Monday, August 18, 2014

New York Daily News Crosses the Line with Robin Williams Cover

I know the New York Daily News is just a tabloid, so we can't expect much from it. However, even a tabloid paper should have a better sense of human decency and respect than to do this to anyone:

From NY Daily News Facebook Page.

For the love of all things holy, what is wrong with the people that work at this place?

If we ever wonder if stigma against people with mental illness is still alive, and if people are made fun of and shamed for death by suicide, this proves that both of those things are still true. 

I guess I should be less naive than to think that because people are inherently good (darn my Universalist theology), that they would not throw all of their morals and compassion out the door for money. Because, really, all this cover does is use sensationalism to sell more papers. 

I would love for the editor, owner, or someone in charge at the New York Daily News to explain how they ever thought this was an acceptable cover. It crosses the line from sensationalist journalism to irresponsible, heartless, and offensive. 

I not only hold the newspaper accountable for creating such a horrific cover, but also all the people who bought it. If a large group of our population was not just as heartless, then there would be no reason for the New York Daily News to create something like this.

I don't even know where to start with why this is so offensive. Viscerally most people would look at this and just know on a million different levels that this is wrong, but here are a few points to mention:
  • He was not "hanged." If someone dies from a complication of their illness, you do not phrase it in this way. A person who died from cancer would not have been "tumored."
  • The general public does not need to know details of how he died. Reports on death due to other illnesses rarely ever include descriptors of exactly what happened. This further stigmatizes mental illness. 
  • The graphic description of his death is triggering for people who have been, or who are currently suicidal. 
  • Why deliberately put his family and friends through even more anguish by printing something like this?
  • What does where his wife slept have to do with this story? Clearly the paper was just trying to hurt her as well.
  • The format looks like a wanted poster, further stigmatizing mental illness. 
  • Creates a sense of shame around mental illness and death by suicide. 
It's just sad that we live in a culture where dozens of people (at least) saw this cover, approved it before it went to print, and they all thought, "Yes, that looks great. Not heartless at all. I can endorse this and still sleep well tonight." And then hundreds more people bought the darn thing! 

(For a better version of this cover, see this modified Daily News cover by Alan Scherstuhl.) 


Rev. Katie

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