Trans Suicide Reporting
Ashley Hallstrom, of Logan, left a heartbreaking suicide note that set afire the LGBT community in Utah and throughout the nation. But, among mainstream media, only the Logan Herald Journal thought it was worth a mention. Ashley was a transgender woman struggling with heroin addiction and, of course, all the associated trauma of her gender identity. After posting a suicide note Oct. 14 on Facebook, she took a fatal walk into traffic. "I don't know how to fight this beast inside of me that says I'll never amount to anything and I'll never be anyone. How did I get here?" she wrote. Initially, The Salt Lake Tribune ran a short item in which Ashley was identified by male pronouns, which enraged the LGBT community. Then the story disappeared.
Don't Say the "S-Word"
The media is a strange animal, especially when it comes to suicide. A 1987 campaign citing "suicide contagion" resulted in most media shying away from suicide coverage. Readers know the code words: "died unexpectedly," "died suddenly," "lived with depression," etc. But the word "suicide" is taboo. The Herald Journal justified its coverage of Ashley Hallstrom "because of the public nature of the suicide note and the national attention it has received." It's kind of a sick twist that the media indulge in reporting deaths from gun violence without the same caution as with suicide reports. In 2011, the Australian media changed their standards, saying that reporting a death as suicide is in the public interest. But the Hallstrom reporting is actually more of a transgender issue than one of suicide prevention. "From a very young age, I was told that people like me are freaks and abominations, that we are sick in the head and society hates us," Ashley wrote.
Reports say Google Fiber is coming to Salt Lake City. But that's only one notch in Utah's connectivity belt. A recent Utah Foundation report said 96 percent of Utah households have access to broadband services, making the state "one of the top states in the nation for broadband availability." The report, "21st Century Infrastructure: How Broadband Internet Has Shaped and Is Shaping Utah," cites public investment in systems like UTOPIA (oops, the Salt Lake City Council spurned that one), iProvo and the Utah Education and Telehealth Network. Private companies such as Comcast and CenturyLink have provided subscribers with megabit connections but their monopolistic traits are a source of frustration among many customers. Still, Utah is at the forefront.