With the new Robin Williams documentary ‘Robin’s Wish’ released internationally today, Australian media are being encouraged to be cautious in their coverage.
It is widely acknowledged that the death of Robin Williams in 2014 resulted in a significant outpouring of grief across the international community and consequently impacted many vulnerable members of society.
Due to the high profile nature of this death there was a great deal of media coverage, with many international publications sharing content, language and explicit details, which did not reflect best practice guidelines.
The impact of this coverage and the high profile nature of Robin Williams’ death is still being explored however initial findings from a number of studies in the United States have indicated there were significant increases in suicides following his death.
University of Melbourne, Professor of Mental Health, Jane Pirkis who has co-authored numerous pieces of research on suicide and media, including around the impact of Robin Williams’ death, told Everymind’s Mindframe project that it is important for media to be cautious in how they cover this latest documentary.
“In a media environment driven by fast-moving online content, it’s crucial to stay aware of overseas syndicated content and the potentially harmful impact it may have on Australian audiences,” Professor Pirkis said.
“The rise in syndicated content lets media organisations pool resources and share coverage with anyone outside of their own regions or countries, allowing a single story to be duplicated across hundreds of local, national and international publications.
“This poses significant risk if coverage doesn’t adhere to best practice guidelines and ultimately may generate a negative impact on vulnerable community members, especially those who were impacted by Robin William’s death in 2014.”
With no current guidelines or code of practice in Australia for articles that are written and published by an international journalist, and syndicated to Australian websites, Everymind’s Mindframe team is continuing to work with media and other organisations to minimise impact.
Everymind Acting Program Manager, Sara Bartlett said the media has come a long way since 2014 and Australian media particularly led international best coverage the first time around and can do so again in how they cover the ‘Robin’s Wish’ documentary.
“While celebrity incidents are newsworthy and will almost always be reported, Australian media outlets need to ensure that their news coverage, including syndicated articles, don’t glamourise and/or sensationalise, especially the content in the Robin’s Wish documentary,” Ms Bartlett said.
“It is undeniable that we want information faster, but the risks lie in not being able to manage harmful overseas content being shared amongst Australians online and we already know the impact that Mr Williams’ death had on individuals - the key is to avoid ongoing impact.”
For more information on research conducted around this topic and specifically on the impact of Robin Williams’ death please see below research articles.
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