Ghoul-muddling: Making wild guesses about covering death, when there are better ways to deal with it.

Kate Spade was troubled. Having money, a family, fame, and accolades proved to have to medicinal properties for her. A public life never brings you a private death, regardless how you go.

It is 2018, and because media has been in our society for decades, we can not pretend we didn't know that a public persona can bring you misery, confine you, aggravate your problems, and not make you happy. When you sign up for a public life, you are going in knowing what you are bargaining for and asking for privacy is a ridiculous request.

There are self-described death hags who track down every kernel of data on your demise.

The public will speculate, gossip, judge, and ridicule every facet of your life and death.

That is reality and you will not control billions of people. Shaming them doesn't work in the long-term.

However, when it is your job to chronicle deaths, there is a lot to consider. It is not an easy task. How much data of their deaths is actually newsworthy? If they are murdered versus dying of old age is makes all the difference.

The former requires far less details than the latter.

Kate Spade's death is in the murky area of suicide, a classification that journalists always screw up, no matter which extreme they take.

There is a big misconception that people who take their own lives were "all alone" and didn't go for help. Many do. Many have strong supports and do extraordinary things to fight their instincts of Thanatos.

I have known people who went to extreme measures and had strong family support. They went to multiple therapists. They went to support groups. They hospitalized and institutionalized themselves. They changed careers. They talked with their family. They went to other countries to start again. They took medication. They took up hobbies. They took advice.

And they still took their own lives. One person I knew had been babysat around the clock by his parents, and they couldn't stop him.

It is a very difficult reality to grasp that just because someone ends their life, it doesn't mean the person didn't try to live. Some element was stronger than their ability not to cause themselves that kind of harm. 

There are people who have everything going wrong in their lives -- and they want to live. There are people who have everything to live for, and they are compelled to die. I was once a pallbearer at a funeral for someone who took his life at a very tender age. I was distressed at a lot of things. They laughter and chatty nature of the guests. They smooth youthful face lying in the coffin with the bad make-up job that betrayed the greenish hue betraying the method of death. 

But the love he left behind was wrenching. She was saddened, had her final tender moments, and then left a letter in the coffin. He would never know what sacrifice she had made for their relationship because he ended his life before he would have discovered a very touching truth.

Yet it was not the saddest of moments. It was the step-father who came a long way to say goodbye. He had help raise the young man until the young man's mother left him. He had wanted to adopt him, but could not as it was out of his hands.

It was his lost expression that screamed the extent of the horror of the situation.

At the one extreme, there was genuine apathy. On the other extreme despair.

It was a lesson for me: how do you cover the nuances of these kind of tragedies? You have the unfeeling and the devastated converge at the same place.

Spade's death shows us the extent of journalism's lack of psychological training. The Guardian was cold, and focussed on the trivialities of her style -- but thought it was all good coverage because they gave a number for suicide prevention.

The New York Times gave too much gossipy information as did many other outlets.

Quartz weighed in blindly, decreeing the UK had it right and the US had it wrong.

Neither did. They both missed the point.

A successful woman who had a child and a defunct marriage took her life. How would the press covered her death if she weren't famous?

How would a psychologist have relayed the information?

How much information is relevant to the public?

There was a lot of gossip, and I am certain many of those details are wrong.

There is no empirically-based protocol that is based on well-researched facts or experiments.

We know, for instance, that hearing the word "crash" has audience think two cars in an accidents drove faster than hearing the word "collide" -- and audiences are watching the same car accident.

We also know people will falsely remember seeing "the gun" rather than if they are asked whether they saw "a gun."

So why is journalistic language so imprecise and crude?

Spade's death does raise important questions in that a young and successful person died before her time. This is precisely what any society needs to know about because it deviates from what makes a society thrive.

But in 2018, we have ghoul-muddling, exploiting a troubled person's final moments to have something  to gossip about -- without considering the nature of both apathy and despair.

Death requires a different way of fact-gathering for many reasons. It is a sign of a society's moral compass and health how those deaths are covered.

Spade's death treated with coldness and gossip, but Anthony Bourdain's death brought over-the-top praise, branding him a visionary and genius. It is a sexist chasm that shows when it comes to death, we have no standards in reporting on those matters.

And it is time that we did...