Why do the press continue to add two and two together ...

... and make 5?

I can't get a link because I'm cheap but today's Daily Express, p27 is carrying the following story:

'Double suicide of new recruits engulfs Army in 'Deepcut Two' row'.

As an unsuspecting reader I assumed that two people had died together in some sort of suicide pact. In fact the 'double suicide' was separated by 9 months at Blandford. I would like to take this opportunity to talk about some suicide statistics:

There is a clear downward trend in suicide rates in the Armed Forces. There was a 43% reduction in the tri-Service age standardised 3-year moving average suicide rate between 1995–97 and 2000–02. This was mostly due to a 52% fall for the Army. In particular, the number of Army suicides by firearms fell from 47 in the 5 year period 1992–96 to 7 in the 5 year period 1997–2001. This trend is encouraging, but gives no room for complacency. There was also a downward trend in suicide rates among the general population over this period; and, although Armed Forces suicide rates generally remain lower than among the comparable age groups in the general population, this does not hold true for Army males under age 20, where the Service rates are currently 1.7 times above the national figure.
Source is an UNCLASSIFIED open letter to the joint chain of command dated 15 Jan 05.

Now those are encouraging statistics - but as it says bothing to get complacent about.

The five cases of self harm discussed in the Express article are:

1. A female recruit who appears to have committed suicide whose mother claims she was bullied but didn't report it.

2. A male recruit who appears to have hanged himself after a night out drinking.

3. A 17 yo (sex not known) who took an overdose, received treatment and requested discharge.

4. A 19 yo female who took an overdose and received treatment and finally left.

5. A 20 yo female who slashed her own wrists in front of another soldier and later discharged.

Am I missing the point here? At what point does personal responsibility kick in for all this? Why does the Army get such a kicking? Now other than the fatuous answer 'to sell newspapers' why do the journos think that this is valuable and newsworthy?
The job of an editor is to find content that will sell his product. The nature of this content has to be relevant to the reader profile. Good news - in general terms - does not sell as well as scandal, gossip, cock-ups or opportunities to engage in schadenfreud. I spent quite a while as a civilian working for a foreign press in London and the effort to get what will sell is really desperate - possibly more than we tell of on this forum. Incidents 1 to 5 of Barbs bit would not of themselves merit much more than a small paragraph on page 22. Put them together - ha! a bit of a story that merits half a page. Tie them in with Deepcut - which still has a fascination for civilians - and you get a leader and maybe a bit of editorial. Phone round and alert a couple of the columnists and they can puff the story.
Telling them it is rubbish, irrelevant or whatever merely adds lineage to their report. I think that is why MOD holds onto info - least said, soonest mended and damned whatever you say.
Only real solution, I suppose, is to form one's own filters. I, for example, am able to scan for and reject anything that contains Beckham and other clues I'll keep to myself.

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