Gut-wrenching images of Amanda Todd holding up handwritten notes describing her incredible pain at the hands of online tormenters will remain forever etched into our memories.
The Port Coquitlam teenager, who committed suicide in October after unrelenting cyber-bullying, blackmail and physical attacks, triggered an outpouring of grief and support for victims of similar abuse with a disturbing nine-minute YouTube video she posted on the Internet before her death.
Her heartbreaking story cast the spotlight on an issue that in one way or another has touched us all, striking a nerve with millions who have been battered and bruised by the unfeeling, the cruel and the heartless, and started a global conversation about the impact of bullying.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark offered online condolences and called for a nationwide discussion about bullying. A motion was put forward in the House of Commons calling for a close look at the scope of bullying in Canada and federal funding for anti-bullying organizations.
Following her death, crowds of strangers gathered to mourn her loss. Parents took the time to have a long overdue conversation with their kids. Teens talked to one another about being bullied — or even being the bully.
But the widespread attention Todd’s story received has not met with universal acclaim.
Patti Bacchus, chairwoman of the Vancouver board of education, sought support from fellow board members this week in an attempt to impose strict rules on the media when it comes to reporting suicide.
She fears the extensive coverage of Todd’s death may trigger copycat suicides and wants the media to adhere to guidelines recommended by the Canadian Psychiatric Association when reporting suicides.
The guidelines caution against using the word suicide in headlines, reflecting any sort of admiration for the victim and suggesting that suicide defies explanation. She hopes to convince the B.C. Press Council and other media groups to adopt the guidelines.
Most newspapers, including The Daily News, already have policies in effect regarding the coverage of suicides.
We generally don’t cover them — unless, of course, they’re of extraordinary interest to the public or have occurred in a public place so they raise questions in the community.
We would argue that Amanda Todd’s sad story and the long, painful road that led to her death was so compelling and involved issues of such broad public interest that it needed to be told — in a complete and sensitive way.
Even Todd’s mother made a case for publicity so, if nothing else, her daughter’s death might serve as a catalyst for more discussion around such an important topic.
The news media always welcomes constructive input and ideas about how stories are told, but in this particular case, an argument can be made that Canadians should be talking more, not less, about bullying, on the Internet or otherwise.
If the news media is to help promote conversation about such a difficult subject, it needs to be able to tell the whole story.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, news editor Mike Cornell or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.