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E Blanco-Castilla, J Cano Galindo (2019) “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press from journalistic taboo to boom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 937 to 949

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School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press: from journalistic taboo to boom Elena Blanco­Castilla [CV] [ ORCID] [ GS] Professor at the Department of Journalism, Universidad de Málaga (UMA), Spain ­ castilla@uma.es Juan Cano­Galindo [CV] [ ORCID] PhD Student.
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12/6/2019 E Blanco-Castilla, J Cano Galindo (2019): “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press: from journalistic taboo to boom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 937 to 949.
file:///Users/upf/Desktop/E Blanco-Castilla, J Cano Galindo (2019)_ “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press_ from journalistic taboo to boom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 937 to 949..ht
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RLCSandScopus
10.4185/RLCS20191365en|ISSN11385820|RLCS,742019| |
Indexhofthejournal,accordingtoGoogleScholarMetrics,
Howtocitethisarticleinbibliograhies/References
E BlancoCastilla, J Cano Galindo (2019): “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press: from
journalistictabootoboom”.RevistaLatinadeComunicaciónSocial,74,pp.937to949.
http://www.revistalatinacs.org/074paper/1365/48en.html
DOI:10.4185/RLCS2019136548en
SchoolbullyingandteensuicideintheSpanish
press:fromjournalistictabootoboom
ElenaBlancoCastilla[CV][ ORCID][ GS]ProfessorattheDepartmentofJournalism,UniversidaddeMálaga
(UMA),Spaincastilla@uma.es
JuanCanoGalindo[CV][ ORCID]PhDStudent.DepartmentofJournalism,UniversidaddeMálaga(UMA),Spain
jcanogal@gmail.com
Abstracts
Introduction.This article examines the evolution of the news coverage of school bullying and teen suicide in the
Spanish press. Methods. The objective is to measure the importance newspapers grant to this phenomenon to
determinewhethertheirinterest runs parallel to the occurrence of the mostserious cases of bullying orwhetherthe
mediaagendaalreadyconsidersbullyingasamajorsocialproblem.Results.Datawerecollectedfromatotalof8,421
news stories published in eight prestigious newspapers between 2004 and 2017, of which 222 directly address the
eightcasesofteensuicidethattookplaceinSpain duringthat researchperiod.Conclusions.Themedia’s interestin
theproblemisincreasing,buttheirreportingofschoolbullyinghasstrongnarrativedeficiencies,suchasapredominant
12/6/2019 E Blanco-Castilla, J Cano Galindo (2019): “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press: from journalistic taboo to boom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 937 to 949.
file:///Users/upf/Desktop/E Blanco-Castilla, J Cano Galindo (2019)_ “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press_ from journalistic taboo to boom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 937 to 949..ht
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sensationalistapproachfocusedonsuicidecases,whichusedtobeaconsideredajournalistictabooduetothefearits
reportingcouldtriggeringanimitationeffectintheaudience,andthedisregardforthepresumptionofinnocence.
Keywords
Schoolbullying;cyberbullying;suicide;publicopinion;journalism;sensationalism.
Contents
1.Introduction.1.1. Bullyingand themedia.1.2.Themediaandpublic opinion.2.Methods.3.Results.3.1. Reporting
ofsuicide.4.Discussionandconclusions.5.References.
TranslationbyCAMartínezArcos
(PhDinCommunication,UniversityofLondon)
[Research]
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1.Introduction
InSpain,oneinfourstudentssuffersfromsomeformofviolenceatschool.Whentheseattacksbecomerepetitiveitis
known as bullying, which in recent year became a severe problem with serious consequences for its victims. The
CisnerosX report, developed by a team led by researchers Araceli Oñate and Iñaki Piñuel in 2007, concludes that
school bullying affects 23.3% of Spanish students and highlights that “it is not the marginal reality that many try to
present”.
Sincepsychologist andresearcherDan Olweusbeganthe studyofbullying inNorwayin the1970s,the phenomenon
hasnotstoppedgrowing,andithasevolvedinrecentyearsintocyberbullying.Betweenthetwomostimportantstudies
carriedoutbyOlweus,with18yearsofdifference(1983and2001),thepercentageofvictimsofbullyinghasincreased
by50% whilethepercentageofstudentsinvolvedin moreseriousforms ofbullyinggrew by65%(Solberg &Olweus,
2003).ThemagnitudeoftheproblemismoreevidenteverydayinSpain.ThisworryingsituationledtheOmbudsmanto
work on a new report on school bullying,since the one carried out in 2000 on school violence and peer abuse in
secondary education become obsolete. This first report considered that the situation in Spain, compared to other
neighbouring countries, should not be described as alarming. It estimated that the incidence and severity of the
episodes of abuse were lower and considered that the legislative framework and the degree of awareness in the
educationaladministrationswereappropriate.
Onlysevenyearslater,theCisnerosXreport,consideredasthelargestresearchcarriedoutinWesternEuropeonthe
subject, revealed a very differentreality. It estimated school bullying rate at 23.3%, which places Spain in the 17th
position of the world ranking. More recent studies, such as the one published in 2016 by the Aid to Children and
AdolescentsatRiskFoundation(ANAR),alsowarnusabouttheproblem.Theresearchcoveredfrom2009,whenthey
recorded154casesof bullying contrastedbypsychologistsandexperts of theFoundation,to2015, when 573cases
weredetected.
Awarenessofthisproblemwasspreadbythefirstcases ofsuicideofvictimsofbullying.InSeptember2004,14year
old Jokin Zeberio took his own life on Fuenterrabía (Guipúzcoa). For over a year he had suffered the aggressions,
insultsandhumiliationsofa group of classmates from asecondaryschoolinHondarribia,accordingtothesentence
12/6/2019 E Blanco-Castilla, J Cano Galindo (2019): “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press: from journalistic taboo to boom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 937 to 949.
file:///Users/upf/Desktop/E Blanco-Castilla, J Cano Galindo (2019)_ “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press_ from journalistic taboo to boom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 937 to 949..ht
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that absolved of induction to suicide to the eight classmates but condemned them for bullying Jokin (El País
11/02/2011). Since then, the total number of suicide casesamong Spanish minors who, according to their families,
sufferedfrombullying,iseight.ThemostrecentcasetookplaceinJanuary2017.Despitetheharshreality,thestudies
carried reveal important gaps that affect its prevention and treatment in the educational and legislative fields. For
example,theonlynoteworthymeasureadoptedbytheGovernmenthasbeenthelaunchingofthesingletelephoneline
(900018018),on1November2016,tohelpfamilies,witnessesandteacherstosolveordenouncecasesofbullying.
Thereis,therefore,nolawthatpersecutesorpunishesschoolbullyingassuch.Onlyonearticle(172.ter),incorporated
in the last reform of the Penal Code (1 July 2015) punishes the socalled illegitimate harassment, cyberbullying or
stalking,butitisnotusefulforschoolbullying(CastilloJiménez,2017).Inotherwords,thebullyingisnotconsidereda
crimeinSpain,henceitisimpossibletoquantifylawsuits,sincethesebehavioursareconsideredasthreats,coercions,
vexations or offences againsthonour,intimacy or moral integrity. In the educational field, where the current action
protocolsofactionseeminsufficientandlackthenecessarylegalprotection,itisessentialtoimplementmoreaccurate
modelsfor teachers toorganisesocialactivities, friends groupsandnetworks,as well asotheractivitiesthat improve
relationshipsamongstudents(Romera,Cano,GarcíaFernández&OrtegaRuiz,2016)
1.2.Bullyingandthemedia
Inthisscenario,themediacanandshouldenhancetheirsocialfunction.Theymusthelptocreateapublicopinionthat
demandspoliticsandappropriatemeasuresto curbtheproblem.Inaddition, themediaalso havetheresponsibilityof
increasing their informative and educative roles to help the victims and their environment to face the problem of
bullying.TheCisnerosXreporthighlightstheextraordinary mediaattention thatschoolbullyinghasreceivedinrecent
years.“There isnotadayinwhichnewsprogrammesdo notpresentcasesofarealitythat hasbeendownplayedfor
toolong”.Theproblemisthat,asthereportemphasises,mediainformationaboutbullyinghasbeenreducedtoonlythe
“mostseriousformsofphysicalaggression,ortochildrenwithmoreseverephysicalinjuries”.
Thisworkaims toanalysethemediaframingofbullying,initsmultipleaspects,anddeterminewhether,asmentioned
in the aforementioned report, they only cover the problem when there are cases that involve police actions with
detainees (i.e., the mostserious cases) and, above all, when school bullying adopts its most dramatic face with the
victim’ssuicide.Theinitialhypothesisisthatthemediadonothaveacoherentpolicytocovercasesofbullyingandthat
they only show interest in the most serious consequences of the problem, particularly suicides (H1). The second
hypothesis proposes that the media make an exception with bullying to the norm that considers suicide reporting a
tabooduetotheriskofencouragingcopycatsuicides(H2).Likewise,thatinterestgrowswhentheeventoccursintheir
areaofscope(H3).
AlbertBandura (1977) in his theory of social learning claims that news about suicides increase the risk of imitation,
whichiswhyjournaliststendtohidethemexceptwhentheeventisessentialpartofanewsstory.Astudycarriedout
by Madelyn S. Gould (2001) in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Division of Epidemiology at
ColumbiaUniversity and the State PsychiatricInstitute of New York, continuesfinding alarming correlations between
suicidereportinginfactualandfictionprogrammingandimitationacts.
The imitation effect theory and suicide reporting have been widely studied in the field of the psychology, where the
terms“Werthereffect”and“copycateffect”werecoined(HerreraRamírez;UresVillarandMartínezJambrina,2015)to
referto how citizens reproduce thesuicidalbehavioursthatappear in the media.Theterm“Papagenoeffect” (also a
psychologicalterm)proposestheoppositeofthe“Werthereffect”:Theresponsiblecoverageofsuicidecases,following
establishedguidelines,mayhaveapreventiveeffect.Inotherwords,thatqualityreportingcanbehelpful.Forexample,
newsaboutthesuicideofminorswhohavesufferedbullyingputothervictimsonalert:theANARstudy(2016)indicates
12/6/2019 E Blanco-Castilla, J Cano Galindo (2019): “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press: from journalistic taboo to boom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 937 to 949.
file:///Users/upf/Desktop/E Blanco-Castilla, J Cano Galindo (2019)_ “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press_ from journalistic taboo to boom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 937 to 949..ht
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that on 20 January 2016 a turning point occurred in the calls made to request information or denounce cases of
bullying.Onthatdate,El Mundonewspaperpublished thefarewellletter ofDiego,an 11yearoldboywhocommitted
suicideinLeganés,andinthe following 50daysthe calls madebyadultsand childrenquadrupled.“News reportsdo
notgeneratemorebullying,butgreatersocialreactiontotheproblem”,thestudystresses.
1.3.Themediaandpublicopinion
In any case, the media’s responsible coverage of school bullying, cyberbullying in particular or suicide, in the most
seriouscases,isessentialforitstranscendence. Themediahaveakeyroleintheformationofpublicopinionandthe
construction of social reality. Walter Lippmann (in Rubio Ferreres, 2009) points out inPublic Opinion (192) that “the
news media, our windows to the vast world beyond direct experience, determine our cognitive maps of that world”.
Public opinion, according to Lippmann (2003), does not respond to the environment, but to the pseudoenvironment
builtbythemedia.
Themediaareverypowerfulwhenitcomestofocusingcitizens’attentiononcertainproblems:theycandosothrough
theireditorialposition,becausetheyconstituteaselfportraitopentothepublic(LeónandBlancoCastilla,2009),may
suggesttopicstothinkaboutandevenwaysoffeeling(LangandLang,1981andMcCombs,2006).Thatis,by giving
more or less importance to certain issues (NoelleNeumann, 1974), the media can influence what people consider
important(DearingandRogers,1996).McCombs(2006,24)goesfurtherandpointsdirectlytoeditorsanddirectorsas
thoseresponsibleforourperceptionaroundthesalienceofissues.Healsowarnsusthattheeditorialbiasalsospreads
tothenews,giventhevulnerabilityofthedueseparationbetweenopinionandinformation,whichisathreatrecognised
byseveralauthors(DruckmanandParkin,2005;Druckman,2005;Kahn andKenney,2002):therelationshipbetween
the media and the de facto powers, fundamentally political in this case, and the possibility that it influences the
constructionofthemessage(Firmstone,2008).
Awareofthispower,expertscallforgreaterinvolvementofthemediaintheproblemofbullying.Parents,educatorsand
teensconsiderthatthemediashouldhaveanactiveroleinprevention.Agreaterinformativeefforttorestrictthemisuse
ofsocialnetworkswouldhelptoavoidit(Schneider,Smith&O’Donnell,2013).
2.Methods
Niklas Luhmann’s communicational paradigm (1991) is based on his concern about the effects of journalistic
mediationsonthe formation of public opinion. His systemicconstructivist perspective helps us identify problems that
hinderthespreadingofawarenessaroundanissue,whichjustifiesthefocusoftheempiricalsectionofthisresearchon
thecollectionofquantitativedataaroundthepresenceofaseriousproblem,suchasschoolbullying,inthemedia.
Contentanalysis is also the most frequently used technique in media research, and in this case it is also the most
relevant approach to achieving the aforementioned objectives: it allows the researcher to carry out an objective,
systematicandquantitative description ofthemanifestcontentof communication pieces (Krippendorff,1990),aswell
asthetranslationofthesymbolicorqualitativematerialpresentintextsormanageablescientificdata.
Theresearchisbased onthecontentanalysisofthenewsaboutbullyingpublishedintheprintanddigital press.This
analysis has been addressed from two points of view: first, the quantitative analysis of the news stories published
between2004and June2017.Thestudy periodbeginswith thesuicideof 14yearoldJokinZeberio, inFuenterrabía
(Guipúzcoa),andconcludesthe suicideofLucia(inJanuary2017,inMurcia).The searchhasyieldedatotalof8,356
news items, which were analysed to detect 222 news stories directly addressing the eight cases of teen suicide
suspected(judiciallyverifiedornot)tobemainlycausedbyschoolbullying.Theresearchhasfocusedonthecontentof
12/6/2019 E Blanco-Castilla, J Cano Galindo (2019): “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press: from journalistic taboo to boom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 937 to 949.
file:///Users/upf/Desktop/E Blanco-Castilla, J Cano Galindo (2019)_ “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press_ from journalistic taboo to boom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 937 to 949..ht
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theheadlineduetoitsfundamentalroletoidentifytheapproachofthenewsandforbeingtheonlynewselementread
byalargenumberofconsumers(Sánchez,1990).
Thefieldworkconsistedin verifying the evolution of the dissemination in the press of news stories related to school
bullying.Themainobjective,beyondmeasuringthenumberofnewsstoriespublished,istoverifywhetherthepeaksin
thedisseminationof news coincidewitheachoneof the eight suicides that tookplaceduringthestudy period, to be
able to draw a clear conclusion on whether bullying has already become part of the media agenda or whether the
publicationofnewsstoriesiscoupledwiththeoccurrenceofcasesofextremeseverity.
Theselection ofthesampleofnewspapers isnotrandom.Itincludes thethreemostwidelydisseminatedmainstream
newspapers: El País (194,005 copies sold in 2016, according to OJD); El Mundo (108,386) and Abc (91,159). The
secondselectioncriterionisthecoincidencebetweenthecirculationareaofthenewspaperandtheplaceofoccurrence
oftheevent.LaVanguardia(114,960copies)forthe caseofAlan (Barcelona);LaVerdad(15,821),for Lucia(Murcia)
andCristina(Alicante);ElComercio(16,358),forCarla(Asturias);andElDiarioVasco(50,831)forJokin(Guipúzcoa).
LaTribunaof CiudadRealhasnotbeenincludeddueto itslackofdigitallibrary.Instead,weincludedDiarioSur asa
pointofcomparison(15,993).AlthoughnoneoftheaforementionedsuicidestookplaceinMalaga,thelatternewspaper
willbeusedasanelementofcontroloftheresultstodeterminewhetherthesecasesarousethesameinterestoutside
theirgeographicscope.
Oncethetimeframeandthesamplewereestablished,wesearchedinthedigitalsearchenginesofthenewspapersfor
thekeyword“schoolharassment”andthefollowingcombinations:acoso+escuela(bullying+school)andacoso+instituto
(bullying+school).OneexceptionhasbeenElPaís,whichdoesnotallowforadvancedsearchesinitswebsite.Instead,
weusedthePegasussearchengine,whichdocumentstheprintednewsthat aredigitalised.Tocomparethereporting
inthemediaoftheeightcasesofsuicide,weselectedthenationaleditionsofElPaís,ElMundoandAbcandthemost
important newspaper in the region where the news event took place in order to measure the interest according to
geographic area. The keywords used in this search are: school bullying, bullying, suicide, death, dies, minor and
teenager.
Thepurposecreatedcontentanalysiscodingsheetcontainsthefollowingquestions:
1.Doesituseaninformativeheadline?
2.Doesituseasensationalistheadline?
3. Does it respect the presumption of innocence? In other words, does it use the words “presumed”,
“alleged” or conditional mode when referring to the author(s)? or takes the alleged bullying for granted
despiteithasnotbeenconfirmed?
4.Doesitplacethefocusonthevictim?
5.Doesitplacethefocusontheauthor(s)?
6.Doesitplacethefocusontheobservers(classmates,teachers,theprincipalortheinstitutions)?
7.Doesitmentionthewordsuicide?Theuseofthetermiskeytothefutureconclusionsoftheresearch,
sincesuicidehasalwaysbeenataboosubjectforthemedia.
12/6/2019 E Blanco-Castilla, J Cano Galindo (2019): “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press: from journalistic taboo to boom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 937 to 949.
file:///Users/upf/Desktop/E Blanco-Castilla, J Cano Galindo (2019)_ “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press_ from journalistic taboo to boom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 937 to 949..ht
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8.Whatterminologyisused?(theSpanishortheEnglishtermsornoneofthem)
3.Results
The quantitative analysis has revealed the media’s growing interest in the problem of school bullying. Overall,the
distribution of the 8,421 news stories published in the eight newspapers during the 14year period, between the
suicidesofJokinandLucia.Thequantitativeanalysisdidnotonlytakeintoaccountthenewsabouttheeightsuicides,
butallthenewswhichcontainedtheword“bullying”,whichallowstoobserve theevolutionanddeterminewhetherthe
disseminationofnewsislinkedtothecasesofteensuicide.Theresponse,inviewofthedataanalysed,isaffirmative.
AfterthesuicideofJokin,thenumberofbullyingnewswentfrom190in2004to797in2006.Thatis,injusttwoyears
thenumberofnewsaboutschoolbullyingpublishedintheeightmediaquadrupled.
Consequently,thecurveshowsasimilartrendofdisseminationinallmedia,withtwopeaksandavalley.Thereareno
majordifferencesatthequantitativelevelacrossthenewspapers(allmovearoundathousandnewsstories,exceptfor
ElPaís,whose resultisconditioned bythesearch engine).However,thestatisticdoes reflectagreater interestinthe
provincialnewspaperswherethesuicidesoccurred:LaVerdad,with1,443, andEl Comercio,with1,153, aretheones
thatpublishthelargestnumberofnews,incomparisontootherlocalnewspapers,likeSUR, whichservesasacontrol
elementinthe study.Thisnewspaperpublished 982newsinthe sameperiod,which puts itatthe bottom intermsof
dissemination.Despitethis,itcanbeconsidereda high number considering that no suicide took placein its area of
dissemination.
Figure1.Newspapers’interestinschoolbullyingnews
12/6/2019 E Blanco-Castilla, J Cano Galindo (2019): “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press: from journalistic taboo to boom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 937 to 949.
file:///Users/upf/Desktop/E Blanco-Castilla, J Cano Galindo (2019)_ “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press_ from journalistic taboo to boom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 937 to 949..ht
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ThefirstoneofthepeaksinthedisseminationobviouslycorrespondstoJokin’ssuicide.Thesecondoneoccursinthe
lasttwoandahalfyears,inwhichfourteensuicideswererecorded,asmanyasinthepreviousdecadeinSpain,which
hadagreatmediaimpact.Thelargequantitative leapin the publication of news coincides with the months after the
suicideofJokinandthesubsequentcoverageofthetrialandadministrativedisciplinaryproceedingsagainstthebullies
andtheschool.Inaddition,in2005anothersuspiciouscaseoccurred,thesuicideofCristinainElda(Alicante),inwhich
herparentsdenouncedsystematicbullyingthatwasignoredbytheMinors’ProsecutingOfficeandthat,therefore,was
never cleared up. The media dealt with the latter case with more cautious headlines (they investigate suspected
bullying)asbullyinghadnotbeenconfirmedbytheauthorities,whichledtoalowersocialandmediaimpact.
Table1.Publicationnewsaboutbullyingperyear(specifyingsuicidecase)andmedium
ElPaís El
Mundo ABC Sur Diario
Vasco
La
Vanguardia
El
Comercio LaVerdad Total
Year
2004Jokin 11 11 12 3 34 77 17 25 190
2005Cristina 127 25 75 55 11 84 89 40 506
2006 105 28 140 82 78 79 105 180 797
12/6/2019 E Blanco-Castilla, J Cano Galindo (2019): “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press: from journalistic taboo to boom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 937 to 949.
file:///Users/upf/Desktop/E Blanco-Castilla, J Cano Galindo (2019)_ “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press_ from journalistic taboo to boom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 937 to 949..ht
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2007 90 27 77 79 58 57 56 111 555
2008 56 28 43 52 60 40 57 59 395
2009 36 52 59 50 52 30 41 35 355
2010 16 37 30 55 48 46 50 74 356
2011 42 52 46 43 52 83 36 76 430
2012
Monica 25 51 58 35 47 80 36 78 410
2013
Carla 21 60 91 69 49 91 100 83 564
2014 24 57 71 47 46 86 62 75 468
2015
Arancha
andAlan
53 119 143 78 77 87 105 108 770
2016
Diego 87 264 142 192 197 159 216 306 1563
2017
Lucia 62 143 138 142 145 56 183 193 1062
Averagetotal 755 954 1125 982 954 1055 1153 1443 8421
After this event and until the next suspicious suicide in Spain, which occurs in 2012, the publication of news about
school bullying decayed substantially, which would demonstrate the main research hypothesis (H1). The valley that
occursbetween2007 and2014inthe publicationofnews, more orlessaccentuatedaccordingto newspaper,shows
that bullying is a secondary issue in the media agenda. Dissemination data indicate that the media is interested in
bullyingonlywhen it acquiresitsmosttragicdimension through thevictim’ssuicide,which contradicts the journalistic
practiceofnotpublishingthesecases(H2).Datafromthelastyearsreinforcesthisargument,giventhattherehasbeen
anexponentialincreaseinthenumberofnewsstoriescoincidingwiththedeathoffourteens.LaVerdad,for example,
published306newsstoriesin2016,anaverageofalmostoneperday,coincidingwiththepublication,thatsameyear,
of the report titled “I don’t play this game”, by the NGO Save the Children, which placed Murcia at the head of this
probleminSpain.Infact,thisisthemediumthathaspublishedmorenewsstoriesaboutbullyinginthe14yearperiod
(1,443).
Thesedatasupportthethirdhypothesis(H3)thatclaims thatthemediainterest in schoolbullyingiscoupled withthe
geographicallocationoftheevent(Lucia’ssuicideinMurciainJanuary2017).Thisaffirmationisalsoendorsedwiththe
dataof2013(Carla’ssuicideinAsturias),whereElComercio(100)andABC(91)werethenewspapersthatpublished
thelargestnumberofnews.Althoughasimilartrendisobservedin2014and2015,thestatisticsareconditionedbythe
placeofoccurrenceofthesuicides ofArantxa and Diego, both in Madrid, which implies a significant increase in the
disseminationofnewsin thenationalnewspaperstothesamelevelofthelocalnewspapers,whichalsofollowedwith
interesttheseeventsdespitethegeographicaldistance.
Thecases ofMonica(CiudadReal),Carla(Asturias)andAlan(Barcelona)didnotarousethesamemediainterestas
thatofJokinexceptintheprovinceswhereeachoneofthemtookplace.Monica’scasewassimilartothatofCristina:
Justicewasnotservedtotheirparents,whichcontributedtoasmaller andsuperficialmediacoverage. Meanwhile,in
Carla’scase,thesuspectedbullieswereprosecuted,so thecasehadagreat impactinAsturiasandinsomenational
media.Alan’scasewasalsoa significant as it linked bullying to transsexuality, although its impact was linked to the
mediumthatinterviewedthemother(ElPaís),whiletheinterestoftherestofnewspapersshowedlittleornointerestin
12/6/2019 E Blanco-Castilla, J Cano Galindo (2019): “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press: from journalistic taboo to boom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 937 to 949.
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the case.Something similarhappened inDiego’s casein 2016, inwhich theexclusive was givento ElMundo, which
publishedthehandwrittenletterheleftbeforetakinghislife.
AfterJokin, the next major quantitative peak in the number of published news occurred between 2015 and 2017, a
periodthatregisteredfourofthecasesunderstudy.ThesuicidesofArancha,Alan,DiegoandLuciabecameacallfor
attentiontothecollectiveconsciousnessaboutbullyingandarousedthemediaandsocialinterestinknowingwhatwas
happening at school. The emergence of news in the press increased by 90% in just five years and the media, in
additiontoreportingtheevents, adopted an editorial position andproducedindepthreportstotrytounderstandthis
problem.
3.1.Reportingofsuicide
Thisotherphaseoftheresearchfocusedontheheadlinestodeterminehowthenationalandregionalpressaddressed
theseeightcasesofsuicide.Thefirstclear conclusionisthat in the analysed news stories the informative approach
predominates.Thistypeofheadlineispresentin78.3%ofthe222textsanalysedfromthesampleofninenewspapers.
Evenso,in almosthalfofthe newsstories,49.5%,the headline is sensationalist,whichseeksto cause a reactionin
readersandorienttheirpointofview.
Regardingthequestionofwhetherthenewsstoryrespectsthepresumptionofinnocence,fieldworkrevealsthat32.9%
oftheheadlines,summaryleads and kickers analysed donotusetheterms “suspected”, “alleged” or the conditional
mode,andinsteadusethetermsstalkerorbulliesandrefertobullyingasarealevent,wheninmostcasesthecaseis
underinvestigationandhas notyetbeenverifiedbythepolice,educationalor judicialauthorities.In thissense,of the
eight suicides that compose the study, in only four of them the perpetrators of bullying have been sanctioned with
disciplinarymeasuresbyeducationalauthorities(AranchaandLucia)orconvictions(JokinandCarla).
Thatistosay,intheotherfourcasestheallegedbullying couldnotbe proven,theauthorshipwas notdeterminedor
wasruledoutbytheinvestigatorsasacleartriggerforsuicide,becausethereareotherfactorsinthesocialandfamily
environments that could have led the victims to take their life. Despite this, the field work indicates that some news
stories, especially those published when the event was already known, take for granted that the suicide has been
caused by bullying, without questioning whether it was true or not. Other texts, on the other hand, reflect the
presumptionofinnocence(allegedbullying)intheheadlinesorspeakofthecaseofbullyingdenouncedbythefamily.
Withregardstotheuseofpresumption,wereferatalltimestothenewsarticlesandnotthemedia,sincetheanalysis
clearlyshowsthatthereisnotaclearguidelineineachnewspaperonthetreatmentofthesenews,locatedbetweenthe
chronicleofeventsandtribunals,socialissuesandtheareaofeducationofthenewspapers.Thus,thetreatmentdoes
notvaryaccording to eachmedium,but according to eachspecificcase.Forexample, in the caseofArancha,a16
yearoldgirlwhocommittedsuicideon22May2015inUsera(Madrid),thepresumptionofinnocenceofthesuspect(or
theveracityofbullying)wasonlyrespectedin38.4%ofthenewsanalysed.Themediareportedfromtheoutsetthatthe
victimsufferedfromaslightmentalandmotordisability,anddidnotquestiontheschoolbullying that,accordingtoher
family,shehadsuffered.Althoughthepoliceandjudicialinvestigationlaterdeterminedthatthebullyingwastrue,atthat
firstmomentithadnotyetbeenverified.ThesamegoesforthedeathofLucia,the13yearoldwhocommittedsuicide
on10January2017inMurcia,wherethe use of the conditional mode and the terms “suspect” and “alleged” is only
presentin39.1%oftheheadlines,wheninthiscasetheinvestigationiscompletelyopen.
On the contrary, in the case of Cristina, the 16yearold who committed suicide in May 2005 in Alicante, the media
respected the presumption of innocence in 80.5% of the cases, which is double that in the previous example. The
differencecouldbepartlyduetothegreaterusethenationalnewspapersmakeofnewsagencieswhentheeventtakes
12/6/2019 E Blanco-Castilla, J Cano Galindo (2019): “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press: from journalistic taboo to boom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 937 to 949.
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place outside of Madrid. Since they do not write the news stories, they tend to question bullying more. The case of
Diego,the11yearoldboywho took hislifeinLeganés (Madrid) on 14October2016,the newspapers showedmore
prudencethaninothercaseswhendealingwiththematter,respectingthepresumptionofinnocenceandtruthfulnessof
bullyingin94.4%oftheheadlinesexamined,despitethenews aboutthesuicideclearlystatedthathe didnotwant to
gotoschool.
The research has sought to elucidate the passive subject of the headlines chosen by newspapers to address news
about bullyingrelated suicides. 75.2% of the news stories put the focus on the victim, who is identified with the first
nameand,inmostcases,alsowithsurnamesinthebodyofthenews; onhisor herlife,the formsofbullying he/she
allegedly suffered and the circumstances that led to suicide. These are the aspects that capture the interest ofthe
media, way more than the perpetrators of bullying, who are only mentioned in only 19.3% of the headlines, or the
observers(colleagues,professors,institutions,etc.),whichappearasthemainfocusin7.6%ofthenews.
Finally,theanalysisfocusedontheterminologyusedinheadlinesandfoundthat50.4%ofthemuse thewordsuicide,
whichcontrastswiththejournalisticpracticeofignoringsuchcasesduetofearofthesocalledimitationeffect(Werther
effect).
The data obtained in the study indicate that in the cases of teen suicide the socalled serious press contributes to
blurring the line that separates itfrom sensationalism. This is happening in general with the crime and police news
section,whichmovesawayfromthestandardsofqualityjournalism,asnotedbyRedondoGarcia’sstudy(2013)onthe
treatmentoftheMcCanncase,andothertwostudies(Galdón,2001,andDePablosandMateos,2004).
4.Discussionandconclusions
Theresearch showsthatbullying hasbeenincorporated significantlyintothe mediaagenda,although notina central
wayorqualitativeorquantitativeterms.Whilethe newscoverageofcaseshasmultipliedbyfiveover thepastthirteen
years,the detailed study of this growth shows that the media’s interest is closely related to the most serious cases,
those in which the victims of bullying commit suicide. This problem put in evidence serious weaknesses in the
informationnewspapersofferandin thesocialresponsibility thatisexpected fromthem.Thus, thenonexistenceof a
coherentinformationpolicy,whichinvolvesindepthmonitoringoftheproblembeyondthespecificevent,doesnotallow
themediato exercisetheirsocialfunction.Thereistherefore aneedformorejournalisticworkthat helpstovictims of
bullyingmaketherightdecisions,thatspreadssocialawarenessand makes it possible to form a public opinion that
demandsappropriatemeasurestocombatascourgethat,atleast,atthenewsmedialevel,isstillcircumscribedtothe
victim’senvironment,asithappenedinthepastwithgenderviolence.
Thenewsaboutbullyingthatwereofferedbythenewspapersoftenfallinsensationalismintheuseoflanguageandin
theheadlines,thedisregardforthepresumptionofinnocence(alsounderstoodaspresumptionoftruthofbullying,i.e.,
taketheaccusationforgrantedwhenithasnotyetbeenproven).Ontheonehand,themedia have abandonedtheir
traditionalcautiousnessaroundthepossibleWertherorimitation effectthatnewsaboutteensuicidemightcause,with
theaggravationthattheabandonmentofthismaximisnotalwaysaccompaniedbygoodjournalisticpracticethatallows
newstohavetheneededpreventiveanddeterrentcharacter.Onthecontrary,thefocusisplacedonthevictim,whose
identityisalmostalwaysrevealed,ontheformofbullyingheshehassufferedand,inmanycases,onthemethoduse
toendhislife.
Likewise,theanalysisoftheheadlinesshowsastrong presenceofsensationalist elementsthatseekto influencethe
reader, with an approach that does not always respect ethical or even legal principles, such as the aforementioned
presumption of innocence. This sensationalist language used in many of the headlines analysed is especially
12/6/2019 E Blanco-Castilla, J Cano Galindo (2019): “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press: from journalistic taboo to boom”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 937 to 949.
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aggressive when the news is presented as an exclusive, which suggests that the media treats lightly the emotional
impactthattheframingofthenewscanhaveinthereader,neglectingonceagaintheawarenessandpreventionwork.
Asapositiveaspectanddespitetheseweaknesses,themediaispayingincreasingattentioningeneraltotheproblem
of school bullying. Although this interest is greater in the provinces where suicides have occurred, it transcends the
geographicalboundariesasitisalreadyconsideredasocialproblemthatisnotlinkedtoaspecificgeographicarea,but
toallchildrenandtheschoolenvironmentasawhole.
Moreover,thisincreasedreportingofbullyingand itsconsequenceshasalertedmanygroupsthatare alreadyfighting
bullyinginallitsforms.Thechallengeistoseekabetterpreventiveapproachtothemediathroughamoreprofessional
andrigoroustreatmentofbullying.Therefore,thenextlineofresearchthatweproposeistheindepthcontentanalysis
of the news to identify thepreagenda values and the conditioning factors of the media narrative and the degree of
professionalspecialisation.
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___________________________
Howtocitethisarticleinbibliographies/References
E BlancoCastilla, J Cano Galindo (2019): “School bullying and teen suicide in the Spanish press: from journalistic
tabootoboom”.RevistaLatinadeComunicaciónSocial,74,pp.937to949.
http://www.revistalatinacs.org/074paper/1365/48en.html
DOI:10.4185/RLCS2019136548en
Paperreceivedon14September.Aceptedon13May.
Publishedon18May.
___________________________________________________
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