Publication Date

Summer 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Journalism and Mass Communications


William Tillinghast


journalism, newspaper, science writing, suicidality, suicide cluster, suicide contagion

Subject Areas

Mass communication; Technical communication; Public health


The CDC informed the American media of the best way to avoid contributing to imitative suicides by releasing guidelines for suicide reports in 2001. In this study, suicide reports in the New York Times were examined to establish if these guidelines affected the reporting. To determine if there was any change, all suicide reports from five years before, the year of guideline release, and five years after were extracted from the Times database. To determine compliance, articles were coded using a coding sheet that operationalized the guidelines into 12 yes–or–no questions.

The New York Times observed nearly one and a half guidelines more in 2006 than 10 years before, from about 5 to nearly 6.5 observed. Some guidelines were observed differently in 2001, suggesting greater focus on the topic. However, only some of the changes were in line with the guidelines, and none of them lasted five years.