Children and the News

Blog Two by Alyssa Gauss   

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               In the event that a spectacularly newsworthy story comes their way,  journalists have been known to  overlook the sensitive nature of the incident and the pain of the parties involved in their haste to produce such a sensational piece.  

              One party whose sensitivity seems to be overlooked more often than not is that of the children involved in a traumatic incident.  It seems that many journalists ignore the fact that there are major differences between children involved in a traumatic event and the adults involved.  In many cases, children receive the same treatment that adults do. 

              The major problem here is that children handle the shock and emotions of traumatic events very differently than adults do according to NCTSN, or the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.  This resource provides journalists with an in depth look into the common responses of children who are involved in or are exposed to traumatic events, and the negative impact that can occur if the news coverage of the event is handled in an inappropriate way.

              According to the NCTSN, experience of and exposure to traumatic events can lead children to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Child Traumatic Grief.  Children react so negatively because they are often unable to interpret the reality and causes of a traumatic experience. Instead, children focus on the terrifying aspects of the incident and are unable to get past it for that reason.

              NCTSN suggests that journalists use their involvement in such situations to provide constructive resources for the families involved rather than just specifically focusing on getting their stories.  If at all possible, journalists should avoid interviewing children.  If an interview is completely unavoidable, it is suggested that the interviewer provide the child with some type of counselor.

              The NCTSN even warns against exposing children not involved in the incident to this type of story.  For that reason, journalists should limit the number of graphic images used and provide a clear warning if any graphic material is going to be used.  Journalists are also advised to use the story as a way to promote a positive outlook. This could be accomplished by providing with it stories of hope and helpful resources.

              These tips may just seem like common sense, but it’s amazing to see how often this is overlooked in the world of journalism.  So, if you are ever involved in such a situation, make sure you take a good look around you.  Your next great story, if not handled correctly, could mean a lifetime of painful memories for a child involved.

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