Year: 2023 Source: Media History. (2022). SIEC No: 20230349
During the nineteenth century, suicide rates rose substantially in many countries, including the geographic region of the present state of Austria. Sensational news reporting about suicides may have contributed to this rise by eliciting so-called copycat suicides, a phenomenon termed the ‘Werther effect.’ We conducted a large-scale content analysis of nineteenth-century suicide reporting (N = 14,638) to provide a descriptive account of the quality of suicide reporting back then. We found that much of the sensational reporting of the nineteenth century was characterized by presenting vivid details on the suicide method, specific location, and personal details, such as the deceased’s name, occupation, and exact address. To put these findings into context, we compared them to twenty-first-century suicide reporting (N = 300 articles). We found that the quality of reporting has improved since then, containing less Werther-effect-facilitative elements, however, the reports still fail to adhere to modern-day guidelines of responsible reporting.