Resources - Get Mad/Glad

Commendable sensitive and child-friendly reporting

27 March 2017

One of the prevailing sentiments about news reporting is that it is overtly negative. Even Media Monitoring Africa (MMA)’s research through topic analysis (www.bonabana.co.za) confirms the prevalence of negative stories about children.  However, while “Dad seeks justice after son dies from hot bath” (The Star, 22/02/2017, p.2) is negative, the story for which MMA gives a GLAD1 , also has a positive angle to it. It is also applauded for protecting the identities of the surviving children involved in the story.

The reporter, Heidi Giokos, writes about a court case relating to an alleged incident of child abuse and death that took place in 2016. The article tells of a horrific story of a father who lost his son allegedly at the hands of his ex-wife and her boyfriend.

“Protect our children” appears in the middle of the article as an insert/blub and not only is this the central call of the story but it is what the journalist does ethically for the surviving children who were affected by the alleged abuse and death of a child.

Personal details of the children or parents were not provided including the personal details of the child who died, the article provided a pseudonym, “Kayden”, for him instead in order to protect the other children. In addition, “The Durban-based father, who can’t be named as other minors are involved…” complements the journalist’ efforts to protect the surviving children.

The father in reference to the sibling of the deceased, is quoted saying, “through time, love, affection, reassurance and guidance he is (now) doing well and is happy”.

This quote shows the significance of good parenting through the words of the father. This is a positive element many news stories of this nature struggle to reflect when writing stories about families that are living in trauma and loss. The quote is sensitive and at the same time empowering, giving a sense of hope.

The Star should be congratulated for showing sensitivity towards children who have been affected and probably witness to the abuse of their sibling. It is difficult to report on traumatic stories such as this but to do it while minimizing harm as shown by The Star is remarkable. The children in the story are portrayed from a place of strength and familial support without them having to give account through interviews of anything they might have witnessed.

By withdrawing the identities of the children in the story who as mentioned before could have witnessed the alleged abuse of their sibling and might be witnesses at the criminal proceedings, The Star adhered to the Criminal Procedure Act Section 154 (3). The Section states, “No person shall publish in any manner whatever information which reveals or may reveal the identity of the accused under the age of 18 years or of a witness at criminal proceedings who is under the age of 18 years.”

MMA would like to encourage The Star to make this kind of reporting standard practice and for other media to emulate the publication’s efforts.

By George Kalu

1.A GLAD is given to articles in which children are responsibly reported on