I am writing about an article that appeared on the Rafu front page several weeks ago regarding a suicide of a Japanese American young man.
I don’t think it is ethical, certainly insensitive, to publish the name of the person who committed suicide. Perhaps it is just me, but I don’t know what good it does other than to alert the person’s friends/relatives that the person died. That can be done in an obituary notice. The circumstances of the person’s death can be explained to those who need to know by the surviving family in private.
Suicide carries a stigma and “shame” to the family. I myself don’t think it is a “shame” because I nor anyone outside the immediate family cannot judge them. We do not know what led up to the desperate act of suicide. The family must already be tormented, and having the suicide publicized just adds to their grief.
I know many people think about suicide. If I decide to kill myself, that is my business, and I would not like my name to be splashed on the front page or any other part of your or any newspaper.
It would be interesting to hear from our fellow Japanese Americans about how they feel about publishing the names of those who commit suicide. I think that is too private an act to publicize. Let’s show some respect and dignity to the dead and their family.
Dave Watanabe, Pasadena
Editor’s response: Thank you very much for your email and we really appreciate and take to heart your criticism. At The Rafu Shimpo, we try to do our best to provide a fair and balanced representation of the news in the Japanese American community; at times it may mean that we will publish stories that are negative and in this instance, disturbing.
In the case that you are referring to, the story was reported because the suicide took place in a public place in the middle of the afternoon, with many witnesses present. The public nature of the suicide led the LAPD to issue a news release, which was then reported upon by local news outlets, including The Rafu. It is not our wish to cause the family anguish, but part of our duty as a newspaper is to report the news, even if that news is heart-wrenching.
We really do appreciate the sense that suicide does carry a special stigma, particularly within the Japanese American community. And I am sure that this answer may not console his family or be to your satisfaction, but this is the thought process behind why we make these kinds of decisions.