Reporters Interviewing Children Raises Ethical Questions

4798Television journalists rushed to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut after Friday's mass shooting and quickly sought eyewitnesses to describe the tragedy -- many of whom were little children.
"Was everybody crying, scared, wanting their parents to come get them?" a CNN reporter asked a young girl in a parking lot, accompanied by two adults.

While it's a journalist's job to quickly get information from the scene of a crime, there's something unseemly about asking children -- perhaps as young as 5 or 6 years old -- to answer questions on camera so soon after a tragedy involving their classmates. More problematically, such interviews can add trauma, experts said, while possibly helping spread misinformation, given that young children can be unreliable eyewitnesses.

"Simply having a child for the sake of having a child on camera does nothing to advance the story," said Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. "Interviewing a small child whose understanding of death itself is limited, never mind who is confused and scared, can only contribute to the public's misunderstanding and contribute to the real trauma of the child."

Shapiro said he'd seem "some really irresponsible interviews" in the first hours after the shooting, with reporters pressing children for details and possibly helping to spread false information. He noted how in past shooting tragedies, myths -- like the so-called "Trench Coat Mafia" in Columbine, Colo. -- were quickly propagated by the media.

"As journalists, we do the public a disservice if we're trying to rush tidbits of information to air that are unverified, that create rumors, that create false understanding of terrible events," Shapiro said.

But providing inaccurate information isn't the only potential problem.

Source: Huffington Post | Michael Calderone
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