“Graphic journalist Susie Cagle surveys the impact of recent DEA raids in “Down In Smoke,“ her third piece for Cartoon Movement. Incorporating real audio from activists, Cagle portrays what “feels like class war” as local growers, patients and city officials fight against losing their jobs, medicine, and tax revenue.
Californians voted to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, and President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder stated early on they would not target legitimate businesses. But they’ve since reversed course and declared war on dispensaries, a huge tax base for the debt-ridden state. “It’s an issue that highlights the divides in America’s culture and its politics,” Cagle writes, “as a government based 3,000 miles away attempts to override state law and the people’s mandate.”
Like what Susie’s done for Cartoon Movement? Be sure to stay tuned for an epic Susie C story in Symbolia’s Preview Issue.
How a journalistic taboo met its end
Trigger Warning: suicide, teen suicide, bullying, mental illness.
Steve Ladurantaye, Globe and Mail.
In the 70s, journalists stopped reporting on suicide, because the risk of ‘contagion’ (ie. news of suicides leading to other suicides) was deemed too high:
Suicide coverage in North America has always been a delicate subject. While papers once reported suicide with the same vigour afforded high-profile murders, attitudes changed in the 1970s after a research paper determined that the number of suicides in Detroit decreased while the local newspaper was on strike and then spiked again when publication resumed.
Opinion became further entrenched after an Austrian study showed that sensational coverage of subway suicides led to more subway suicides. Reporters were put through sensitivity training and papers changed their policies on covering the subject.
“The media complied with guidelines and the suicide rate decreased by as much as 75 per cent by way of subway,” the Canadian Psychiatric Association concluded in its own report on suicide and the media. “The importance of continuous monitoring of the media cannot be underscored enough for suicide prevention.”
The professionals haven’t changed their minds, even if editors have. Jitender Sareen, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Manitoba, helped to draft a series of guidelines for newsrooms in covering suicide.
Prof. Sareen encourages journalists to write about themes that might be associated with teen suicide – such as poverty and mental health – but he maintains that any coverage that identifies those who took their lives and delves into a person’s particular situation oversimplifies the issue and could lead to a spike in the number of suicide attempts in a community.
“The evidence of contagion in this age group is pretty consistent,” he says. “I don’t think the kind of reporting that focuses on the individual with multiple reports around the case is a good idea. The purpose is good at heart – the media is trying to make change and bring the issues to the public. But it’s the old adage of first not doing any harm.”
The taboo against reporting on suicide in general, and teen suicide specifically, ended in part because of pressure from parents and outreach groups. They argued that the silence around suicide was contributing to the problem, and marginalizing people who were already suffering.
Slick campaigns such as It Gets Better are not without critics, who charge that any message of hope that revolves around a specific cause of suicides – bullying, for example – is a step in the wrong direction because it ignores so many other factors that might contribute.
“The media usually wants a single answer to a problem,” Prof. Sareen said. “But look – there is nothing yet that has shown us that youth suicide can be easily prevented … but studies show the risk of contagion is real. So while the media is trying to do a good job, we should think about how if you’re a youth and a buddy commits suicide and you see them on the national news and respect that person, you may decide you want to join them.”
Mario Girard, the chief information officer at La Presse, bristles at any suggestion the media should restrict themselves to lofty stories written from a vast distance. His paper recently covered the suicide of a 15-year-old girl and explicitly challenged the popular belief that there was a direct link to bullying that made the case easy to understand.
The girl, who lived in the small town of Ste-Anne-des-Monts, left a note to her mother in which she blamed bullies for her decision. While the girl was certainly tormented, La Presse reporters uncovered details that underscored the fact there are no simple answers when it comes to suicide.
“When our reporters arrived, everyone was talking about bullying,” he said. “It is a very sad story. But there was a lot of other stuff going on with her. She had a boyfriend, there were problems. Our stories turned into very important reflections about bullying … and that is what our readers are asking us to do.”
It seems to me that the problem isn’t coverage of suicide in an of itself, but the sensationalized and simplistic coverage that gets ratings and sells papers. It’s ridiculous, and ableist, and hell, naive, to believe that not talking about bad things is the solution. Maintaining a code of silence around suicide and mental illness does marginalize people who are suffering, and makes it exponentially harder for them to seek help within their families, communities and from health professionals. It makes it harder for people to go to school, work, and even function in society once they’ve been branded ‘crazy’.
Silence is emphatically not the answer. It’s unethical. But so is sensationalism and simple-answers reductionism.
I’m not a fan of It Gets Better. I think my thirteen year old self would have responded to it with a hearty fuck you. Another case of Parents Just Don’t Understand; I internalized this pretty thoroughly, as a teen. If it’s been helpful to some people—great! But thinking of the children, so rarely involves thinking about, or thinking with the children, who live complicated, real lives that can’t be ‘fixed’ by applying a checklist of anti-bullying strategies. My current self, an adult woman who’s gone several rounds with major depression, also responds to It Gets Better with a hearty fuck you. I’ve been depressed and I’ve been ‘normal’. I know that it gets better, but I also know how utterly useless, shaming and indeed triggering that message can be (not always, we’re talking here about a range of experiences!) when you’re at your worst. I also know that while it does get better, it also sometimes gets worse. (1)
The American Psychiatric Association says, “depression is not only a prevalent disorder but is also a pervasive problem. Depressed older adults, like younger persons, tend to use health services at high rates, engage in poorer health behaviors, and evidence what is known as ‘excess disability.’ Depression is also associated with suicide. Older adults have the highest rates of suicide of any age group, and this is particularly pronounced among men.”
What we need here is neither silence nor sensationalism. We need a nuanced conversation that addresses the across the board rise in rates of depression (not just in the West, although China continues to report lower rates of depression). We need to address not just bullying, but poverty, systemic oppression and violence (including racism, homophobia, sexism, ableism—the list goes on) health, and disconnection from community—all known factors in depression and suicide at every age. We need to stop pretending that there’s a magical fix, and that if teens just hold on by the skin of their teeth and make it into adulthood, everything will be fine. We need to stop pretending that kids and teens live in isolation from the rest of society, and that their special ‘problems’ can be treated as such. Support programs need to be tailored to the groups they serve, absolutely, but it is not helpful to treat people as though they’re isolated moments of abnormality, simply the result of too much Facebook, lax discipline in schools, and not enough recess.
According to the World Health Organization, “depression is the leading cause of disability … and the 4th leading contributor to the global burden of disease in 2000. By the year 2020, depression is projected to reach 2nd place … for all ages, both sexes.” (2)
- Depression is common, affecting about 121 million people worldwide.
- Depression is among the leading causes of disability worldwide.
- Depression can be reliably diagnosed and treated in primary care.
- Fewer than 25 % of those affected have access to effective treatments.
Part of the Ontario government’s new anti-bullying legislation is, well, a ban on banning support groups aimed at LGBT youth. Premier McGuinty said, “We’re going to require that, at every school where students request that this be put in place, they be permitted to organize themselves with a gay-straight alliance.” This is, in my opinion, so much better than an awareness campaign, because it’s a concrete step to dismantle systems of oppression and violence. This is social justice, and it is preventative medicine.
Well. This post got out of hand. I guess it’s time for a final thought. So: we must unflinchingly address social injustice, commit to preventative AND ongoing healthcare, and we must recognize absolutely that we are speaking of people, not a trend, not data, not a problem, not just a dangerous moment in time.
(1) Two factors are at work here. Firstly, depression tends to reoccur. Not everyone who experiences a major depressive episode experiences a second one, but plenty do. Basically, if you’ve been really depressed, your risk of being really depressed explodes.
Secondly, the underlying social factors that contribute to the development of depression (racism, homophobia, poverty, bully culture, social isolation) don’t go away. While teenagers do get it worse in some respects, these factors are present in every age group.
(2) Edited for simplicity. I took out mention of how this is calculated, but you can find it on their site.
2. Was there an attempt to control press coverage? New Yorkers awoke to front-page stories and photographs in both the New York Post and the New York Daily News. Coverage by the two papers was supportive of the mayor and the police actions but disparaging toward the protesters. An AlterNet reporter, arriving on the scene at 1:30am, shortly after the raid began, could get nowhere near Zuccotti Park due to police barricades (and was subjected to pepper spray while attempting to report on events). How did the friendly reporters gain their access? Was there advance coordination to allow certain media outlets access and block the rest? Why was press access restricted? Were some reporters’ credentials confiscated? How will reports of unwarranted force on the part of police toward the press be addressed?
What should journalists read about journalism? Should we be influenced by musings about the relationship between blogging and journalism, or by some timeless advice from George Orwell?
In a joint project between upstart and students in La Trobe University’s Bachelor of Journalism and Master of Global Communications degree, we are collecting 100 articles that every journalist should read. And yes, we’re casting a wide net and including some broadcast items in the mix.
But we’re not doing this on our own. In keeping with the spirit of the era of participatory media, this list is going to be generated in part as a conversation, and not simply delivered as some immutable verdict. So please feel free to join in by nominating and writing your own commentary about any articles that you believe should be essential reading for journalists.
A few ground rules. We’re focusing on articles – in whatever format – that you can link to. Each of your commentary pieces should be no more than 200 words long. And please tell us who you are and provide a preferred link if you feel so inclined. Submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, and you may want to consult our Notes for Contributors page before you get started.
Project updates can be found here.
Resources for Social Media sourced reporting
Using this as a bookmark (somewhat selfishly) for my own reference later. Feel free to use it for your own purposes. Will be continuously updated. Reblog and add your own.
How to verify – and when to publish – news accounts posted on social media - Jeff Sonderman, Poynter
A lot of people look at science journalism as a form that is not as critical as political journalism, but that’s not right. The vast majority of problems that the developing world will be facing in the future are science-related. I really think science journalism should be a push to hold people accountable, to take a more proactive role.
Mohammed Yahia, editor of Nature Middle East, on the growing role of science journalism in the region as countries like Qatar move to pour more and more money into science research projects and organisations. (via thepoliticalnotebook)
Science journalism is tremendously important, but there is so much inaccurate and politically/economically motivated science journalism out there. There is a real need for independent, investigative reporting.
The hotel maid who accused former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault filed a libel lawsuit Tuesday against the New York Post and five reporters over recent articles that said she had worked as a prostitute.
The lawsuit was filed in the State Supreme Court in the Bronx, where the woman lives, and uses only her initials. According to the suit, the newspaper and its reporters “falsely, maliciously, and with reckless disregard for the truth stated as a fact that the Plaintiff is a ‘prostitute,’ ‘hooker,’ ‘working girl’ and/or ‘routinely traded sex for money with male guests’ of the Sofitel hotel located in Manhattan.”
"All of these statements are false [and] have subjected the Plaintiff to humiliation, scorn and ridicule throughout the world," the lawsuit says.
A spokesman for the Post said, “We stand by our reporting.” The Post is a division of News Corp., which also owns the The Wall Street Journal.
The Post cited “a source close to the defense investigation” in a July 2 article saying she received “extraordinary tips” and had expenses “paid for by men not related to her.” The article didn’t explicitly quote the source saying the woman was a prostitute, instead reporting that the newspaper “has learned” she worked as one. Benjamin Brafman, a lawyer for Mr. Strauss-Kahn, declined to comment.
Prosecutors and police have said they investigated whether the woman engaged in prostitution while employed at the Sofitel and found no evidence of it. The parent company of the Sofitel didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Investigators have said there is forensic evidence that the maid had a sexual encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn. Lawyers for Mr. Strauss-Kahn have said no money was exchanged and the encounter was consensual. Prosecutors declined to comment on the lawsuit, and the maid’s lawyers haven’t responded to requests for comment.
The articles in question, from July 2 through July 4, were published within days of disclosures by prosecutors that the woman, a 32-year-old Guinean immigrant, had given them and grand jurors false statements, including about her whereabouts after the alleged attack, experiences she had in her country before she came to the U.S., and other issues.
Kenneth Thompson, a lawyer for the maid, said last week that her mistakes notwithstanding, she “from day one has described that sexual assault many times,” and consistently.
Mr. Strauss-Kahn, 62 years old, who has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in connection with her allegations, was released from house arrest Friday based on the revelations of his accuser’s damaged credibility.
Michael Rothfield, for The Wall Street Journal.
DSK will soon face another set of sex crime charges, this time in France.
Meanwhile, Bernard Henri-Levi has called for DSK’s reputation (as the Great Seducer?) to be restored… and reportedly many French folks are dying to see DSK back in politics.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
Television adores the imagery of riots. There is a kind of riot-porn that exists in TV terms. The money shots are the burning car, the youth leaping on top of an overturned vehicle, the smashed window of a high-end store. On TV, the narrative of the riot is set in stone. The meaning of it all is buried under the rigidity of the set narrative.
Globe and Mail, June 20.
Source: The Globe and Mail
News is what people want to keep hidden. Everything else is publicity.
While the media-friendly end-timers wanted to warn heathens beforehand, they really just wanted to spend their last day on earth surrounded by loved ones, in quiet preparation. Their response to me was something like: Why would you want to follow us around on Saturday? We’re not going to be here anymore. Yes, there was a certain humor to this. But the more I looked into the story, the more it began to turn my stomach to think of spending my Saturday evening in someone’s living room, waiting for that gotcha moment when they realized it was all a lie—leaving me to file a story the next day, poking fun at their gullibility. I decided I couldn’t do it.