Do the media report tragedies appropriately?

On April 7th Peaches Geldof, the daughter of Sir Bob Geldof, was found dead in her home. Later, a toxicology report showed that heroin may have played a role in her death. Since then, she has barely been out of the news, her whole life has been dissected for all to see and her family’s grief has been publicly reported on. We often defend the right for the press to report on tragedies that involve drugs as it can educate others and help prevent people from taking the drug in the future. However, at what point do they cross the line?

At the time of her death, some of the details were not made public. Whilst this is the appropriate thing to do to respect herself and her family, it can lead to media outlets speculating on the circumstances as well as analysing her life with a fine comb to generate more readers. Much of the speculation revolved around who is to blame and Peaches’ husband, Thomas Cohen, faced “trial by media” over claims that drug paraphernalia had been removed from the death scene. Many media outlets suggested that he was under police investigation, prompting the police to release a statement to the contrary.

Another disturbing headline was “Peaches Geldof ‘had the heart of a 90-year old gangster…’”. This headline suggests that her body had suffered from years of abuse. However, the article actually referenced an interview made THREE YEARS AGO, where Peaches made a joke when talking about losing weight for health reasons. Articles likes these do nothing to respect the tragic death of a young lady and are purely intended to generate more readers and cause controversy.

There are also constant comparisons between Peaches and her ill-fated mother, Paula Yates, who died from a heroin overdose in 2000. Shortly before her death, Peaches posted a photo of herself and her mother on Twitter. This led to the media reporting a “growing obsession” with her mother, which made her tragic death seem inevitable.

This unhealthy media coverage of what was an incredibly tragic event can be very harmful. In the build up to her death, Peaches’ friends say that she had visited drug rehab several times and was receiving drug treatment at the time of her death. This had been carefully hidden from the public and if it was made public it would have made recovery a lot more difficult. Many others who are struggling with addiction may see the coverage of this tragedy and have reservations about seeking help. It also raises questions as to whether the media scrutiny that Peaches was under was affecting her recovery efforts.

Despite all the speculation, we will never know what was going through the mind of Peaches Geldof before she died. Despite all the speculation, we do not know what struggles she was facing and what the reasons may have been for using heroin. Whilst it was reported that she visited drug rehab, we do not know the circumstances behind the visits or the details of her treatment. What we do know is that 2 children have lost their mother, a father has lost his daughter and a husband has lost his wife. Sensationalising the facts and speculating about what is unknown achieves nothing.