• Sat, Dec 15 2012

Interviewing Child Survivors In Newtown, Connecticut Was Seriously Inappropriate

shutterstock_98162453I’m a mother with an opinion who started writing about her life. Eventually, I fell into writing about other people’s lives. I cover news for this site which requires me to insert my opinion into any issue I think will be interesting to our readers. I’m a part of the “media machine” now. I get that the media asks the questions and gets the answers that the public wants. So forgive me for getting on my high-horse now, but I can’t believe all of those reporters were interviewing child survivors in Newtown, Connecticut yesterday. On what planet is that acceptable? From The Atlantic:

“… interviewing children following events like these can increase emotional and psychological damage later on. “The first 24 hours after witnessing an event such as the Columbine shooting is a time when children need to be with people who love and support them,” said child psychology Donna Gaffney, referring to incidents like Columbine. ”Children who are witnesses to violent events or tragic occurrences are victims in their own right. They may not be the direct recipients but as witnesses they are profoundly affected.” The main piece of advice Gaffney has for reporters is: Don’t try to interview a child who has witnessed injury or death. If that doesn’t resonate, you can always refer back to the following golden rule: Do unto other people’s kids as you would have them do unto your kids.”

Honestly, I was and still am a bundle of raw emotion after yesterday’s events – so I admittedly may be over-reacting. But when I saw those children being interviewed after the horrific ordeal that they had just been through, I wanted to jump through the screen and tackle the reporters. What would ever make you think that you should approach a child who has just emerged from a situation like that one?

NBC and CNN have been criticized for their repeated coverage of these interviews. Wolf Blitzer, CNN reporter, claims that the network is “very sensitive” to families in these situations and that the reporters always ask the parents for permission. Honestly, that doesn’t make me feel any better. These parents are traumatized themselves. They shouldn’t even be expected to make decisions at a time like that.

I hope the scrutiny that reporters received over this issue will force them to approach children with more of a measure of sensitivity in the future. And by that I mean – leave the poor kids alone, jerks.

(photo: wellphoto/ Shutterstock.com)

 

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • Andrea

    I haven’t seen these interviews, but I would assume that the parents were there and have given consent?? I don’t really blame the media, they have a job to do and they have to be ruthless. But I am sure they must get parental consent for it…I think your anger ought to be directed at them for allowing it.

    • Jay

      Yeah, direct your anger at traumatised parents who almost lost their children for making a bad decision under pressure from reporters. Don’t blame the reporters or their bosses for making such inappropriate requests at such a time.

    • Jay

      Yeah, direct your anger at the parents that have gone through the nightmare of thinking their child was murdered and who are wondering how to explain to their kids why their friends are dead. Direct your anger at them for making a bad decision when being pressured by reporters. God forbid we should direct our anger at the vultures who are preying on traumatised victims in the name of a good story…

  • ChopChick

    I couldn’t agree more. I watched one news clip and my reaction was viscerally disgusted and I had to turn it off. Turns out my fiance had the same reaction when he tried to watch the news. There was just something really wrong about interviewing those innocent children. It made me VERY uncomfortable

  • lea

    I agree, but then I feel the same about immediate interviews for any victims and witness- children or adults. When people are in shock, they are most likely unable to make good decisions about what they are willing or able to share. It probably feels a bit more inappropriate to do this to kids because of the power imbalance (i.e. they probably don’t feel they are allowed to say no), but I think that adults can be just as emotionally fragile following a traumatic event as kids. It seems that headlines are more important. But here’s the thing- we, as a society (it is the same here in Aus), click on the link, we tune into the news, the press are giving us what they know will sell. I think it is unfair to lump all of the blame on the journos.

  • Jay

    It’s the same horrifying planet where the UK Daily Mail posted photos
    today of the moment a couple discovered their child had been murdered in
    this nightmare. And then the newspapers have the cheek to object when
    people suggest the Press should be monitored…