Suicide Reporting on Front Pages of Major Newspapers in Taiwan Violating Reporting Recommendations Between 2001 and 2012

Health Commun. 2016 Nov;31(11):1395-404. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2015.1074024. Epub 2016 Mar 23.


Media reporting can lead to the acceptance of incorrect ideas and information by the general public, which in turn can impact behavior. A number of studies have found that suicide reporting in the media can lead to an increase in the suicide rate or copycat suicides. Therefore, the aims of this study are to (a) investigate front-page reporting of suicide in four major newspapers in Taiwan; (b) investigate violation of recommendations for reporting suicide by the four major newspapers in Taiwan; and (c) investigate the impact of important events and government policy on front-page reporting of suicide (i.e., the effect of the Apple Daily newspaper entering the market, and the start of media monitoring). We carried out content analysis of reports of suicide on the front pages of the four newspapers with the highest rates of readership in Taiwan (China Times, Liberty Times, Apple Daily, and United Daily News) between 2001 and 2012. We used the chi-squared test, chi-squared test for trend, and analysis of variance to analyze trends in violation of reporting recommendations and potential associated factors. We found that (a) suicide was most commonly reported as a front-page headline and as a whole-page spread by the four major newspapers in Taiwan, with many reports including photographs; (b) reporting of suicide by the four major newspapers in Taiwan frequently violated World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations for suicide reporting in the media; (c) following the entry of the Apple Daily newspaper into the Taiwanese market, reporting approaches to suicide by the other three major newspapers changed to more sensational photos and texts; and (d) monitoring of suicide reporting by the Taiwan Suicide Prevention Center appears to have been only partially effective. In summary, reporting of suicide by the four major newspapers in Taiwan could be further improved. Effective regulation of suicide reporting by newspapers could reduce the impact of this reporting on readers. In addition, regular assessment of observance of the WHO recommendations for suicide reporting by newspapers is an important part of suicide prevention.

MeSH terms

  • Editorial Policies*
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination
  • Newspapers as Topic*
  • Suicide*
  • Taiwan
  • World Health Organization