could find no accompanying editorial explaining why they did so against the express wishes of his school and his family. Makes me wonder if there was any discussion at all about the ethics of the situation. I thought it was worth bringing it to your attention.
I understand the need to break the general rule on not reporting suicides or suicide attempts given that he shot himself in a classroom and the entire school was briefly put on lockdown. But there is no journalistic merit to exposing a troubled young man who did not harm anyone except himself to this level of permanent public scrutiny. They even included his middle initial and sent out a breaking news e-mail alert.
I was about to ask editor Carolyn Washburn about her decision, then I noticed she posted an explanation at 10:22 a.m. – apparently after others questioned naming the boy. “It was a difficult decision,” she writes, but “this was an unusual situation, an extremely public situation.”
A young man brought a gun into a school. He discharged it in a crowded classroom. There was chaos for an entire community. And one factor – though not the only one – is that students and parents at the school already know who he is; school administrators named him to parents. What will be important now is helping people understand what happened as appropriately as we can, insights that we hope will help other families and their children.
* Here is why we named the student (cincinnati.com)
* Why did the Enquirer ID the student who attempted suicide? (Cincinnati Blog)
* Report identifies student who attempted suicide in class (cincinnati.com)