The family of a Phoenix man who committed suicide this past September has filed a lawsuit against Fox News over the live broadcast of the event. Understandably, the family says that they suffered emotional distress after the broadcast, which was seen on TV sets and computer screens all over the world. Anchor Shepard Smith apologized immediately after airing the suicide, but a national debate about the disturbing voyeurism of televised police chases ensued.
Sadly, very little of this debate about death on television is new. Suicide on TV is something that the medium has grappled with since its inception—before many people even knew how to properly define the technology.
On June 23, 1938, Marion Perloff jumped to her death from the 11th floor of the Time and Life building in New York City. This would have been just another suicide of many that would occur that year—America was still in the throes of the Great Depression—but something made this one particularly unique. It was the first suicide ever witnessed by TV cameras.
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