News Director Peggy Phillip Explains Why KSHB Reported Don Harman’s Suicide

By Merrill Knox Comment

Peggy Phillip, the news director at Kansas City NBC-affiliate KSHB, writes on the RTDNA website about her station’s decision to report WDAF meteorologist Don Harman’s suicide. Although all three WDAF rival stations reported the story, only KSHB’s coverage went into detail, detailing Harman’s struggle with depression for viewers:

We led our 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. newscasts with profile pieces on Harman followed by information to inform our viewers about warning signs and trends as well as suicide prevention telephone numbers.  We tried to keep in mind how we would react if he were another local celebrity, like the Chiefs quarterback or prominent politician.  It wasn’t easy and the discussions were emotional.

We received a handful of critical messages from viewers after our early evening news, complaining that the cause of death was not the public’s business and that we only reported it to make our competition “look bad.”  One suggested that WDAF “sue our asses.”

We will continue the dialogue in our newsroom about this and other coverage issues but what I continue to wrestle with happened Tuesday night and Wednesday morning on social media as thousands of people shared questions, rumors and false information about Don Harman while waiting for an official announcement.  News consumers are more involved than ever before.  Our decisions require common sense and plenty of discussion.

Previous coverage of Harman’s death:

WDAF Meteorologist Don Harman Dies of Apparent Suicide

WDAF Tells Viewers of Harman’s Suicide: ‘If You Struggle Too, Please Don’t Ever Stop Trying’

In Reporting Harman’s Death, Kansas City Stations Talk To Colleagues, Urge Depression Awareness