Is Newspaper Trying to Make this 5-Year-Old’s Death EVEN SADDER?

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If you can stand it, please take a look at this article from the Sydney Morning Herald about the death of a 5-year-old boy who tripped on his pre-school’s steps.

Is it just me or is the way it’s presented…sickening?

The story features photo after photo of the sweet-looking child: five of them, one sadder than the next, since we all know that this boy will never smile again.  It’s as if the paper is banging us over the head with pain…but to what end? What is it trying to do with this kind of coverage? Here’s a snippet:

…Speaking publicly for the first time about the loss of their only child, Ms Qaseem and her husband Shadan Ahmad say their lives have been irreparably shattered.

They are still searching for answers.

“He had no medical conditions, he was a healthy boy,” Ms Qaseem said.

“He had no marks or scratches on his face.

“We dropped him off at school and he was fine, but he never came home that night.”

Ms Qaseem broke down as she described her son, a boy with a bubbly and infectious personality who radiated light into the lives of everybody he met.

“There was nothing bad about Sufi, only goodness and kindness,” she said.

“He was just a beautiful little boy, very caring and always complimenting me. He was only five years old, but he was my best-friend. He was very close to his dad as well. Our hearts are broken.”

The paper says it is believed he died when “he fell on two outdoor concrete stairs during after-school care and hit his head on a nearby pole.”

In their grief, the parents are now saying they want more supervision —

…to ensure no family experiences their pain.

They are calling for the national roll-out of more stringent protocols when it comes to the safety of children, including the installation of CCTV cameras in playgrounds and a buddy system to ensure no child ever wanders off on their own.

But how does a camera prevent someone from falling down the steps? How does a buddy? What if this boy and his friend had been holding hands and they BOTH tripped? How is that any odder than the idea that a buddy would somehow prevent a mis-step?

The mom is pregnant and for that I am grateful, even though obviously one child does not make up for the loss of another.

But I am not grateful for an article spreading anguish so deliberately, and presenting a “solution” so pointless. I feel there is something significant and unseemly about the way the paper is playing this story, as if it’s daring us not to despair. I wonder if you feel it, too.  – L

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These are not the steps the boy died on. But I needed a photo and did not want to show the boy himself.

These are not the steps the boy tripped down. But I needed a photo and did not want to show the boy himself.

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36 Responses to Is Newspaper Trying to Make this 5-Year-Old’s Death EVEN SADDER?

  1. mer September 21, 2016 at 9:47 am #

    This has to be one of the most “accidental” deaths you could imagine.
    That said, handrails are on steps for a reason, why not ask for more “don’t run down the stairs and hold the handrail” training?
    Buddy system: then both kids fall down the stairs.

  2. Meg September 21, 2016 at 10:25 am #

    Oh Geez. Let’s spend tons of time and money to attempt to prevent a bizarre freak accident. But guess what, you can’t actually prevent bizarre freak accidents. The kid could just have easily tripped on the carpet in his room and hit his head on the dresser.

    My kid was sitting next to me watching TV when he reached for a cracker, slipped off the sofa, and hit his chin on the coffee table putting his teeth through his bottom lip.

    I’m incredible sorry for their loss, it would be absolutely soul-crushing and horrible.

    That said, cameras don’t stop accidents, they record them. And another 5 yr old being there is unlikely to have changed a thing.

  3. Joan September 21, 2016 at 10:26 am #

    I understand the urge to make something positive out of grief, and to find a way to feel like your child’s tragic death isn’t completely meaningless. But sometimes death is meaningless, and certainly most times grieving family members are not paragons of rationality. They deserve our utmost sympathy, and they also deserve the chance for cooler, less involved people to take a step back and keep this kind of emotional response out of policy.

  4. Liesbet September 21, 2016 at 11:09 am #

    I’m confused. Is that an article from a ‘normal’ online newspaper? Why do they choose this writing style? Why so looooooong? OK, it’s sad for the parents, but I would not want to read this in my newspaper. News has to be short. To the point. Like:
    5 year old tripped on the stairs and died. End of story (well, just a little bit longer is OK, but only with FACTS).

  5. lollipoplover September 21, 2016 at 11:10 am #

    “Our faith is keeping us strong. But we want to be sure this never happens to another family. We are suffering and we don’t want anyone else to ever feel that pain.”

    “It must never happen again.”

    But falls WILL happen. Children and adults, even in perfect health, have accidents daily. While it’s extremely tragic that this boy died, having CCTV recording the accident won’t bring him back or make other children safer.

    The only way to prevent falls is to ban walking around. But people will still fall out of their chairs and transfer their risk to something else. There are better ways to memorialize beloved children than with more safety protocols for buddy systems and more regulating. Their loss is tragic. It could happen to anyone.

  6. Backroads September 21, 2016 at 11:41 am #

    Wow. That is pure madness of fate death to the max. A kid trips and hits his head on a pole. Incredibly sad, but how in the world does one begin to analyze the statistics and causations and whatever there and work to prevent it?

    I know three different people who have severely broken their legs bumbling off th

  7. Backroads September 21, 2016 at 11:42 am #

    bumbling off street curbs. Random stuff happens.

  8. E September 21, 2016 at 12:13 pm #

    I’ll never criticize grieving parents.

    It’s the choice of a journalists/publications/networks how to cover a sad story.

  9. Donna September 21, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

    “It must never happen again.”

    The odds of this particular accident happening again are probably a billion to one, even if nothing changes. It happening to this family, virtually guarantees that it will not happen to someone else just based on the remote odds that this same freak accident will happen twice.

    However, freak accidents will continue to claim the lives of children. It is life. And if we were to try to prevent it by refusing to move, we’d bring on a host of illnesses and infirmities which would kill more children than the freak accidents.

  10. Red September 21, 2016 at 12:22 pm #

    Sometimes freak accidents happen. Sometimes an accident which normally would have resulted in no injury results in severe injury just due to bad luck and surrounding factors.

    My kid plays soccer. Five minutes into his second practice this year, during warmup, he was accidentally kicked in the ankle by another boy as they were practicing ball stealing. 99% of the time that’s an ouch and a walk it off.

    1% or less of the time, it’s a sprained ankle. Guess what? We won the sprained ankle lottery.

  11. Mark Roulo September 21, 2016 at 12:42 pm #

    “Is that an article from a ‘normal’ online newspaper?”

    The Sydney Morning Herald is a normal print newspaper with a digital delivery option.

    In other words, it is a “real” newspaper. And publication goes back to the early/mid 1800s.

  12. Kathea September 21, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

    So, the answer is yes. But this sort of behavior marches in step with the fear mongering that happens before “something bad happens”.

    See also the clown insanity that recently erupted here in MD. Guess what? The kids in question totally made it up. Because children have never lied to get attention ever in the history of the world. cough salem witch trials cough

  13. JTW September 21, 2016 at 1:34 pm #

    The standard call for more government regulations and supervision, more curtailing of individual liberties, whenever something bad happens.
    Got to wonder who scripted the parents’ statement…

    A buddy system of course won’t prevent anything unless the children are handcuffed together at random at the start of each school day.
    If you don’t, they can still wander off alone, and if you let them choose their own buddies they will choose their best friends and get up to mischief together…

    Cameras? Nice to detect the culprit (because of course the little genius child would never have an accident so he MUST have been murdered, a camera would have identified the murderer…

  14. Curious September 21, 2016 at 1:59 pm #

    Unless there is a suspicion of foul play…?

  15. sexhysteria September 21, 2016 at 2:21 pm #

    The pathetic fixation on doom and gloom keeps people’s minds off the massive corruption in government and big business.

  16. Vaughan Evans September 21, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

    Perhaps a person should be taught HOW to fall safely.
    (I am a below-knee leg amputee who has been taking ice skating lessons.
    When I take them again, I will wear knee pads.
    This means that if I know I am about to fall, I will DELIBERATELY fall straight ahead.
    The pads will protect my knee.
    My instructor agreed with this
    It is good good that recreation leaders-and sports groups are being safety conscious.
    Since 1965, in my province of British Columbia, motorcyclists(and their passengers)have had to wear an approved helmet.
    About 30 years later, the wearing of seat belts-in cars-was mandatory.
    Bicyclists have to wear helmets.
    I was required to wear a helmet-when I took my skating lesson.
    -Nowadays- baseball players and hockey players wear something-to protect their face.

  17. Jana September 21, 2016 at 3:19 pm #

    Sounds like a tabloid story to me.

  18. elizabeth September 21, 2016 at 3:40 pm #

    On the subject of freak accidents, when i was a tot, i slipped on one of my kiddie books and broke my elbow. Right in front of my parents. Stuff happens and i learned a painful lesson about cleaning up after myself.

  19. Sue Luttner September 21, 2016 at 3:51 pm #

    What electrifies me about this story is that a schoolyard full of witnesses saw a fatal childhood fall down a couple of steps.

    Countless innocent caretakers are now in prison because child abuse experts routinely testify that children are seldom if ever die in household falls. The article reports that police are still investigating the circumstances of the child’s death, probably because they were told by the pediatricians that a short fall would not account for the injuries, and that the child must have been thrown or battered. No one would have believed the part about the pole without an independent witness.

    For a few short examples, please see https://onsbs.com/2014/06/10/short-falls-long-sentences/ For a shocking example, please see https://onsbs.com/2015/07/20/breathtaking-strength-under-heartless-interrogation/

  20. Jessica September 21, 2016 at 4:05 pm #

    This is grief porn, and unfortunately some people eat it up. Those of us who are psychologically healthy hear a story about a child killed in a freak accident, and we grieve briefly without digging for more and more and more information. But there’s a minority of people who want more quotes, more pictures, more interviews with grieving mothers.

    Also, I don’t fault the family for their unreasonable demands. Their child was killed out of the blue– they are entitled to say whatever crazy thing they want right now. The media, though, needs to be more responsible, and not act like security cameras would have prevented this.

  21. Abigail September 21, 2016 at 4:10 pm #

    We can’t make the world perfect. I’m exhausted by the trend. Embracing the lack of perfection and predictability doesn’t mean you don’t care about your loved ones, if anythjng, we would be more present and capable of experiencing whatever time we have to the fullest.

    My hope is for my children to outlive me – and I won’t hold them back or anyone else’s children from living life as freely as possible. Let them play. That’s living. Bubble wrapped spaces suffocate in more than one way.

    My deepest sympathies and thoughts will be with this family today and I will hug my children more and yell less. That’s something good we can all do.

  22. lollipoplover September 21, 2016 at 4:19 pm #

    Any accidental death involving a child has us looking to find someone or something to blame.

    This one from last week:

    http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/09/13/toddler-suffocates-under-daycares-beanbag-chair.html

    This death had video footage which the police reviewed and deemed the death accidental. The comments have people blaming the bean bag chairs, others the teacher and supervision, some blame parents for even using day care. How could they not know he was under there (because he was hiding).
    It’s all so sad, I don’t know how assigning blame on someone or something is a productive reaction.

  23. Donald Christensen September 21, 2016 at 4:23 pm #

    There are a lot of problems in this world that the blame can’t be pinned onto one area. I view the safety hysteria to be similar to that of a cattle stampede that is running itself off a cliff!

    The media dramatizes because so many readers seek drama because they have been brought up to seek this kind of ‘entertainment’ because they were bubble wrapped as children because of the industrial safety complex because the shareholders will invest in something else if safety wasn’t so profitable because people like to feel safe because people have been highlighting crime stories for generations because the human brain registers ‘lose’ with at least twice the impact of how it registers ‘gain’ because evolution made us this way because of survival of the fittest because…….

    Unfortunately, the world won’t wake up to this until enough ‘cattle’ have fallen off of the cliff. This is why I like this blog so much. It’s highlighting to the world about the problems that come from the hysteria.

  24. Donald Christensen September 21, 2016 at 4:37 pm #

    As stress goes up, the simpler part of the brain takes more control because speed is more urgent because stress triggers the ‘veto’ and shuts down rational thinking because that is more complex thinking and therefore it takes longer because multiple pros and cons must be taken into consideration because…..

    People instantly look for someone or something to blame because when under stress, the simple thinking mode is dominant because stress is on the increase because of the poorer decision making because of the simple thinking because of the blame game because of infotainment because…..

  25. Beth September 21, 2016 at 5:53 pm #

    Was there some issue that help didn’t arrive quickly enough because no one saw him fall, and he might have been saved by a quicker response? That’s the only situation I can think of in which a camera could “prevent” this from happening again. And that’s only if someone’s constantly monitoring the camera.

  26. Ron Skurat September 21, 2016 at 6:57 pm #

    The newspaper is trying to generate clicks, plain & simple. They don’t care how much unnecessary trouble or pain they cause, how much expense the school district has as a result, or how much fear they instill in their readers. Actually, they DO care about their readers’ fear – they want to maximize it. More drama, more clicks. Mercenaries.

  27. Mark Roulo September 21, 2016 at 9:21 pm #

    “Nowadays- baseball players and hockey players wear something-to protect their face.”

    One out of two, here.

    It is still very uncommon for baseball players to wear *face* protection, even when batting.

    The players do wear batting helmets, but the helmets tend to be open faced. Even at the Little League level.

    You will, occasionally, see a professional baseball player wearing some sort of faceguard on his batting helmet (an image search for “giancarlo stanton batting helmet” will show some examples), but the default major league baseball player behavior is to bat without face protection until he gets hit in the face with a 90 MPH fastball. After the reconstructive surgery and recovery, you’ll see the faceguard.

    A similar dynamic plays out in Little League. Batting helmets with faceguards exist. They just don’t get used very often.

    Women playing softball wear face protection.

    (*) The catchers, of course, wear face protection when catching.

  28. Cassie September 22, 2016 at 1:50 am #

    @Liesbet

    The SMH is one of the premier print papers in Australia. The New York Times for this country.

  29. hineata September 22, 2016 at 3:08 am #

    How awfully sad! Those poor parents. …I would possibly be saying crazy things right now too. Irresponsible to print them though.

    Today I was there as a fellow teacher took a hard fall onto concrete, and at first I thought she’d gone down on the back of her head, because of the noise of the fall and the sounds she was making. Thank goodness when she recovered herself it was a leg injury in the main, but striking the back of the head can kill someone, and no way could we have prevented her fall in the circumstances. Accidents happen. She got lucky, this poor child didn’t. Again, terribly sad.

  30. Art September 22, 2016 at 6:53 am #

    They called their kid Sufi?

    Ms Qaseem is five months pregnant…

    ^So there’s a chance Sufi may come back or getting a replacement anyway?

    Yeah I know I’m being snarky, spent the last three days in absolute hell with first grade and third grade, and I think I know why some species occasionally eat their young…

    The mom is pregnant and for that I am grateful, even though obviously one child does not make up for the loss of another.

    ^Gotta go with L on this one.

  31. Jodie September 22, 2016 at 8:29 am #

    I was watching Dr. Phil last week and a news report about JonBenet Ramsey’s murder was aired. The news reporter said she went to bed, “dreaming about her brandnew bike.” How does anyone know what she was dreaming about? The news wants drama, not truth. I feel horrible for these parents, but the sad truth is it’s impossible to protect everyone from everything. Even bubble wrap will pop.

  32. Beth2 September 22, 2016 at 3:46 pm #

    How truly awful. I hope this isn’t shallow or insensitive of me, but the story immediately reminded me of a very powerful scene from the Sandra Bullock movie “Gravity,” where the character is describing her four-year-old’s tragic death on the playground. Bullock acted the hell out of that scene, and one line really stuck with me as particularly apt, both for the way she delivered it and the words chosen: “It was the stupidest thing.”

    How stupidly senseless, how stupidly meaningless, how stupidly ordinary, that such a mundane thing as running on concrete could shatter someone’s world so fully and end such a precious, innocent, promising, joyful life of a child. If I try to imagine it being my child, it seems like the only thing remotely “worthy” of such a painful tragedy is some “Great Medical Mystery,” or a “Horrible Act of National Terrorism,” something truly newsworthy, something I could “Raise Awareness” about, and “March for a Cure” for, and organize “Fundraising Drives” for, and “Hold Candlelight Vigils” over. How doubly cruel that this family must not only deal with unspeakable tragedy, but must be left empty-handed in their search for a sensible cause that could give the death some “meaning.”

    And yes, the media is ugly in their exploitation of tragedy, always. I opted not to click on the link. I try to avoid the “death porn” articles as best I can, although sometimes it seems unavoidable.

  33. Teresa September 23, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    When my older son little he fell – twice! – from our front steps onto the driveway. Head first. I was close to him both times, literally sitting beside him on the step for the second one, but couldn’t stop him. This was actually my earliest lesson on free-range parenting, several years before your message hit the airwaves. I learned that if my son is not going to be perfectly, 100%, safe from all possible harm even with me right beside him then I may as well loosen up the reins and let him live his life out of my reach.

    Not only is the article creepy but the parents’ reaction is as well. Freak accidents happen. Children get hurt and sometimes even die. It’s awful, we hate it, but we can’t prevent it. Any attempt to keep ALL children safe at ALL times is not only futile, it’s detrimental to the well-being of the children.

  34. Becks September 24, 2016 at 4:59 am #

    I do wonder in these stories how much of that stuff the parents actually said and how much was put in their mouths – then put in quotes…

  35. Papilio September 24, 2016 at 3:04 pm #

    @Becks: Rita Skeeter comes to mind…

    “The mom is pregnant and for that I am grateful, even though obviously one child does not make up for the loss of another.”
    Glad I’m not the only one who feels it that way. It comes across as a bit cold somehow, but still, it seems so much worse if parents lose their only child (and are too old to have another), and then it all stops and they’re doomed to live the rest of their lives as this sort of ‘ex’ parents.

    …Better have that spare at home when you put your kid on the subway 😛

  36. Marisa October 1, 2016 at 5:51 am #

    Do you know what I see as the saddest part of this story? That 5-year-old Sufi, still not old enough to begin kindergarten, was not only in preschool all day but then was enrolled in the after-care program at his “school”.

    This tragedy happened at 4:30 pm. Maybe Sufi was tired from being at school and then day care for a total of probably eight hours. Maybe that’s why the poor child slipped and fell. Maybe his mom should stay at home with her baby instead of farming him out to people who will never do as good a job raising him as she can. Sufi’s dad is a doctor and they don’t (currently) have any other children. Maybe the mother should quit her job and stay home to raise the baby she’s delivering in a few months.

    Not sure you’ll allow this on your comments. Usually any opinion that’s not politically correct and pro “You can be a mom and have a fulfilling career outside of the home, too!” isn’t widely accepted.

    From one free range parent to another- my thoughts on this whole helicopter parenting epidemic stems from most moms spending such little time with their children that they suffocate them with “love” and “attention” in order to make themselves feel better for being absent from the better part of their children’s’ lives. (Read: gullt)

    But that’s just my take on it. Love your blog, keep up the great work!