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The Tragic News Story Of Christine Chubbuck

If you only had thirty seconds to live, imagine spending them on air for the world to see. Such as the tragic case of 29-year-old Christine Chubbuck who died on July 15, 1974, and made history by being the first TV journalist to die by suicide on air. How did this happen? What events led her to make this fatal decision? Unfortunately for Christine, having a life-long history of mental health problems as well as other unfortunate circumstances played a tremendous role in Christine’s life.

Christine was born in Hudson, Ohio United States on August 24, 1944, according to this source. She was raised by her parents Margaretha D. “Peg” and George Fairbanks Chubbuck, had two brothers named Timothy (elder brother) and Greg (younger brother), and was known to be very close with her family. She attended an all-girls school known as Laurel School for Girls in Cleveland. After high school, Christine attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio for her major in performing arts. Then she attended Endicott College in Massachusetts as well as Boston University for her degree in broadcasting. Finally, when she finished school in 1965, Christine made the decision to become a TV reporter and anchor.

In between these events, Christine had a history of mental health issues. “Greg noted that his sister was “emotionally flawed in many ways” and had been ever since she was a child.” Staff Writer Austin Harvey explains in this source where he talks about Greg Chubbuck’s interview with People Magazine. “He said that she suffered from bipolar disorder, and despite their parents spending nearly $1 million over the course of 20 years, they could never find a treatment that would “help Chrissie find peace.”” A big factor that affected Christine’s mental health struggles would be her unsuccessful love life.

Austin Harvey explained how Christine created her club back in high school called the Dateless Wonder Club, and this club was for rejected women who didn’t have dates. Part of Christine’s unsuccessful love life is losing the only two loves she ever had in her life. “…she had two very serious relationships. One was a guy who died in a car accident.” Greg Chubbuck explains in an interview he did for The Sun. “She was still a teenager, and he was in his twenties. Then later she had a romance with another man who worked in television with her.” The second romance that Christine had was short-lived due to its forbidden romance. As stated by Greg Chubbuck, “She moved to Pittsburgh to be with him, but the relationship fell apart because my dad was vociferously opposed to him. He was older and my dad did not want her to marry a Jewish man.” Aside from her complicated love life, Christine also struggled in her professional work life.

Christine landed a job as a reporter at WXLY-TV. She was passionate about her job and wanted to produce thoughtful meaningful work, but due to work-related circumstances, Christine was forced to meet the standards of her boss Bob Nelson by producing content he thought would bring in viewers. “WXLT-TV was a makeshift operation, struggling financially, scraping by with old equipment and an inexperienced, underpaid staff expected to work around the clock.” Staff and Contributing Writer Carolyn Kormann explained in this source. “Hoping to increase ratings, the owner of the station pressured his reporters for juicier, more sensational stories— “___ “If it bleeds, it leads.” Chubbuck hated this approach, clashed with the news director, and grew increasingly angry and frustrated as her features were overlooked or bumped by so-called harder news.”

On the verge of hitting her breaking point, Christine started acting out in ways that should have been seen as warning signs at the time, but instead, these actions were never taken seriously. “Despite the fact that she sought mental health care from a psychiatrist for depression in the weeks leading up to her demise, her ongoing talk of suicide was not taken seriously.” Stated by an unknown writer from this source. “She didn't disclose this to her colleagues for fear that it would cost her job, so the offhand remarks she made about buying a gun and harming herself was taken as a joke among her coworkers.”

The day finally came on July 15, 1974, when Christine spent her last day on earth. According to History Daily, Christine showed up to work in a surprisingly good mood and asked for her show to be taped. This was seen as rare back in the 70s because not many people had VCRs or any reason to rewatch local news. When her show started, Christine read two news reports and made what would be the last words she would ever say by saying, "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—an attempted suicide."

Then she took out her revolver, placed it behind her ear, pulled the trigger, and shook the world forever. It was speculated that Christine never wanted to die, but rather make an ‘attempted’ suicide. However, the speculation wasn’t proven to be true. Intentional or not, Christine died after being rushed to the hospital, thus putting an end to her tragic story.

In conclusion, this was a tragic story of a woman who was full of so much promising potential, as well as sadness and depression that no one could fix. After her death, two movies were made about the life of Christine Chubbuck. The first movie was released on October 14, 2016, and was titled Christine starring Rebecca Hall. The second movie was released on January 24, 2016, and was titled Kate Plays Christine starring Kate Lyn Sheil. This case is heartbreaking for many reasons such as her family, her colleagues, and even society failing her. I hope that Christine Chubbuck’s story will help other people like her to avoid another tragedy.

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