Jet FM thanks listeners for helping create award-winning news coverage
Each year, one small-market radio station in BC is honoured for Excellence in News Reporting. This year that station is the Comox Valley's own 98.9 Jet FM.
At an awards gala in Vancouver on Friday, the British Columbia Association of Broadcasters recognised the Jet's news team for their special feature: Touching the Taboo of Teen Suicide.
"We don't usually talk about suicide in the news," explained Jet news director Jennifer Faerber. "There's a lot of evidence showing media coverage can prompt copy-cat deaths, but here in the Valley there was a short period of time where actually talking about suicide did more good than harm."
In the weeks before the feature aired, three local students had taken their own lives. In total, the BC Coroners Service was investigating five teen suicides in the Comox Valley since January 2009.
The most recent of the deaths was the first to be made public. A smiling photo of Candice Shields, 17, was circulated on October 24, 2011. She had been reported missing. By the end of the day, RCMP had confirmed that Candice was dead and there were no suspicious circumstances.
"The devastation was almost tangible. The shocking reality that yet another teen had ended her life was felt by every student, parent, teacher and emergency worker, all of their friends and family, basically the whole valley," Faerber recalled. "We say that a good local radio station is a community talking to itself, and there’s no doubt the S-word was out in the open."
School District 71 called Jet FM to help promote suicide awareness resources that had been posted to its website. The Vancouver Island Crisis Line gratefully accepted the opportunity to broadcast advice for coping. A number of local teenagers started a Facebook group called “Comox Valley Suicide Awareness.” By the morning of October 25, the group had more than 500 members and two days later, there were 1,200.
"We [at Jet FM] really want to thank all the people that helped us facilitate a responsible conversation around this really sensitive issue," Faerber said. "Lead investigator Tori Cliffe at the Comox Valley RCMP, Heather Owen at the Vancouver Island Crisis Line, local teachers, parents and most importantly, recent high-school grads Courtnea Ledger and Ashley Anness, who were brave enough to stand up and speak on behalf of their peers."
The five-part feature, Touching the Taboo of Teen Suicide, was voiced by then news director Randy Kilburn, produced by Robyn Nicholson, with reporting by Marc Mulvaney and Jennifer Faerber and support from Pete Montana.
Click below to listen to the award-winning series, Touching the Taboo of Teen Suicide:
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