Hearne: Starker’s Reserve Owner’s Suicide Sparks Debate

To report or not to report, that is the question…

After confirming that Starker’s owner and chef John McClure took his own life yesterday, I reported the news here. Much to the chagrine of some commenters.

"Was that necessary to post right now when people are just learning of his passing???" asked LJ. "Perhaps some sensitivity to his family or friends who have not yet heard. This is deplorable."

"How dare you Hearne! Have you no tact, no soul??" added Jenn Tosatto.

Someone going by % however said: "It’s journalism. It may not be what people want to read, particularly if they knew the deceased, but it’s still journalism."

"So wait… I missed the part where Hearne killed the chef… as far as I can tell, McClure killed himself," said TruthSpeaks. "That sucks, and I feel bad for the terrible sorrow his friends and family must be feeling, but come on, a lot of these comments are a shining example of misdirected anger."

Bottom line: Reporting suicides is a tricky business – even when delicately done – one most are afraid to do.

After fishing around on Facebook for details of McClure’s demise, the Star‘s Joyce Smith undoubtedly clued in on the reason for McClure’s death. However, she chose not to report the news. Ditto for the Pitch’s Charles Ferruzza. Although he has far better sources in the restaurant biz and probably knew it was a suicide from the get-go and was merely trying to take the high road.

But is covering up obvious news about the cause of a high profile person’s death really the high road?

 "Suicide is a leading cause of death, substantially more prevalent than homicide," writes the Poynter institute’s Cindi Deutschman-Ruiz. "About 30,000 people kill themselves in this country yearly and half a million more wind up in the emergency room following a suicide attempt. Does media coverage of suicide reflect these realities? Generally not."

 There’s more…

" Gauging from the news, it would be easy to conclude that suicide is rare, rather than a widespread and ongoing public health problem," she adds. "As journalists, we’re fond of criticizing ourselves for over-covering homicide. Why do we fail to address our under-coverage of suicide?"

In part because suicide is considered by some to be a stigma,Deutschman-Ruiz contends.

" (But) suicide coverage is an opportunity to provide the public with information and resources that could save lives. Journalists often fail to do this, despite the obvious potential to do good. People who commit suicide do not do so suddenly, even if it might appear so at first glance. There are warning signs, and I think any coverage of suicide should incorporate them."

Professional journalist and blogger Martha Ross poses this question: "Does not reporting on suicide enhance the stigma of suicide and mental illness?"

"You rarely see suicide mentioned as the cause of death in an obituary," she writes. "However, sometimes you can pick up hints, if the person was fairly young and died suddenly and the family, in lieu of flowers, asks that donations be made to an organization such as the National Alliance on Mental Health."

In 2007 suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in the country, more that of murder, Ross reports.

Another reason for an increase in suicides; the economy.

"This is what the economy is doing to people," says Westport businessman Bill Nigro. "A lot of people have been ruined in this economy. It’s devastated a lot of people and it’s not really being talked about in the news media."

Bay Citizen columnist Scott James says reporting on suicides is "relatively rare" even though there’s a bull market in practice today.

"Theories abound regarding the cause behind this year’s surge (in suicides), but full explanations perish with victims," James writes, adding, "some experts are pointing to economic despair."

"Studies have shown that suicide rates tend to increase about 18 months after an economic decline," he reports.

“Suicide is an attempt to stop pain,” Eve Meyer, executive director of San Francisco Suicide Prevention tells James, and it’s not limited to mental illness, which is a misconception. “That pain can be emotional, physical or economic,” she said.

So yes, I understand that suicide is a sensitive subject, but many experts agree it’s time for journalists to come out of the closet on the subject. Difficult though that may be.

*******       *******       *******

Kansas City suicide hotlines include:

Mental Health Help Line
(913) 281-123

Teen Connection Helpline
(913) 281-2299

Wyandotte Mental Health Center                                                                                                                                     County Crisis Line: (913) 831-177

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17 Responses to Hearne: Starker’s Reserve Owner’s Suicide Sparks Debate

  1. Orphan of the Road says:

    I see you are the only person to run with this. Brave pioneer or just an insensitive lout?

    Had you waited until today or late last night you still would have been first.

    When Anne Winters took her life last year it went unreported until her family came forward.

    Perhaps you were too quick, waiting to see if the family and friends came forward before running the story would have been the best way to handle the story.

    I was standing on a subway platform in Philadelphia and standing next to me was a young man in a hoodie. He turned and smiled at me and then stepped off the platform in front of the train. I ran to the pay phone and called my station to report the news. First in the report to hit the air but I never felt good about it.

  2. Skeptic says:

    I’m still surprised that the character assination of Lisa Irwin’s mother has not hit this site yet. She was drunk ala Brian Euston and Hearne just couldn’t let that rest. Stay Classy!

  3. chuck says:

    Nicely done Hearne.
    An effective and informative reposte, that should mitigate some blowback.

    I have no idea, but if indeed this site has tens of thousands of readers, then, ipso facto, you are, a member of the 4th estate, not only by choice, but by default.

    Your professional explanation of the subject (Suicide), and accompanying statistics, are a spot on follow up, with regards to the passing of Mr. McClure and the subsequent commentary from your readers.

    It just fuckin is what it is, news is news, and your in the news business.

  4. harley says:

    come on hearne grow up…get real
    the friends and family hated it. To get the scoop…is that what you “journalists” live for. Is that your purple heart.
    Then to goon and antagonzie the family and friend with your snide low life reasons for doing it…thats the problem.
    You go on and talk about your great source…and your fake comments that you post…then your brother glaze
    in all his glory after posting about porn and kids and whores comes to your rescue saying it’s part of your job.
    WTF hearne…have you lost your mind? The friends and family didn’t even know the facts…so its your “job”
    to put them on this hideous website. Glaze talks about porn and threesomes and sex and this become the forum
    for suicide prevention. Maybe in another day when you followed rules and civil content…but not now as you and your
    writers openly challenge readers and commentators to fights…call them names…incite personal vendettas on “your”
    NO….you are wrong. Your site is wrong. The writers are wrong. to write about kids watching porn while their mothers
    serviuce a guy who bought their friend a “lobster”……..are you serious.
    Are there no bounds to your idiocy.
    come on guy….get real…grow up…..the friends and family were outraged by your story….you own this site…take
    responsiblity for its content…or shut it down……
    When this happens you are wrong…nothing less!

  5. harley says:

    are the letter and the poster real?
    bad choice of artwork….a suicide letter…is that real hearne…bad choice of adding to the story.
    And the balls…the poster says “suicide…the only way out”…that conflicts with your wanting to
    help people by listing the suicide prevention locations and numbers.
    Are you sure you’re doing this right.
    SUICIDE IS NOT THE ONLY WAY OUT…..why put this on the site that friends and family of the
    deceased will see it.

  6. Robertoe says:

    Still too many questions
    Who launches a new restaurant, does a great job of promoting it and then offs himself when he’s doing all the layout and planning and such? Not only do i think you did the right thing by reporting on cause of death, I hope you do some follow-up and try and dig into why? Interview the contractor on Barrio. Interview the folks who were really working with him on Barrio. Interview his close friends. Was he on SSRIs or tricyclic antidepressants? There’s too much of that shit being taken with links to suicides we don’t understand or its getting swept under the carpet. We’ve all dealt with suicides but this one is really screwy. Too good a guy with big plans and too many friends.

  7. Hearne Christopher says:

    Those are good points. I would note however that Anne Winter had been out of the public limelight for years when she took her life. I remember being strongly discouraged to write about it, since as usual, the Star failed to rise to the occasion.

    In the case of McClure however, he runs arguably the top restaurant on the Plaza and had announced quite publicly that he was about to open another very high profile restaurant in Westport.

    You are also correct that there is no feeling “good” about someone’s sad death.

  8. Hearne Christopher says:

    Well Skeptic, it’s like this…

    The particulars of Brian Euston’s circumstances were being glossed over and/or ignored by most media. That’s hardly the case with the Lisa Irwin story

  9. Hearne Christopher says:

    Hate to take your lame bait, but…

    I go on and on? Got mirror? I merely responded succinctly to critics that I indeed had confirmed the suicide. As for your criticism of Craig’s date post, you wouldn’t be the guy who’s been egging him on to write more about sex, drugs and rock n roll would you? No, of course you wouldn’t.


  10. Hearne Christopher says:

    It’s Kurt Cobain’s suicide note, Ding Dong

  11. whysuicide says:

    questions still need answered

    Thank you for posting this, I knew John and do not understand why he would do this to his family and friends. It appeared he was doing very well in his life/career and some answers would surely give some closure to a few of us. As you said, suicide is a tricky thing to report, but it is definitely not reported enough or it is covered up with semantics. Keep up the good work, and keep reporting the truth.

  12. Jim says:

    Open Letter to Harley
    Harley, why do you waste so much time and so much anger on this site? If Hearne writes about the Plaza or crowd sizes or deaths or nightclubs or Groupon or a myriad of other subjects, you go on and on and on about how stupid or wrong or despicable he is. If Glazer blogs about sports betting or celebrities he knows or hookers or concerts or sports cars, et al, you call him a liar or a person with no moral compass. I don’t get it. It is painfully clear that you think everyone and everything on this site is completely full of shit. Why in God’s name do you bother coming here? Your illiterate, grammatically incorrect and murderous assaults on the English language are laughable. I’m not sure if they are rantings of an old man that is in the beginning stages of dementia or those of a dyslexic 13 year old with ADHD. Come on, man. Get back on your happy pills or find another site that isn’t tired of the nonsensical vomit that comes out of your pie-hole.

  13. % says:

    Well done, Hearne
    Hearne handled it fine. He informed his audience, which is his duty as a journalist. It’s like my high school newspaper teacher told the class: “It’s our job to report on the school as it is, not the way it should be. If you want to do stories about the way life should be in this school, go across the hall and join the yearbook staff.”

    John McClure was a public person. He ran a high-profile restaurant and stood in for photos and interviews with the press about his restaurant. Public people are covered in death like they were covered in life. He took his own life for his own reasons. Hearne reported it accurately and should be commended for informing his audience rather than leaving them guessing like other outlets did. It’s too bad that it upset some of his friends. But news coverage should not be dictated by the niceties of the subjects in the news, or their friends or the people in society whose stomachs are too weak to see the world as it is. A world in which seemingly well-off and successful people succumb to the pressures, disappointments and sorrow that afflict us all.

    As someone who survived a suicide attempt in his youth, I find it puzzling today that the media does all it can to avoid educating people and delving into why and how often people commit suicide and how they can find help. The rest of us can learn something from the life and death of one of our peers like John McClure. Best of luck to his family and friends in getting through this

  14. harley says:

    to my followers…readers…disciples….fans and admirers..
    Jim proves it. He reads every one of my comments. So jim…if what is said by me is so wrong you sure don’t have to read that comment.
    But you do. Because I speak the truth among the people. Jim…you literally qouted all my comments for the last 6 months
    verbatim. I can’t even remember what was said.
    So to jim and the other readers and fans and followers…i appreciate the you read my intellectual thoughts..my rantings…my
    opinions and even my congratulatory comments when deserved to hearne and glaze (yes…i gave glaze the name glaze and now
    everyone on here uses it…thanks are appreciated~)
    So keep reading. My posts may lack spelling and grammar finesse but i assure you from the response that my posts get (both positive
    and negative) that I speak the moral truth and the intellectual truth for my followers.
    Jim…thanks to you personally. I appreciate when unknown readers and disciples of my comments are able to remember comments that
    were posted long long ago. Obviously you find my comments interesting and intuitive and also controversial. And for that
    i thank you. I believe that my comments are among the most read and commented on this site. And jim…if you check my history here
    you’ll see that many many people agree with me…more than disagree with me. So jim…you are in the minority and get used to it.
    Unlike the writers on this site…i use facts…figures…qoutations…actual documented information unlike those who use their
    personal experiences and “unnamed” and well placed sources which usually mean “gossip” in the real world.
    I post on several blogs with regularity and have considered my own blog.
    For underlings like jim who have apparently nev er post ed a single comment…a single analytical post or even a morally driven
    writing…i say…lets see what you can add to the lively conversation. And apparently from the fact that you are a “follower” and not
    a “leader” in this world…you’re probably a hourly wage worker who waits for commands from the top…in other words a
    worker trying to be a big shot when he’s really nothing.
    So as a final note on this comment…to those who try to detract from my comments…i say this…debate me…show me where I’m
    right or wrong…but never doubt my ability to carry the torch for the other side of the story.
    Now jim…get back to work before they lay youoff your minimum wage job.
    I prefer to be a leader…to show the world what is right…you, jim and other slugs like yourself are just minions in this world waiting
    for their piece of cheese.
    Thanks…and i look forward to further discussions.
    Oh…and jim…read my positive comments. I’ve been very articulate in congratulating glaze and hearne when they did something
    extraordinary. They both are good people…but we agree to disagree.
    With sincere thanks to my folowers…readers…disciples..fans and admirers…I say “good day”

  15. Marshall Mcluhan says:

    “The real news, is bad news.”
    Harley, you are a bufoon, an idiot with an endless and repetative desire to make a fool of yourself.

    You have never failed.

  16. Robertoe says:

    No registration = any buffoon with a keyboard is here…
    ….sometimes waaaaay, waaaay too much.

    I know alot is said around here in jest and good natured fun but I want to second the Marshall Mcluhan comments here with the utmost sincerity. I’ve never seen a worse case of errant, misplaced self importance buffoonery & idiocy that Harley.

    But Harley has come up with 1 good idea here. Go start your own blog!

  17. James Gallo says:

    Tough Subject – Good Read
    Having lost a family member to suicide, I relate to the sensitivity of this sad issue. I also find the information valuable and relative

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