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