History won’t forget many people for various reasons. Unfortunately for Christine Chubbuck, she will be remembered for being the first person to commit suicide on live television. Prior to the moment she altered the course of her life and became the shocking story of the decade, she served as an American television reporter for WXLT-TV and WTOG. Christine’s life story has inspired a number of movies and documentary films, trying to delve into the psyche of the news reporter and perhaps unlock the reason behind her surprising action. Although she is mostly forgotten now in the mind of the public, she will always have a place in history.
Christine Chubbuck: Bio
In Hudson, Ohio, Christine was born in 1944, on the 24th of August. She received her early education at the Laurel School for Girls located in Shaker Heights. Chubbuck obtained a bachelor’s degree in theatre arts from Miami University before going on to Endicott College, and finally to Boston University where she studied broadcasting. After graduating in 1965, she decided to pursue a career as a television reporter.
Less than a year after she wrapped up her education, Christine found work at WVIV in Cleveland. She held the job for a year until she had to leave for New York University to attend a radio and television summer workshop. Afterward, she worked on a project in Canton, Ohio and spent a few months as an assistant producer for Pittsburgh’s WQED-TV. She resigned from that position in 1968 and moved on to work in a hospital.
In 1972, she worked at a cable television company in Florida, where she spent two years before leaving to join WXLT-TV, now known as WWSB. She also worked at WTOG in their traffic department and spent her free time volunteering in hospitals where she performed puppet shows for intellectually impaired children.
As a reporter, Christine Chubbuck appeared to be climbing up the professional ladder when she was hired by WXLT-TV. The network then made her an anchor for a talk show where she discussed community current affairs called Suncoast Digest. It aired at 9:00 am each day. The show interviewed and held chats with local figures, with a focus on whatever was happening in the community from local organizations that were helping to combat addiction and other issues plaguing the community.
It was a job that Christine loved and she dispatched her duties passionately. She was honored by the district with a nomination for a Forestry and Conservation Recognition Award for her dedication to bringing to light topics that were of interest to the community.
The fast-rising television reporter struggled with depression and suicidal ideation, and she frequently confided in her family about her mental health issues. In 1970, Christine attempted to end her life by overdosing on pills. She then began attending appointments with therapists. It is believed that the inability to find and keep an intimate relationship contributed largely to her depression. She constantly held this over her head as a terrible failure, turning towards self-deprecation and criticisms when talking about herself.
How Did She Die?
On what seemed an ordinary morning on July 15, 1974, Christine Chubbuck made the strange decision to open her talk show with news reports. She proceeded to reel out a few national news stories before moving on to a shooting that had occurred the day before at a local restaurant. However, when the film reel of the shooting failed to display, Christine continued her broadcast. She made a statement about keeping the media outlet’s policy, promised viewers that they were about to witness an attempted suicide and thereafter, she retrieved a revolver from her desk, placed it behind her right ear and fired.
Thousands of viewers and her coworkers watched, thinking she was pulling an elaborate prank, but they soon realized the situation and rushed her to the hospital. She passed away 14 hours later and the crew found the bloodsoaked script of the day’s programs in her desk, which also contained an account of her suicide.
About 120 people attended her funeral where her ashes were scattered on the beach. If anything, her death raised awareness on mental health issues and why it should be taken seriously.
Christine Chubbuck was born to George Fairbanks Chubbuck and Margaretha D. Peg. She was the second of three children born to her parents. Her older brother was named Timothy and the younger one, Greg. After her parents’ marriage ended, her mother and Greg moved into the family’s summer house in Florida with Christine.
The family was a pretty tight-knit bunch and Christine had a deep and meaningful relationship with the rest of them. She was fond of calling Greg and her mother her best friends, and there wasn’t much that went on in her life that they were unaware of.