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Sunday, August 19, 2018

Letter from the Editor

Letter from the Editor: An apology to our readers


The Cougar published on Wednesday a graphic photo of the scene where a student completed suicide at Agnes Arnold Hall. After receiving feedback from hundreds of readers regarding the photo, I have removed it from our website and our online archives. The photo is beneath the ethics and editorial standards of the newspaper The Cougar strives to be.

To the family of this student, whose identity we still do not know: If you saw this photo, I am sorry. If you didn’t see it, I am still sorry that I allowed thousands of others to see the blood of your son or daughter. In a misguided effort to show the UH community the dark yet true elements of suicide, we disgusted and scarred many readers. That doesn’t help anyone. It was wrong, and I am sincerely sorry.

It’s regrettable that our decision became the story in the midst of this tragic campus event. To be clear, I asked our photographers to take photos of the aftermath at Agnes Arnold Hall. It was my decision, not theirs, to capture the scene and publish the image.

At newspapers, the ethics of the journalists and editors who write and publish stories do not matter. It is the ethics of the readers — our very reason for existence — that matter. My personal ethics, now changed, clouded my ability to see the pain this photo caused so many. It does not matter what I, or anyone at this newspaper, think of the photo. It is the reader who decides what is moral and appropriate.

My desire to show our readers the realities of suicide has not wavered. We will continue to cover mental illness and suicide on this campus whenever it happens.

Suicide is a public health issue, and it must be covered in a manner that is sensitive to the family and friends of its victims and others who have lost friends and family to suicide. This includes not publishing photos of the scenes where suicides occur.

As long as I am editor, this will not happen again.

[email protected]

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