On Interviewing Children After A Tragedy

By Alex Weprin 

One of the most controversial elements of Friday’s coverage of the tragic shooting in Connecticut was the interviewing of frightened children outside the school.

Time‘s James Poniewozik argues that the cameras and pressure–before the children even really know what is going on–makes them victims in their own right.

It was arresting. It was heartbreaking. And it was rash, unnecessary and wrong. There is no good journalistic reason to put a child at a mass-murder scene on live TV, permission of the parents or not. There’s not even a bad-but-practical reason to do it, beyond getting buzz and adding “color” to a story. No one learned anything they couldn’t have from talking to people off-camera and privately.

Politico’s Mackenzie Weinger spoke to a number of professors and psychiatrists, all of whom argued that interviewing the children only adds to the trauma many of them already faced.

“And the bottom line is, if you think about all of the interviews you’ve seen of kids on the scene of terrible events, you notice how often some of them will talk and talk and talk? … There’s an attempt to repeat and to go over and over and over in an attempt to metabolize the experience. The problem is, when it’s done in a way that’s not in a clinical or therapeutic setting, it doesn’t serve that function. It actually overstimulates,” Marans said.