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Craccum Editors May Be Forced To Fall On Swords

The co-editors of a student magazine who published a controversial feature on youth suicide may end up being kicked out by their student association. Scoop's Chris Holm reports.

Yesterday Auckland University student editors Ben Thomas and James Cardno published two stories on youth suicide in Craccum, the Auckland University student newspaper.

Over 10,500 copies of the student paper were distributed to the students of Auckland’s largest university.

One story entitled 'Suicide Is Painless", listed the different ways people commonly killed themselves along with graphic pictures illustrating the results. An accompanying article, written by student Tim Selwyn, criticised the work of suicide preventionists calling them 'losers' and saying their work was, 'a waste of money.'

Recently elected Craccum co-editor Ben Thomas, a 21-year-old law student, said the guide was not intended to advocate or promote suicide.

He criticised the media’s handling of the issue, especially the treatment he and writer Tim Selwyn’s received on National Radio’s Kim Hill show this morning.

Broadcaster Kim Hill told Mr Thomas to not refer to the content of the articles as Radio New Zealand supported guidelines to not broadcast 'how-to' material regarding suicide. Ms Hill also refused to continue interviewing writer Tim Selwyn because she found his ideas abhorrent.

“Asking me to talk about the content without allowing me to refer to the content was just ludicrous,” said Mr Thomas.

“Without letting us explain the article Kim Hill ended up sensationalising the issue more than we were.

“All the media have been trying to do this – many journalists have contacted and interviewed us without even having read the story.”

Mr Thomas said the media silence on reporting the Craccum stories would continue the atmosphere of silence around suicide.

“Our main aim was to get people’s attention involved in the issue of youth suicide.

“I personally think the content in the guide to killing yourself would put most people off. It’s meant to be deadly serious. I find any suggestion we were being tongue in cheek deadly offensive.”

He also defended his decision to publish student Tim Selwyn’s controversial article which criticised the touchy feely attitude of suicide counsellors.

“Tim Selwyn’s article is provocative and not mainstream and one I don’t agree with. However I think he should still have the right to publish it.”

The Ministry of Health does not agree. It has issued directives forbidding all mention of suicide methods. It believes raising suicide awareness does not stop suicide and may possibly even encourage it.

In Parliament ACT’s Muriel Newman called the newspapers editor “callous and irresponsible”, while Simon Power National’s spokesperson for Youth Affairs called for the two editor’s resignation.

They may have no choice. While talking to Scoop Mr Thomas was handed a motion of no confidence in Craccum by members of the Auckland University Association.

The association will hold a meeting next Tuesday to vote on whether the editors should resign.

About 540 New Zealanders kill themselves each year, with the rate among young people twice that of Australia.


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