Monday, April 07, 2014

Bookmarks: Kurt Cobain

There's an interesting and timely bit from The Observer's readers' editor about how the media cover the anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death:

Samaritans remind us that suicide accounts for more deaths than road traffic accidents, particularly in people under the age of 35. They have done much to make the media aware of the effect of insensitive reporting, producing very clear guidelines that state: "There may be a higher risk of unintentionally glamorising suicide in the case of celebrities or high-profile individuals... Various characteristics of the reporting of suicide are thought to increase the risk of imitative or 'copycat' behaviour. These include: information about the method of suicide, prominent or repetitive reporting, or where the person involved is a celebrity. Young people are particularly vulnerable to 'copycat' suicides. Research shows they are the group most likely to be influenced by the media."

Media references to Cobain's suicide certainly come under the heading of repetitive: a database search of all national newspapers reveals that 237 pieces have been published in the past year, which, coupled with similar articles in magazines and online, reinforce the myths that surround young death and help create such questionable phenomena as the 27 Club – an online litany of musicians who have died, either by their own hand, accidentally or as murder victims, at the age of 27. They include Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison and, most recently, Amy Winehouse.


4 comments:

Robin Carmody said...

One thing that stands out from the time of Cobain's death: the fact that the Guardian wasn't initially going to cover it, and the fervent opposition of some members of the Guardian's then staff (never named, but mentioned by Alan Rusbridger who wasn't editor yet - it was still Peter Preston at the time) to their covering it at all. Which, even within a few years, seemed like something out of a very different era.

Odd how Cobain's death is theoretically unconnected with that of John Smith, yet both cross-fertilised in the development of Britpop.

simon hayes budgen said...

Nice point about Smith/Cobain...

Simon said...

Looking at newspaper archives, it does seem everyone knew it had some significance but wasn't quite sure what, hence four or five paragraphs on page 3 almost right across the board - I know it appeared about halfway through News At Ten in passing. The Mirror subsequently put the death picture across two pages three days later, then got Jane Moore to write a few words for her column about his selfishness.

Robin Carmody said...

I'd be very surprised if those members of Guardian staff still work there full-time now, btw. They might still contribute to the paper, but would probably have retired from the daily cut-and-thrust.

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