Dear Huff Post & AOL, Suicide is NOT painless

7 Jun

In my undergrad journalism classes, the importance of the headline or title of our pieces was always emphasized.  While some slick editor might come in and change a catchy headline to save space or cause sensationalism, often in magazine writing or op-ed pieces, the writer’s title was left intact…unless it was terrible.  After years of study and sometimes less-than-stellar titles for my own work, I try not to judge others too harshly.

For instance, our local paper, The Morning Call, which I think is lacking in various areas including bad headlines, terrible lay-out, inadequate copy-editing, stupid opinion pieces, and lack of newsworthy content (there’s not much else to lack in, is there?), uses the term “obits” on its main news page instead of “obituaries.”  While not the most terrible mistake in the world of news, it is in the very least tacky.  I mean, let’s look up Grandma Ruth’s “obit” online just sounds insensitive.  Some things shouldn’t have catchy little names outside the newspaper office.

This morning while I was munching down on my cereal and reading the morning news, I decided to check my AOL email.  I was aghast at what I found–and no it was not another spammy email from my wanna-be fiance James–it was this news teaser on AOL’s main page, which linking to a Huffington Post news article.

(While the screen shot below is here for effect, you actually have to CLICK HERE to see the picture in its full size to see the teaser.)

Did you see it?  And, no, it’s not the picture of Anthony Weiner and Weiner Gate or the naked man chest or even the Sprint ad (because we all know they have crappy customer service.) In case you didn’t catch it, I’ll post the picture again with a few handy dandy modifications of my own.

The teaser is so small you can’t read it, so you’ll have to view THIS VERSION, which is unreadable, so then you have to go back to the ORIGINAL FULL SIZED VERSION and see it for yourself.  I know that’s a lot of work, but I want you all to see to see picture proof.  Here’s the faulty header (in case your computer shut down looking at all those pictures): Man Finally Kills Self After 10 Tries (emphasis and color added.)

I just about threw up my Rice Krispies.  First of all, why is an article about a clearly disturbed man from California front page or national news at all?  And, more importantly, did the word “finally” really need to be added to this headline?  Then again, the teaser is only pulling from the first sentence of the Huffington Post news article which reads, “After at least 10 documented suicide attempts spanning several years, Francisco Solomon Sanchez finally succeeded in killing himself last Friday, reports the Pasadena Star-News.”  Gee, poor Francisco may have been unlucky in life but at least he finally succeeded in something–suicide!  Perhaps The Huffington Post wanted to cover this story, but did they have to be so thoughtless in the delivery?  The fact that that’s a number for the National Suicide Prevention Life Line at the conclusion of this short article doesn’t soften the blow, not for me.

Even more shocking than the piece itself are the comments left by anonymous morons with cartoon avatars.  Yeah, I’d be afraid to show my face if I uttered some of the statements these people made, which include this from “Huff Post Super User Dr Scott”: “The poor man. Can you imagine the depression this guy experienced over not being able to kill himself 9 times? The last 9 attempts took considerab­le fortitude. I’d never try it again after the first failed attempt. The shame would be too much.”  I truly hope this man isn’t a real doctor.  I can only imagine his bedside manner.

Then there’s “amugsey,” who not only disdains capitalization, but writes, “you can reach your goals if you work hard enough.”  And actually a lot of people echoed this sentiment.  Wow, you all are hilarious.  I hope you feel so proud of yourselves for being disgustingly unoriginal and callous together.

I didn’t read all the comments, but out of the ones I did read, the next comment has to be the winner for the most despicable of all, courtesy of “InsuranceGuy”: “Good to see that this determined man finally got his wish.  It will save the taxpayers money. It is the County that picks up the costs for comminting him to the mental institutions all of this time. More than likely, the county or the state paid for all the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars for his previous failed attempts (one of his previous attempts resulted in 2 prosthetic legs).”  Incidentally, I also appreciate his fine grammar and spelling.

Thankfully, there were a few rational comments, but the vast majority were stupid one-liners, like suicide is funny, like Francisco Solomon Sanchez was a joke, like Francisco Solomon Sanchez wasn’t a human being who suffered or had a mother and a father.  I don’t know what demons tormented Francisco; I only know the scant details of his life reported in these articles.  I do know that Francisco Solomon Sanchez lived among us, suffered among us, and died on June 3 after jumping onto the 210 Freeway in LA County.  And I know this is a tragedy that has little finality to it.

*If you stumbled onto this post because you are contemplating suicide, please seek help.  Talk to a friend, a family member, a stranger, anyone!  Call the National Suicide Prevention Hot Line at 1-800-273-8255.  Please do this!  My friend, Matt, suffered from schizophrenia and committed suicide in 2002, just after I graduated from college.  I will never forget that day–the moment I received the phone call about his death–and I don’t want your friends and family to feel the same way.  You are so valuable, even if you don’t see it at all right now.  You matter.  You were created for a reason and a purpose.  Please, please, please get help.*

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3 Responses to “Dear Huff Post & AOL, Suicide is NOT painless”

  1. Jess June 8, 2011 at 1:17 PM #

    This made me SO sad!!! I find the lack of sensitivity and respect from our media and others who don’t stop to think about what they are about to say or type is scary. One small word can have a huge impact when delivering a statement. I feel sad for Mr. Sanchez and those who knew him because obviously there was a lot going on.

  2. Jen June 9, 2011 at 10:42 AM #

    Amazing. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if an editor had noticed “finally” and decided that was a bad idea. And if insensitive news stories weren’t bad enough, now anybody with an opinion and a dumb one-liner can comment for the whole world to see. Yuck.

  3. Stephanie Scott June 10, 2011 at 1:01 PM #

    The internet is full of cheap comments. What’s sad is when news outlets follow suit for ratings and catchy headlines. I agree, that one was inappropriate. It’s not like he finally won at bingo, he died.

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