Not so Fake News: The tragedy of the young reporter Christine Chubbuck

WARNING: The following mytake contains graphic material related to suicide. Please read at your own risk.

Not so Fake News: The tragedy of the young reporter Christine Chubbuck

Dateline: July 15th, 1974 in Sarasota, Florida. A young 30-year-old newscaster by the name of Christine Chubbuck attempted suicide live on air on WXLT TV which at the time was an ABC Affiliated station in the Sarasota, Florida Market. This was the first time a suicide had ever been aired on live tv.

Christine Chubbuck had moved from Ohio to Florida in the 1970's. She had worked with several Television stations before in late 1960's including WQED in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which was one of the first PBS stations and the station that famously filmed Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Upon moving to Sarasota she was seen as a hot prospect for the upcoming WXLT station that had just been established in the Sarasota area. She also staged puppet shows for children with intellectual disabilities at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. in 1971 she was named the host for the newsmagazine show "Suncoast Digest".

However, Chubbuck's life was far from easy. She suffered from depression and self-depreciation due to the fact she considered herself "dateless" saying no one was interested in her. She was still a virgin into her 20s and her 30s, and when she did date she never went on more than 2 dates with the same person. She also had her right ovary removed in 1973. The news was that if she did not have children within three years time she would never be able to conceive. She was also not a fan of the news stations airing crime and murder stories claiming that the news was sensationalizing blood and guts stories. She was also known to throw tantrums while on set as well. While working at WXLT she developed a crush on a coworker which was unrequited. She did a lot of things to get his attention even baking him a cake for his birthday. However, he let her know that he was involved with a friend of hers who was the sportscaster and she (the sportscaster) was about to move to Baltimore to take a better paying job at a TV station there. Chubbuck was deeply saddened.

Then comes the morning of July 15th, 1974. The Suncoast Digest started off as any other newsmagazine show would. She read off the national news stories of the day. Then, eight minutes into the broadcast she said the following quotation "In keeping with Channel 40's policy of bringing you the latest in 'blood and guts', and in living color, you are going to see another first—attempted suicide." She drew the revolver and shot herself behind her right ear. Chubbuck fell forward violently and the technical director faded the broadcast rapidly to black. The rest of the time was filled in by a Public Service Announcement, and then a movie. After the shooting, news director Mike Simmons found the papers from which Chubbuck had been reading her newscast contained a complete script of her program, including not only the shooting but also a third-person account to be read by whichever staff member took over the broadcast after the incident. He said her script called for her condition to be listed as "critical". She would die 14 hours later in a Sarasota Hospital, ironically the same one where she did her children's puppet shows.

This is indeed a tragic yet preventable circumstance that could not have been. However, in 1974 treatment for bipolar disorder and such mental illnesses was not as readily available, nor was there many resources.

Here are some more facts on the tragedy.


A short documentary on the tragedy.

If you or someone you know has had thoughts of suicide or has tried to attempt suicide please call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Thank you for your time and remember, you are important.

One final thing. Some people have asked if the original video still exists. It does, however, it is owned by the station and is held by lawyers and there has been an injunction put on it by her family so the video never sees the light of day. So please do not go looking for it!


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Most Helpful Girl

  • Wow, that's an awful story. If only she had reached out for help.

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    • in 1974 treatment for most mental illnesses was not as advanced the most common method was electroshock

    • That's crazy. I'm glad times have changed, at least

Most Helpful Guys

  • Did you see the 2016 movie about her, smahala1991?

    I did, and I thought it was awesome!

    I'm a bit familiar with her case, since I researched it after seeing the film. Very sad. She never seemed comfortable in her own skin (which Rebecca Hall conveyed brilliantly) or comfortable in the world.

    Video recording wasn't at all widespread in '74, and it was a very local station, hence it wasn't captured by viewers. However, it did go out live. For the first few seconds, the crew believed it was some kind of trick (Christine might have pulled a stunt like that).

    But clearly, all Chubbuck needed was people telling her that she isn't entitled to sex, that she's a whiny bitch, that not having a someone to love isn't the end of the world, to stop throwing pity parties, or stop being a feminist. If only she had certain people on GAG to tell her that, then everything would have been OK.

    Or perhaps it would have been better if people would have encouraged her to improve her life's situation. Perhaps if antidepressants were readily available to her she might have had a better life. Perhaps if people realized that loneliness kills (it does shave years off your life), or does in fact decrease the quality of life, things might have been better. Perhaps if people realized that loneliness is due to how we are biologically hard wired, and not due to people being duped by some social construct (this is one thing on GAG that I honestly think is one of the stupidest philosophies I've read) and thus a lack of affection is detrimental to people's physical and emotional health, then things might have improved.

    :)

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    • If we would have been more aware of mental illness and had treatments in 1974 like we do now she could have well survived, and done better with life. I believe if she had lived she would have eventually become a national journalist like Barbara Walters or Connie Chung, possibly even eventually being hired for CNN by Ted Turner which would have debuted 7 years later. She did try group therapy and transcendental meditation which were kinda new even in '74 but they did not work for her. This was kinda a tragedy ahead of it's time

    • Indeed.

      Did you see the movie, smahala1991?

    • I heard about it but haven't seen it. I really want to because by the trailer I can tell the way she was portrayed, Christine was hard to work with.

  • Did she die though? It was attempted but was it successful?

    Also, I know what it's like to be depressed. I suffer from depression. And due to my current situation (a situation that has lasted awhile) I have had many thoughts of why living isn't worth it. I don't know if I could ever go through with it or not.

    I almost called the hotline yesterday because I only have 43 dollars to last me the rest of the month. I'm scared and angry and I have dreams and they aren't being allowed to come true. No matter what I do, where I go. And people blame me for my situation instead of helping. In fact, they don't want to help. They want it to be an every man for themselves situation.
    But I don't know if calling the hotline would do anything. It doesn't change the situation I'm in. I already go to therapy.

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What Girls Said 4

  • Tragic. She could have look elsewhere for a guy to date but not in her workplace.

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    • I agree, but her having a sad dating life in a way I feel like she was desperate for whatever she could get.

    • I think it was society norms that kind of made her weary about her status

    • True, in the 70's it was becoming more about body count than heart sadly

  • Wow, really sad. She really needed help :/ Everyone knows what it's like to be lonely :/

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  • is there a video of her suicide?

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    • one videotape It's owned by the station and ABC but under the protection of lawyers so it will never see the light of day

    • Show All
    • It has claimed to have been leaked before, but that's the dark web and I'm not going there.

    • I know someone who has access to it. Thanks for the help <3

  • So sad

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What Guys Said 10

  • I do recall reading about her & watching a theatrical documentary movie on her. I was pretty saddened by her story. ... and in some ways, I also know how she feels. The only thing that came to mind after learning everything about her story was,..."Poor thing".

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  • That’s pretty sad , I was only eight at the time but if I was in Florida I probably would’ve heard about it back then

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    • It was national news when it happened, even though it was a local station.

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    • Yeah what a loss

    • There is a movie about it

  • There is a video tape of her death, I wonder if it will be leaked some day

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    • I have said that there is and I think someday there will be but it will have to go through a fight

  • Wow. That last part was just a little confusing. Other than that, that's terrible.

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  • In the end, Christine Chubbuck died from acute loneliness. The unrequited love she felt for her coworker did nothing to help the loneliness she already felt, never having had a man in her life.
    Christine Chubbuck could have been any one of us. It could have been me. Or, it could have been anyone else, like golfer Erica Paige Blasberg. In 2010, on May 15, she committed suicide. Her suicide note stated that she was unhappy with her less than stellar golf career and very lonely.
    Like I said, Christine Chubbuck could easily have been me or any one of us. The common link between the two suicides appears to have been loneliness. And many of us are desperately lonely.

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    • There were other factors as well such as jealousy and stress by the station to promote edgier stories. I know we talk about fake news and sensationalism nowadays, but it was just as prevalent in 1974 as in 2018, it was just not as freely mentioned.

  • I must read something about that in the past while because it definitely rings a bell - Well written taken on a harrowing case with a side of suicide prevention awareness thrown in.

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  • It's crazy she could remain composed enough to do it on television. Most people you would think would break down. she definitely needed a drug like MDMA.

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  • Thanks for posting this! and that is sad to hear...

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  • What a tragedy,..

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    • I agree we Need to take Depression, threats of suicide and other related Things very seriously. It's never so bad that you Need to take your own life.

    • It's even sadder it happened live on air

  • That's awful.

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