What is the role of the press and advocates when a family links suicide to workplace bullying?

Screen Shot 2012-12-02 at 10.27.20 AMThis week Eyewitness News 4 (NBC) broke a story about a family who claims a Santa Fe suicide is the result of workplace bullying. I’m not writing about whether that claim is true or not –  both sides haven’t been heard yet and none of us know. This is about how the media and advocates often frame these stories. In 2010, I interviewed Ed Wasserman about the way journalists cover suicide for my documentary, What Killed Kevin? which is about the tragic suicide of Kevin Morrissey. Kevin’s death turned out to be the pivotal event that turned workplace bullying into a ‘hot topic.’ Wasserman is the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University and he addressed this case in his bi-weekly column for the Miami Herald.

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The Workplace Bullying Institute’s blog blasted Wasserman accusing him of “trivializing” Morrissey’s suicide and that “Wasserman’s denial of the reality that bullying could drive a person to suicide seems indefensible.”  But, Wasserman says he never denied that a person could be driven to suicide — he was questioning the link in this situation and the rush to coverage by the media.  These interviews show that, far from trivializing workplace bullying, Wasserman takes the topic very seriously and feels the media doesn’t dig into the story deeply enough.  He argues that the way the story is framed by the media hurts the possibility of a real dialog that would help bring about change.  Watch these two clips and decide for yourself.

(Note: the interactive web version of this documentary will soon be available to the public and allow site visitors to hunt through the interviews and clues to decide for themselves, What Killed Kevin? and join the dialog about how best to prevent and address workplace bullying.)

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