Eastbourne paper praised for suicide coverage

The Eastbourne Herald has helped cut the number of suicides at Beachy Head, according to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

The Herald has been praised for avoiding sensationalism in its reports of people jumping to their deaths from the top of the Sussex beauty spot. Last year there were seven deaths, whereas in 2005 there were 26, and 22 in 2004.

Stuart McNab, station manager at the agency’s Beachy Head office, said: ‘In previous years a link between press coverage and the number of incidents has been evident. ‘While fully recognising the duty of the press to report and inform, we have noticed that this has been done without sensationalism and with great sensitivity to these tragic events.’McNab was particularly pleased that the paper had tried to disassociate the area with suicides. Many people who jump from the cliffs come from outside Eastbourne.

Editor Peter Austin said: ‘We just report it as we always have and as any responsible newspaper would. It is a tragic aspect of Eastbourne and it would be wrong to do anything else.’But he said the paper had not changed its approach to covering suicides over the years and did not set out to downplay stories. ‘For us to splash a story like that, it would have to be something unusual like a rescue attempt or if someone is taken back from the edge, or if someone misses and gets stuck on a ledge.

‘It could have a human interest angle or even a happy ending, but when someone dies there, it doesn’t always deserve massive attention.”

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