Year: 2023 Source: Communication Research. (2023). 0(0), 1– 25. SIEC No: 20230838
Quality of journalism is not a stable phenomenon, yet there is limited longitudinal evidence. We provide a content analysis of news reporting over a whole century within a specific thematic context: suicide reporting. Quality is a key dimension in this context as low-quality reporting is associated with imitative suicides (Werther effect). We took a historical perspective: suicide rates increased in many countries during the 19th century, with suicide reporting hypothesized as a contributory factor. Conducting the first longitudinal study of journalism quality that examines an entire century, we manually coded N = 14,638 articles. Our analyses indicated a strong nonlinear increase in low-quality reporting. Importantly, a high quantity of low-quality reporting predicted annual increases in suicide rates, a finding which is consistent with the idea of a long-term macro-level media effect. Despite limitations in causal interpretations, the findings support recommendations for high-quality suicide reporting in current media guidelines.