As a journalist, what would I write if Dapper Laughs committed suicide?
So this week Dapper Laughs launched DappsDaily then pulled it after accusations of plagiarism from the Guardian, banned the Liverpool Echo from reviewing a show, and faced local council calls for him not to play in Sunderland. And today on Twitter he took a swipe at “jernos and feminists” and started retweeting people criticising him with predictable results.
A couple of hours after it had all kicked off, he tweeted this…
And as a journalist, it posed a theoretical question which I thought I’d answer.
So the first thing is, in the event of it happening, initial reports wouldn’t be able to say that much. IPSO has a specific clause about reporting suicide.
Clause 5 Intrusion into grief or shock
i) In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings, such as inquests.
ii) When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used.
And most journalists are conscious most of the time of the guidelines given by the Samaritans on reporting suicide.
I say most of the time, because the system isn’t perfect. When I worked at the Mirror we had a front page picture of Mick Jagger’s face as he was informed of the suicide of his partner, which I felt was needlessly intrusive.
And it can be quite hard not to report on the circumstances around the suicides of young teens, especially when there is a narrative of them rowing with their folks or boyfriend/girlfriend, then going on to commit the act, which is an integral part of the tragedy.
But a thing that would cause you to take special care in reporting this particular instance would be that suicide primarily affects men. I’ve lost two male colleagues over the last decade to it.
In fact, when jousting with MRAs and the like on Twitter this is one of the points that they do have in favour of their arguments – suicide does disproportionately affect men, and it isn’t that often discussed in the media.
I did personally report on it for Ampp3d – I note that at the moment I myself am slap bang in the middle of the peak-suicide demographic.
Part of the reason it isn’t often reported on is, I think, because people are very nervous about the reporting guidelines around suicide – it’s a lot easier to pick a different topic to cover than one which has a specific clause in the Editor’s code.
So that’s the reporting covered off.
And the obituaries and thinkpieces?
Well, I hope it won’t happen, and anyone who was tweeting Dapper Laughs today hoping that it would is a prize cockwomble. Just because someone is being a dick is not a licence to behave like a dick.
But I can tell you what I would write, and it would centre around that Newsnight appearance.
I’d write that the narrative was set the moment that Daniel O’Reilly went back on this moment.
Having appeared on national TV to say that “Dapper Laughs is gone”, to leave it a few months and then try to resurrect the “character” showed that O’Reilly was unwilling or unable to come up with another act, and hadn’t learned from the public reaction that this style of act was going to lead to a career blighted with controversy. One that he said he was contrite about, but never moved on from.
That’s what I’d write.