On Tuesday, Sept. 15, a body was discovered on a hiking trail off County Road 553 in Marquette Township. Following a tip we received, North Wind reporters traveled to the scene in an attempt to find out what happened.
Later, we broke the story on our social media page with limited information, expecting further details to emerge when they became available. That never happened.
Hours after the post was made on social media, we received multiple comments from suspicious readers asking whether or not the story was a hoax, citing the fact that news of the event did not appear on any other news outlet in the area.
What we know now is that the indivudual discovered on that public hiking trail most likely committed suicide, which left us very little to work with with regards to printing more than a short news blurb.
It was then that we learned that in the Marquette media market, public suicides are a hush-hush affair and generally do not receive coverage.
Understandably, it would be unreasonable to cover suicides that occur in private places. But we also feel that when a suicide occurs in public areas, it becomes a public issue. Immediately, we imagine the trauma inflicted should someone discover a deceased person on an otherwise peaceful hiking trail.
Naturally, this is a sensitive topic that involves regular individuals who, for one reason or another, decided to take their own lives. They deserve every ounce of dignity we, the media, can provide when covering the issue. If that means omitting unnecessary details and keeping names private, so be it.
In a college town, lack of coverage could spell disaster if a growing trend in suicides begins to flourish unabated, considering suicide accounts for 1 in 3 deaths in young people between 18-24, according to the Centers for Disease Control. What was meant to protect privacy would instead cover up a problem that the public needs to know about, and could potentially save a life.
By ignoring local suicides, we are dismissing them. We want to encourage people to be open about seeking and giving help to those in need. It is nearly impossible to solve a problem if we don’t first acknowledge that a problem exists. If you have a problem, contact the national suicide hotline at 800-273-8255.