Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Distressing news and Difficult stories

Newsround's editor, Tim Levell, says that there are four key principles to consider when deciding which distressing news stories they cover. Firstly, he considers whether the story should be covered at all. He says "If we don't think an upsetting story has registered with most children, we don't want to bring it to their attention."

So it's interesting to note that within hours of a gunman breaking into an American school and killing some of the children, Newsround's website had wasted no time reporting the news. And the very next day it was Newsround's lead story.

Another series of murders two months later has been making the top headlines in Britain. Although this was a very important and distressing story, especially to people in Suffolk, Newsround failed to report the news for several days, until on 12 December this report (revised Wednesday) appeared on their website.

The programme on Tuesday led with Lydia's press pack film review of Eragon. Eventually on 13 December Newsround led with the murder story, and included a live report from Adam in Ipswich.

It's obvious that the story had registered with most children days beforehand. Tim Levell says "Once we are sure the story has registered with children, we believe our job is to cover the story accurately, reliably and without sensationalism... If you add to that the hearsay and half-heard comments that children can pick up in the playground or from friends or parents, and the story can often become far wilder or more scary in their minds than it should be."

So why the delay in reporting it?

Adam writes about covering the "really big story" in the Newsround presenters' blog under the title Difficult stories. He asks "What do you think? Is it too scary or too horrible for us to do on Newsround?"

Newsround was probably more scared of the story because all the women involved worked as prostitutes than because they were murdered. The real world isn't always the simple and straightforward world which CBBC would prefer it to be.

Writing on an altogether different topic Newsround's editor says "Every time I write a letter defending our policy, something in me worries that we are being irresponsible."

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