The great thing about Dubbo Photo News is you can pick it up knowing your kids or grandma can read it without feeling too racked with survivor guilt, helpless, depressed or lost, just because of a picture they’ve seen or story they’ve read.
If we do tackle the harder issues they’ll generally be in our Dubbo Weekender section, and for sensitive issues, we follow the guidelines of Mindframe, a national media initiative used for reporting or portraying confronting topics such as suicide, social and emotion wellness or mental illness, eating disorders or sexual abuse.
When this will catch on to national television or radio news remains to be seen.
Hat’s off to Mindframe because truth needs to be told, but it can be done responsibly.
Funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Health under the National Suicide Prevention Program, the Mindframe Education and Training program is an initiative of Everymind.
Everymind is based in Newcastle and is the nation’s leading institute dedicated to reducing mental ill-health, suicide and improving wellbeing.
It’s a healthy trend, although the warning to call Lifeline if content was disturbing which appears after episodes of “The Handmaid’s Tale” are a little too late and better suited to a preshow warning.
The controversial Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”, now up to Season Two, is taking responsibility for its content by running pre-show warnings using cast from the show to explain the importance of publicly talking about serious issues, such as teen suicide, but also the importance of talking to someone trusted in your inner circle about issues in your life.
There’s good argument for not screening a television show on this particular subject for the damage it may potentially cause, and good argument for taking any elephant in the room, shining a spotlight on it, and asking – or demanding – what are we doing about preventing this?
Every support service encourages discussion, promotes phone numbers to call and, as difficult at these conversations can be, they have to happen.
So, while there is a shift within media to tread carefully, I wonder when will television and radio news broadcasts also take responsibility for their content with similar warnings.
Triple J radio gives warnings about explicit content in songs because someone somewhere has deemed it may offend some people, and it gives them the choice of listening or not.
Why not TV or radio news which “deals” in shocking, tragic or upsetting content?
It is a tragedy that six school children died in a bus which left the road and went down a ravine in Chile, or that rescue crews struggled for days to reach a single engine aircraft which crashed into the jungle in Brazil killing the pilot, but knowing these facts can never help those people involved and nor does gossiping about them.
Sure it might remind us that driving on mountain roads in a South American country can be hazardous, or that some planes crash, but the flip side to the latter is most planes don’t, which is why the average one million people in the air above the planet, at any given time on any given day of the year, arrive safely at their destination.
Starting a news report about 20 people killed in a bomb attack, or a mother who’s killed her own children, are significant in a world or mental health context begging further discussion of broader issues, but dumping these facts on kids in the car on the way to soccer on a Saturday morning in Dubbo – without some sort of content warning or acknowledgement in the public sphere – is just plain negligent.
Tipping in an endless diet of bad news about people and situations almost no-one on the planet can effect, least of all children, can’t be balanced out by stories of dogs on surfboards or cats that can knit booties.
A ‘graphic content’ heads-up warning that assumes kids are in earshot or viewing, and adherence to content rating standards imposed on other audio-visual productions, would be a great start.
If you need help, please talk to Lifeline 13 11 14
For information about Everymind, visit www.everymind.org.au
Yvette Aubusson-Foley is a Dubbo journo, who spent time living and raising her family in the USA, but has now returned to her home town.