Harry Potter : No spoilers but how would you handle this?

Here’s an interesting thought experiment we came up with the other day.

Suppose … just suppose, Harry does die in the last book.

You’re the editor of the local newspaper when a kid in your town gets so despondant over how the books ends, he commits suicide.

How do you report it? A kid committing suicide is not something you could afford to not report. But by reporting the story of the suicide you would almost by necessity have to reveal the ending of the book.

What would you do?

A child, depreseed by the ending of J.K. Rowling’s new novel “Deathly Hallows” committed suicide today in Anytown, USA.

I jump on the BS wagon, sensationalize it, & blame the book.

After all, Journalism isn’t about truth–it’s about selling ad space.

Be vague: “A young fan of Harry Potter has committed suicide after reading the final volume, allegedly motivated by grief at the death of a character in the story.”

You can fill paragraph after paragraph with general stuff about the series and how much the kid liked it. Just don’t say which character it is, and don’t use any quotes from friends/family pinpointing the identity.

How would the same editor handle the tragic case of a lass who couldn’t handle the end of Anna Karenina?

“Broomstick Lover Flies Off the Handle”?

Why not? There were over 32,000 suicides in the US in 2004 (last available data.) About 4,500 were under the age of 24. That’s more than 12 a day. How many of those do you think rated a newspaper story?

Yeah, I’ve heard that a lot of newspapers choose NOT to report suicides because they don’t want to encourage copycats.
Personally, I think that’s probably best. It would be better for everyone to just not publicize it - the family proabbly doesn’t want it to be in the news, and you don’t want any other mentally unstable people getting ideas from the publicity about it.

And besides, who can really say that the book was the real cause? Even if the suicide note talked about the book, someone in that condition of mental distress may not be able to really articulate the root issues.

If you amend that to “A kid committing suicide over the ending of the new Harry Potter book is not something you could afford to not report”, then I think Euty is right. It’s the cause of the suicide that makes the suicide newsworthy.

Personally, I think the nature of the event trumps concerns about spoilers. A journalist could either do the newspaper equivalent of spoiler tags, which would be tacky, or he could dance around the details of the cause, which would be silly. Despite the worldwide popularity of the books, there are people out there who don’t give a damn about Harry Potter, and it’s a disservice to them to leave these details vague.

For the people who do care, obviously, if the kid killed himself, the ending was unexpected and upsetting, so that should be more than enough warning to not read more of the article if you don’t want to be spoiled.

I’d probably handle it the way that my hometown paper always handled kids who committed suicide - no article, just an obit that says they “passed away at home”. Everybody can pretty much figure out what that means (since there is no accompanying story about a murder) and it’s probably not their business why the kid killed himself.

It would be like the case in the 80s, where some kid killed himself and the parents said it was because of heavy metal music (I don’t have a cite, but I’m sure others will remember it).

But, as lavenderviolet said, that may not have been (and most likely wasn’t) the cause of the suicide. If a parent blames the Harry Potter book for being the cause, then the newspapers are just reporting in tabloid fashion, IMO.

No one in their right mind would think that a normal, happy, well-adjusted child would off him/herself because of the ending of a book. If someone was thinking of committing suicide already, the reasons would be an already established depression or mental illness.

However, If I were a newspaper editor, I would probably have sold my soul already and realized that if I didn’t report it, everyone else would. It’s a business decision, as sleazy as it may be.

I disagree. If someone doesn’t give a damn about Harry Potter, then they don’t need to know the details of the ending and it’s not doing them a disservice to leave the details vague. I’m not sure that the death of Harry Potter–beloved title character–constitutes a “detail”. But I see little reason why an article in response to this theoretical incident need be more specific than “Kid was upset by the ending of the latest Harry Potter novel”.

I don’t really understand the dillemna here? IF the kid kills himself because Harry Potter dies in the book, then why wouldn’t you report that he killed himself because Harry Potter died in the book. This is a news article, not a book review, and the book has already been published, so information about the ending isn’t a secret, so I don’t see why you would go out of your way not to reveal the ending.

Even if the kid did it today, reading the JPEGs, I’d still say report it. A newspaper’s job is not to enhance your enjoyment of a book. It’s to report relevant facts of newsworthy events.

Even without the suicide, I would not hesitate to publish the ending of the book, with sufficient spoiler warner (ie, kids, don’t look at page 6 in the “Arts & Living” section today).

Unless my paper is being paid a whole lot of hush money to keep the secret, we’re printing the news, even psuedo news about what happens in a popular book. We published the ending of that mafia tv series, and the ending of “Citizen Kane”, so why not HP?

Bit of an ol’ hijack here, but if you were a store owner who opened at midnight opening day to sell the books to an ecstatic crowd, how would you cope with an asshole that bought his copy, went straight to the last pages, read them quickly and shouted out who was dead/ how the book ended? It’s Homer walikng out of Empire Strikes Back, times a thousand. I doubt the guy would get out of the store alive.

I took it as it was posited in the OP: this hypothetical kid offed himself because he was depressed about the book ending. As for why he would kill himself, well, Euty never said this kid was stable to begin with. :wink:

Saying “upset by the ending” is an unacceptably incomplete description of the cause of the suicide.

If the death of the title character of a seven-book series is the cause of a suicide, what reason justifies not citing it? The suicide is going to be reported anyway because of the tie to the HP books, so concern for the family’s privacy is moot. The only reason left would be to protect the fans from being spoiled, and that is a silly, irrelevant reason to be vague about perfectly relevant facts.

I say this as someone who read the first 4 books in a two weeks and has the seventh on preorder. I’d be pissed if I read this hypothetical story, but I’d only have myself to blame. What about “kid committed suicide over the last Harry Potter book” doesn’t scream huge potential for spoilers?

Kid Gives Himself the Old Avada-Kedavra Over Learning that Hermione is Voldemort’s Love Nymph
Little Eddie ‘Couldn’t Handle Death of Hagrid, Ron & Neville from Hermione’s Nippilicus Morticus Curse’ Says Mom Who Never Guessed Snape Was Really Voldemort’s Son Like it Says on Page 432

If the kid had had sufficient time to read to the ending, isn’t it safe to spoil it?

Besides, it’s not as if there are laws against spoilers. I’m with the others who say that journalism trumps spoilers.

Commit suicide myself, of course.

Ever seen the Funniest Joke in the World sketch? I imagine the aftermath would be something like that.