Protecting Vulnerable Children  | American Journalism Review
From AJR,   July/August 1998

Protecting Vulnerable Children   

The Chicago Sun-Times explains why it didn't play a school shooting on page one.

By Unknown

Related reading:
   » I Can Explain
   » Why We Ran the Photo
   » Protecting Sources

When the Chicago Sun-Times played the Oregon schoolyard shooting in May on pages two and three rather than page one, here's how it explained its decision to readers:

Our report of Thursday's school shooting in Springfield, Oregon, appears on pages two and three because we are concerned that front page treatment could have harmed or frightened vulnerable children.

We seldom flinch at reporting bad news, believing that people must be told what happens, no matter how wicked or horrible.

But we do not wish to encourage any unstable teenager to think of shooting as a way out of adolescent torments. And we do not wish to alarm smaller children.

Following the series of school shootings nationwide, we see a danger that prominent reports of each successive incident could be contributing to the phenomenon...

If anything so terrible were to occur so close to home, we would have to report on it fully on page one. Our readers would expect it.

With the Oregon tragedy, however, we trust that readers, particularly parents, will appreciate that we consider the story no less important because we present it less prominently.