After a week and a half, local paper finally covers gay suicide

Photo: Visalia Times Delta / Ron Holman

Ten days after the event, the Visalia Times Delta, our local newspaper, finally carried an article on the suicide of EricJames Borges, who took his own life at nineteen.

Prior to this article, the only mention was this announcement about a memorial service to be held at the community college he attended.

The newspaper was apparently working on Saturday’s front page, above-the-fold, story since shortly after the suicide, but there was only the one small item about the first of two memorials printed.  While other papers and television stations in the area were carrying the news, the Visalia Times Delta seemed strangely quiet.  This led to speculation in the community that the paper was ignoring the story.

Media around the world, including outlets in Norway, Sweden, Italy, the United Kingdom, the Washington Post, as well as countless other US sites, carried the news.

The first wave of readers to the articles breaking the news, here at QueerLandia and QueerVisalia, were from Facebook users.  Shock and grief spread rapidly as users shared the links among themselves.  The Huffington Post picked up the story, and created another wave of hits to the articles. The next big wave came when Andrew Sullivan ran a piece on his blog at the Daily Beast.  Other blogs and news services around the world carried stories about EricJames, but there was nothing from the Visalia Times Delta.

The Visalia Times Delta is to be commended for the coverage finally printed, but the path to that result could have been better plotted.  There could have been an initial announcement, especially once the realization set in that this was indeed major news, that the paper was working to cover the story.  Most people had to rely on the internet and other local news sources for ten days worth of coverage on the tragedy. Making your customers go to your competitors for information is not usually a wise business strategy, especially with the stresses on print media these days.

Doing an in-depth, thorough story on suicide was a good call, but taking ten days to do it isn’t really helping the community one serves as much as you could.  There should have been a series of smaller articles, geared to provide coverage of the sad news, the effect it was having in the LGBTQ, online, and college communities, and designed to culminate in the major exposition on suicide, the common signs, and the aftermath.

The suicide of EricJames has shaken the LGBTQ community, as well as the wider community, deeply.  It’s clear from the outpouring at his memorial services, and from the online chatter, that his influence on those he met was vast, and positive.  Many people will carry on his efforts to combat injustice, bigotry, religious persecution, and bullying.  They will strive to reach out to vulnerable members of their varied communities, offering hope and love to those struggling.  To help everyone find the place in their own lives where they can say “It Gets Better”.

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