The Society of Editors has issued the following statement after speculation that the media should be held responsible for the tragic death of TV personality Caroline Flack, pictured above.
The death of Caroline Flack is indeed a tragedy, as is the case when anyone feels they have nowhere to turn and decide to take their own lives.
Caroline was an extremely popular personality with much of the public with her appearances on Strictly Come Dancing and Love Island. She was given coverage in the media for many years prior to recent events, the vast majority of it very positive. We cannot know the reasons why Caroline chose to end her life however, it is wrong to blame the media for her decision without knowing the facts. Indeed, the Samaritans guidance on reporting suicides makes clear that speculation over causes or presumptuous explanations often oversimplify the complex reasons behind an individual’s decision to end their life.
It is also wrong for politicians to use her tragic death as a means to attack the media and call for changes in the way politicians themselves are reported.
The investigations carried out by the police in Caroline’s case were based on serious accusations and the subsequent decision of the Crown Prosecution Service to press ahead with an assault case against her, were matters that were in the public domain and should be covered. To believe that by silencing mainstream media on such matters would prevent speculation on social media where rumour and accusations run unchecked by the regulations the media adheres to, is both naive and dangerous.
A blanket ban on any reporting of accusations or police investigation until a person is charged is also dangerous as it can lead to the deterrence of whistle blowers, give succour to the rich and the powerful, and is not in the public interest.
Footnote: Bill Heaney, Editor of the Dumbarton Democrat, is an Editor Emeritus of the Society of Editors.