story is everywhere today. As CBS News reports:
A 9-year-old reporter who wrote about a suspected murder in her small Pennsylvania town is defending herself after some locals lashed out about a young girl covering violent crimes.
Hilde Kate Lysiak got a tip Saturday afternoon about something untoward happening on 9th street in Selinsgrove, about 150 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
She went to the scene to get the details and posted a story and video clip on her website the “Orange Street News” later that day.
“Hi, Hilde Kate Lysiak here reporting from the Orange Street News on the 600 Block where a man suspectedly (sic) murdered his wife with a hammer,” she begins the video. “I’m working hard on this ongoing investigation.”
Newsworthily enough, some critics quickly told her to stop being such a…grown up. As you’ll see in the video below, they say she should be playing with dolls instead, or having tea parties. Some used outright profanity.
Their angry, patronizing words remind me of the way that, in different eras, African-Americans, women, and others not in power were told to stay in their place and not get uppity.
Clearly, some people are still freaked out (read: threatened) when a type of person they have written off as “less than” them turns out to be outrageously competent and courageous.
Kids are the just latest group we underestimate and “protect” to the point of denying them the respect and freedom they deserve. Remember, Rhode Island just proposed a law that would forbid a child Hilde’s age from staying home alone even for 10 minutes. Another proposed law there would keep her inside at recess if it was ever under 32 degrees. Are these laws protecting kids, or stifling them?
Hats off to this intrepid reporter, who is on the trail of one murder and may solve another: Who’s behind the hit jobs on Â childhood gumption? – L
What a cutie! What a smart kid. Kick-ass initiative. I would love to hear more about her techie sister, too.
The negativity is not surprising, nor, unfortunately, is the crudeness of some of those remarks.
Those folks demand she be a child by using language many adults find distasteful.
Wicked Witch from Oz said it best, “…what a world…”
So, let’s scare the crap out of kids about stranger danger and how scary men are and how everyone is out to hurt you and then get all shocked at the idea that a 9 year old knows people murder each other? Sounds legit.
They’re just jealous she got the scoop on them. I saw something on TV a few weeks ago about her and her newspaper, I think it’s great she’s doing something like this. Even if she does cover murders and such, isn’t that what reporters do?
Take that, adults!
(I guess she’s skipping the four leaf clover stage?)
@Marie “What a cutie”? Would you say that about an adult reporter? She’s not being cute, she’s being serious.
I think people are mad because kids are supposed to be cute. They’re not supposed to be able to do things. People want her to stay in school, to stay out of the way and stay where some adult can give her an F for doing journalism instead of her assigned busywork.
“Soon after, her Facebook page and YouTube channel were clogged with negative comments urging her to “play with dolls” and have a tea party, and questioning her parents’ judgment in letting her do such work.”
Because she’s better at reporting than the adults being paid to do it in this town?
She covered a murder! Many, many kids are affected by violence. I want to hear what she has to say. I’ve lost a good friend and a neighbor to domestic violence murder that was barely covered by our local press,or blown up in a day with the gruesome way they died, but no follow up on the lives of orphaned kids that it shatters.
She broke a story! What great journalistic instinct at 9.
Also to Hilde- you can play with dolls (my 9 year-old does), have tea parties (who doesn’t love a tea party?), and still be an awesome reporter. You can do all of these things and more.
Your parents sound AWESOME.
Kids used to do a lot of this sort of thing. Neighborhood “newspapers” run by kids, along with small business like the proverbial lemonade stand, used to be common. We need more kids with the initiative to pursue those very skills that will best serve them once they grow up.
And you DO want your kids to grow up, don’t you? Well then, don’t make them be babies!
Aaron, people can be cute and competent at the same time. They are in no way mutually exclusive.
Miss America is all about being beautiful, but it takes brains and eloquence to get to the finals.
I’m amazed at Hilde’s skills and sad that a murder happened so close to her home. The mean reviews she received are sad too. What do you think about 9-year-olds reporting on such difficult topics?
Nancy Drew. Millions of us little girls grew up solving neighborhood crimes and writing stories inspired by Nancy Drew.
How inspiring for children today to have a living role model who asks questions and investigates and can stand up to grown-ups who would relegate children to a life of being seen but not heard. Or being shut-up indoors 24/7 for their own good, of course.
Hurrah for Hilde!
She might write something that contradicts The Official Coveru-, er, Story. We can’t have that, can we?
As a member of the criminal justice system, I don’t think this story is even remotely cute. Not because 9 year olds should be playing with dolls rather than reporting news, but because amateurs have no business inserting themselves into murder investigations.
If this man is ultimately charged with murder, his life is a stake and he deserves a trial not tainted with news reports that have gone viral because of 9 year old reporters. She may have already forced a change of venue since this is getting so much press. She could have unwittingly really messed up a police investigation. In addition, she identified a victim before the police had time to notify the family and identified a potential murder suspect before the police were ready to release the name.
Well, some of these criticisms are absurd – like the ones demanding she stay in her sanitarium…er…play with dolls. Some, though, are accusing her of sensationalism, which is exactly what you might accuse an adult reporter of in the circumstances. Now, she’s a child, but she’s doing an adult thing, so why shouldn’t she be subject to the criticisms an adult would face?
It would be interesting to see this replicated in Canada – one thing Canadians know for sure is that, whatever the other reactions might be, ‘As it Happens’ would ask her patronizing questions. It seems to be very hard for even the most well-meaning media folks to talk to kids about something as if it wasn’t extraordinary for kids to do anything.
@Donna I agree with all that — basically you’re saying we should wait until after the police investigation and maybe after the trial before we spread the news, that way we don’t spread rumors or false information. I don’t see what any of that has to do with her age though.
“I agree with all that â€” basically youâ€™re saying we should wait until after the police investigation and maybe after the trial before we spread the news, that way we donâ€™t spread rumors or false information. I donâ€™t see what any of that has to do with her age though.”
I think you’re missing the point.
Professional reporters know how not to screw up coverage of criminal proceedings (that doesn’t necessarily stop them from doing it, but they know they’re doing it when they do.) Amateur reporters are sometimes quite qualified (because they’re reporting about the things they do in their day jobs) and sometimes are not even vaguely correct (just about every blog that is political in nature can be counted on to misinform… sometimes they’re even honest about it.)
The problem isn’t that her reporting is too early… it is that she lacks the judgment to know whether it will affect the prosecution or not. That lack isn’t because she’s 9… it’s because she lacks meaningful experience, which can happen at 19, 39, or 99.
Also, of course, professional reporters have professional editors who are supposed to rein them in if they get too entangled in the story. Amateurs, as a rule, are their own editors.
“Itâ€™s because she lacks meaningful experience, which can happen at 19, 39, or 99.”
But not 9??
Maybe it’s harder for 9-year-olds to get “meaningful experience,” but only because every time they try, society tells them to get lost.
Who remembers Children’s Express news agency from the 1970’s/1980’s run by children 8 to 18? They published articles that reported on political and social issues of the day. The children conducted the interviews and wrote and edited the stories. I guess this couldn’t happen in today’s environment.
“basically youâ€™re saying we should wait until after the police investigation and maybe after the trial before we spread the news”
No, I am saying that a reporter – one who hasn’t talked to a single person involved in the investigation – should not be publishing articles identifying someone as a “suspected murderer” before a murder has even been identified as to have occurred or any suspects named! Murder is a legal term of art. It does not mean “someone died and the police are investigating.” It does not even mean someone died at someone else’s hand (that is the definition of homicide, not murder). Murder has a specific definition as contained in the statutes of the state.
An experienced reporter would know that. You never see articles from legitimate news sources identifying a situation as “murder” and someone as a “murder suspect” without having first talked to law enforcement and had LAW ENFORCEMENT come to that conclusion. That is a sure way to get sued if, in fact, you had no idea what you were talking about and a murder is not suspected.
Lisa, Children’s Express did have adult supervision.
It is an issue you run into with “citizen journalism.” I’m not sure I’d like to see the spectacular wreck of my wife’s car and find out she died from twitter. While the citizen may pat themselves on the back for beating the big-names to the story, my pain is very real.
Doug, age isn’t really the issue here. As the person said, this is the sort of mistake that any “citizen journalist”–regardless of age–can make. This is why you have editors and the like. These people have more experience and can communicate these rules to the less experienced.
â€œItâ€™s because she lacks meaningful experience, which can happen at 19, 39, or 99.â€
“But not 9??”
Yes, it is possible to have a lack of meaningful experience at 9. In fact, I would pretty much guarantee a lack of meaningful experience surrounding the reporting of murder at age 9. I would pretty much guarantee a lack of meaningful experience in reporting at age 9. I am not sure what your point is with this comment.
Do you seriously believe that the Washington Post and New York Times send out their interns to cover murders or other serious crimes? At some point, the gravity of the situation calls for a certain level of experience … or at least people who understand the gravity of the situation.
“Doug, age isnâ€™t really the issue here. As the person said, this is the sort of mistake that any â€œcitizen journalistâ€â€“regardless of ageâ€“can make. This is why you have editors and the like. These people have more experience and can communicate these rules to the less experienced.”
I assume this is directed at me. I agree that age is not the problem. I stated specifically that it was amateur reporting that was the problem.
However, age has definitely exacerbated the problem dramatically in this specific situation. Her age is what made the story go viral. A 30 year old amateur reporter writing this incredibly amateur article would have been completely irrelevant as it would never had been read by anyone outside of said reporters family.
Yes, sorry, this is absolutely inappropriate. Agree with Donna. Although I don’t fully understand the legal stuff (actually, read barely understand ), kids do not have the experience to be sensitive about tragedy ….well,,at least this kid doesn’t . She appears proud for having got the scoop on other news sources, rather than empathetic for the loss of another human being – an entirely normal response for a kid. She reminds me of the bright button at my school who raced up to me one morning and told me excitedly that ‘Tama’s’ brother had hung himself in the garage, and should she go tell ‘Tama’? All excitement, absolutely zero understanding of how horrific her news was….
This kid should be reporting on kid news. End of story.
I am not saying that kids should not report. I think the idea in general is great. I don’t even think that kids should not report on crime.
I do think that the adults in her life should have had enough sense to shut this particular story down before it even got started. Not because she is 9 and 9 year olds shouldn’t be exposed to death. But because murder investigations cause for a certain level of decorum. Someone is dead. That person had loved ones who don’t want to read about their loved one’s death like this. Someone else’s freedom, and possibly even life, is at stake. That person deserves a fair investigation and trial. This is just not an area for amateur reporters, in general, and definitely not one who is rather glibly reporting nothing more than her own speculations. In fact, I wouldn’t even describe this as reporting. She didn’t investigate or interview anyone … or at least not anyone involved in the investigation. She just threw out some rumors from the neighbors. This strikes me as more Harriet the Spy than Diane Sawyer.
Sometimes I think we get a little off, in our efforts to raise our kids free-range. Just because something CAN be done by a kid, doesn’t mean it SHOULD be done. Sure, nine year olds could probably fight fires, for example, but that doesn’t mean they should do on a regular basis. We know children can be soldiers – there are hundreds of thousands of such child soldiers worldwide – but that doesn’t mean they should be.
There really is something sick and voyeuristic too, about a child excitedly broadcasting a murder. Broadcast it verbally to your neighborhood if you must….your neighbours can tell you off for your purient interest…but not on any form of electronic media.
Maybe it’s a sign of MY age, but the more I think about this story, the madder I feel. Do we have no sense of decorum left? As kids, we had some sad stuff happen in our town ….a boy fell into a combine harvestor, one of the mums fell under the wheels of a cart her horse was pulling, several houses burnt down, etc. We all took a kid’s interest in this type of thing, of course, but woe betide any kid caught gossiping by adults about said stories. We usually got a stern talking to or loss of privileges etc.
Because this is all this kid is doing….gossiping on air….and she should be pulled up for it.
“â€œItâ€™s because she lacks meaningful experience, which can happen at 19, 39, or 99.â€
But not 9??”
I’m going to chalk this up to reading for content not being something you practice. How else to come to the conclusion that, by writing “she lacks the judgment to know whether it will affect the prosecution or not.”, I meant to suggest that this cannot happen?
Seems to me thrust of this story is how mean and crude many of the adults were in their comments simply because this 9 yr old is acting as a reporter.
We can debate the journalistic qualities without trashing the reporter in a demeaning manner
We should also note that Lenore is not being taken to task for citing murder in her story headline
Great post!! I have no idea if this actually happened in real life or not, but still love the story. For anyone with small kids, youâ€™ll certainly relate. Itâ€™s impossible to know what will next be coming out of their mouths. Thanks
Lenore is not being taken to task because Lenore did not accuse anyone of committing murder in her post. Using the word “murder” is not objectionable. Calling a specific person a suspected murderer when no such allegations have been made by anyone with the authority to make such allegations is.
Most crimes that make it to trial were never covered or even mentioned by the media, and I don’t recall media coverage being introduced as testimony, either.
With or without this girl’s “reporting”, the professional media would certainly be covering this story, and they are as likely – probably more likely – to sway jurors’ opinions. They may exhibit some decorum in their reporting, but their sources will most likely be cops and prosecutors, who don’t generally provide much of a counter-argument to their own statements.
My local news stations commonly show destroyed cars, burning houses, and other tragedies before the victims’ families could have been notified, and their reach is much greater than this girl’s. They may not say “murder”, but when they show the coroner’s van arriving and report that neighbors heard screams or gunshots, I doubt anyone is wondering if this will be manslaughter or justifiable homicide.
Maybe itâ€™s harder for 9-year-olds to get â€œmeaningful experience,â€ but only because every time they try, society tells them to get lost.
That’s part of it, but not all of it. 9 year olds have had less time to gather said experience, by virtue of only having been around for 9 years.
In journalism (and most fields), there’s this notion of paying dues. It’s not just a job-protection racket for the experienced; it’s also because that’s how you learn the business. A 9 year old deciding they can be a reporter right now is not unexpected – I was mad when I was 9 that I would have to wait an absurd length of time to become a brain surgeon. (It turns out you also have to do well in organic chemistry, and anyway, I lost interest a couple weeks later.) It’s probably a bigger problem that the average millennial hasn’t grown out of this delusion and doesn’t want an entry-level job. However, in the past, 9 year olds had a large filter to get through before playing reporter to the world – their parents. Now we’d decided parental judgment is worthless, and kids should be coddled and protected from disappointment.
Make that “evidence”, rather than “testimony”, in my first paragraph.
@Puzzled – this girl’s dad is a former reporter for the NY Daily News. Personally, tho, I don’t think he should be encouraging her to join a profession with a questionable future.
I think Hineata and Donna are completely right: this is ghoulish, inappropriate, and unfair to both the “suspect” and the victim’s loved ones – not that we can expect a 9-year-old to know that, but her parents should know better, and as parents it is their job to save their kid from her own (quite natural and age-appropriate) stupidity when it involves matter as serious as this.
Incidentally, the descriptor my rather elderly and very old-fashioned parents always use for kids like this is “precocious” – which, in the tone in which they utter use it, is very definitely NOT a compliment.
Ah, she’s learning from the Daily News. That explains it. At least it’s not the Post.
I went and read the article. She does say “suspected murder” and that she’s not revealing the names, but she also gives the address and says the husband is suspected.
@hineata “Sure, nine year olds could probably fight fires, for example, but that doesnâ€™t mean they should on a regular basis.”
This sounds alright, as long as you mean “it would be wise not to” rather than “it should be illegal.” If a 9-year-old wants to fight fires and is good at it, while that would be very shocking, it seems in effect no different from the situation in which an adult wants to fight fires and is good at it.
@Puzzled “A 9 year old deciding they can be a reporter right now is not unexpected … Itâ€™s probably a bigger problem that the average millennial hasnâ€™t grown out of this delusion and doesnâ€™t want an entry-level job.”
I bet Hilde would be thrilled to have an entry-level job in journalism, even if it was just carrying junk for reporters or digging for leads. Unfortunately there are plenty of twentysomethings who also want entry-level jobs and can’t get them because there aren’t enough to go around.
Aaron – so long as the 9 year old can drag their 200 pound partner out of the fire.
Yep – there are, in fact, lots of 20 somethings not finding entry-level jobs. Then there are 20 somethings unhappy with being offered entry level jobs because don’t you know I went to school for journalism just so I can skip that part? I want to be the anchor. Instead of applying for jobs, I’ll network and ask people on FB for openings for anchors.
I think Lenore is a bit off on this one.
Look, even for Free-Range parents, there are judgment calls about whether particular things are good, appropriate, and healthy for children at certain ages.
It’s not necessarily a “free range issue” to have a difference of opinion about that.
If people were suggesting that this was wrong because she shouldn’t have been out and about unsupervised doing this, that would be a free range issue.
But to the extent that people just have differing opinions about what’s proper for kids to do *when* they are out and about unsupervised, at certain ages, that’s not really free range, that’s just differences of opinion, assuming you’re not saying that it’s because snowflakes should never be exposed to anything unpleasant at all.
For the record, I don’t think that knowing about death and murder is horrible for a nine-year-old (though I do take Donna’s point about how messing with stuff that is beyond her judgment level may actually have caused serious problems for other people.) But that’s really beside the point — someone who disagrees with me on that point is not necessarily helicoptering, if they are still giving their kids a lot of freedom to be on their own, and responsibility to use that freedom wisely. Every sane parent has some things that they don’t believe are appropriate for their kids before certain ages; the fact that others may have different standards than I do doesn’t make them “helicopter parents” or me “more free range,” within reason.
“I donâ€™t recall media coverage being introduced as testimony, either.”
That’s because it’s not admissible as testimony except in some rather rare circumstances.
“If a 9-year-old wants to fight fires and is good at it, while that would be very shocking, it seems in effect no different from the situation in which an adult wants to fight fires and is good at it.”
I disagree. 9 year olds are not simply small adults. There are reasons that 9 year olds live with adults who are responsible for exercising good judgment on their behalf. And it is not just because they are too short to drive. Even if the 9 year old could get good at the mechanics of fighting fires, they do not have the judgement of adults or the ability to exercise it consistently.
For example, let’s consider what this “reporter” did here. She went to the location of an alleged death, didn’t talk to a single official person involved – no cops, DAs, coroner, or anyone in an official capacity at all – talked to some unidentified neighbors, who also aren’t privy to any official information concerning the investigations, and then published:
(a) the wife died;
(b) murder is suspected;
(c) the husband is the murder suspect;
(d) the death was via hammer.
Again, WITHOUT TALKING TO A SINGLE PERSON INVOLVED IN THE INVESTIGATION! And then she published enough information so that the alleged deceased and the alleged murder suspect could be readily identified by anyone who knows them.
Any adult reporter who produced something this shoddy would be fired instantly, But we’re supposed to think it is great because it was produced by a child. If that is the level or reporting that is okay because it is a kid, I certainly don’t want kids fighting a fire in my house.
“the professional media would certainly be covering this story”
It will likely be mentioned locally IF there was a crime at all. (I like how everyone assumes that there was despite this child have absolutely no official information on which to base the allegation she made). It would likely not go viral. I have absolutely no idea whatsoever if anyone in my city was murdered today. I know about this alleged murder.
“They may exhibit some decorum in their reporting, but their sources will most likely be cops and prosecutors”
At least they’d have sources!
“Even if the 9 year old could get good at the mechanics of fighting fires, they do not have the judgement of adults or the ability to exercise it consistently.”
I agree that IF the 9-year-old is lacking in judgment, then she may not make a good firefighter or journalist. All I was saying is that IF she DOES have good judgment (and any other skills necessary, such as being able to drag a 200 pound person), then there’s no reason she shouldn’t be a firefighter or a journalist. It’s silly to say that someone can’t do something just because of her age. Her skills are what matter, not her age.
You’re probably right that Hilde did not exercise good judgment on this one. However, I imagine that as a result of this fiasco she’ll think twice next time about covering someone’s death on poor evidence. It may be that in a couple years, if she is bright and careful and hard-working, she could actually become a good reporter. But you seem to think that simply by virtue of her youth, she has some kind of mental disease which makes it impossible for her to possess or obtain good judgment.
Her father, a former local reporter, was with her. She does have regular sources. She knows the local chief of police. She spoke with him as well as her neighbors on the scene. This did happen in her neighborhood. If you’ve read the story, which I did, it was a pretty even handed factual story. I’m sure her father does guide her in the proper ways to break news and write sensitive stories.
Pretty much what Betsy said. I researched this story a little deeper, and from what I’ve seen, no journalistic code of ethics were broken.
She verified and talked the sources onsite, did not mention names of the deceased, (in fact, it was the “big” guys that mentioned the names later), the police gave the typical “ongoing investigation” answer when asked about it. The reporting follows the typical boilerplate murder investigation. The ONLY thing I see that she might have done differently is not giving the address, but even that’s not THAT big a deal considering the majors in this West Texas market (ABC, CBS and NBC) do the same thing. Example-today they reported a kitchen fire at the Tanglewood Apartments or EG: “two men were killed in an altercation in the parking lot of Graham Central Station Nightclub on JBS Parkway Saturday night.” they would proceed to show anything they had pertaining to the case, cell phone, parking lot video, etc. (again, this is just an example) There’s been murders in this area where they definitely showed the house.
The only reason this story went viral was because of her age. Otherwise, the big boys would have picked it up eventually with pretty much the same information.
Just recently my husband’s co-worker and good friend died in an industrial accident. Because of an unfortunate set of circumstances, my family knew of his death a couple of hours ahead of his family. My ‘children’ all teens now, were upset at his passing. They are all competent writers, had access to sources right at the scene and also access to social media. And I would have gone ape on them if one word regarding this incident had leaked out through them.
The parents in this case DO need to keep this girl in check. Or her father’s ‘reporter ethics’ are the oxymoron such things often seem to be.
Seriously, are we OK with child soldiers, or child suicide bombers? Child prostitutes? How about children working ‘down mine’ or up chimneys? Because children can work at all these things and more. They are CAPABLE of all sorts of things, but whether they should be doing them is quite another story. And children should not be spreading stories about ‘murder’ on media available to the public. It’s bad enough when adults report purient (prurient?) stories about such private tragedies.
Hmmmmmmm. Where did I see this before? Oh yeah
Sex on TV is rampant. It’s everywhere. Sex and violence are mainstream. They dominate the air so much that nothing else even comes close. In fact that it’s almost implied that unless you have sex before you graduate, you’re not normal. Sitcoms with high school student have sex between themselves.
However we put them on the sex offender registry at the drop of the hat. â€œThey are only children. They are not mature enough to have consensual sex.â€
We also plaster our TV with murder. However if a 9 year old reporter wants to do a story on it, we freak out.
Those are some good questions hineata. Personally I’m opposed to suicide bombers and soldiers period. As for prostitution, “down mine,” and “up chimneys,” those are terribly unsavory jobs that nobody wants to do, but which people will do if the only alternative is starvation. I imagine that if it came down to it, you would rather see a child sweeping a chimney than starving. What I think the real issue is here is that children should not be forced to do those unsavory jobs by older people who wish to exploit them and steal their salary. That’s an easy one. Nobody should ever be forced to do any job they don’t want to do, and nobody should steal anyone’s salary. Problem solved. While we’re at it, we should try to construct a society in which nobody ever has to choose between prostitution, etc. and starvation. Of course none of this has anything to do with journalism, which is quite an exciting and wholesome job, even when there’s murder involved (especially when there’s murder involved!).
“And children should not be spreading stories about â€˜murderâ€™ on media available to the public. Itâ€™s bad enough when adults report purient (prurient?) stories about such private tragedies [but even worse when children report them].”
I read: children should be seen and not heard.
@Aaron – please read it how you like. I find the excited bleating of reports about murder etc offensive at the best of times, and I find it doubly offensive when reported by a child, who in the normal scheme of things has zero experience with horrific news. I have worked with kids for twenty plus years, and children who would actually have the ‘life experience’ to empathize in any way with victims of violence are not the kind of children who generally talk about it . In fact it usually calls for great sensitivity to drag it out of them.
So yes, I am offended by this child ‘reporting’ on this particular topic. I really do think it goes well beyond common decency, as old-fashioned as that might sound, and it certainly isn’t a free-range issue.
This child is effectively prostituting someone else’s misery ….and her parents should have called her up on it. Unfortunately if above posters are to be believed, possibly her father actually encouraged her….which is plain wrong.
EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT!
SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE COMMITS JOURNALISTIC MALPRACTICE, INTERNET TROLLS OVERREACT
This isn’t a news site as such, Mark, it is a forum for dicussing free-range issues…in case you’re new. Can’t say I’ve noticed you before. Not quite sure who you’re referring to as a troll, as I haven’t seen anyone ‘troll’ this particular subject, so will ignore that.
@Aaron – thinking about it, I think there actually are times when children should be ‘seen and not heard’….for example, it’s one thing for children to be told that, say, Great Aunt Florence is ‘seeing’ the neighbour and that’s why Uncle Horace isn’t about anymore, and quite another for said children to broadcast on the Internet that the grand old lady is having an affair. None of their business to be spreading the news….just like in this instance.
I think that if we consider the 9 year old to be big enough to do x independently, then the 9 years old needs to be subject of reasonable criticism of the kind Donna provided. We cant really have it both ways – simultaneously saying a kid is able to seriously do x and then skip on reasonable rules we would expect adults to follow. I also think that the explanation Donna provided could and should be told to the kid practically as written here without discouraging kid from future activities. You learn not just by doing, but also by taking reasonable feedback.
I am ok with kid trying things, but not fully independently. I expect checks and reason from adults around – but don’t limit it to just kids parents.
A journalist who reported on 9 years old video blog about what happen should know better too. I really doubt â€œOrange Street Newsâ€ have enough regular readers to go viral on its own. I doubt anyone except parents read it. Of course the ethics questions gets more complicated in that case, he was meta-reporting on someone elses site.
If that news going viral is seriously screwing investigation/court/victim family, then CBS news (or whoever) reporting on that site would be better to be postponed. I don’t think it would count as them providing supervision to stranger kid nor anything similar – it would be adults using their brains and ethics when doing their own reporting on what kids (who are not grown yet) do.
As for profanity and insults, I think there exists category of people who live for moments when they can get angry on the internet. It is all about emotional hit from “righteous” outrage and venting unrelated to whatever it is that they rage about right now. I dunno why, but there seems to be a lot of anger that blows on the internet targeting whatever random person gets just a bit more attention.
It is my understanding that her friend the police chief told her nothing other than it was an ongoing investigation. He also told her neighbors nothing. Nor did any of the other police officers on scene. Any information she got was not from those official sources. It was nothing other than speculation. It may have been speculation based on what was observed but she never told us what was observed.
She made legal conclusions and yet she didn’t name any sources or even report what those people saw that lead her to make the conclusions she made. She concluded from somewhere that the husband was a murder suspect but gave no information as to why she is making that conclusion. Did someone see him taken out of the house in handcuffs? Did her friend the police chief tell her this? Did he tell someone else this? Did she overhear it?
She throws out some information about the alleged murder weapon but not where she got that information or how she even drew that conclusion. Did she or someone else see them carry a bloody hammer out of the house in an evidence bag? Did someone tell her this?
It is simply crappy reporting.
Frankly, posting someone’s street address IS identifying them. This was not a murder in X neighborhood or X apartment complex or even on X street. It was a murder at 1234 Elm Street (not actual address). Made within a very short time of the body being removed from the house.
There was a time when reporters covering the “crime beat” did exactly this: Find where the police were, interview people in the area, and report what they found.
Today, it’s “wait for the official story because all that walking around is hard work.”
Reporters today provide titillating information from “sources who are not authorized to speak.” This girl went out, found people who would speak, and reported what she found.
The accused has recourse if he believes lies have been spread about him.
Is it the most professional way to report? Probably not. But professionals built the Titanic. An amateur built the Ark.
“I agree that IF the 9-year-old is lacking in judgment, then she may not make a good firefighter or journalist. All I was saying is that IF she DOES have good judgment (and any other skills necessary, such as being able to drag a 200 pound person), then thereâ€™s no reason she shouldnâ€™t be a firefighter or a journalist. Itâ€™s silly to say that someone canâ€™t do something just because of her age. Her skills are what matter, not her age.”
How do you propose we discover whether any given 9-year-old has all the skills, including the on-the-fly judgment, to safely fight fires, without exposing the 9-year-old and everybody else to the risks that come with letting 9-year-olds fight fires, given the fact that it is next to impossible that any 9-year-old actually does have all those skills?
Being 9 is not a “mental disease;” it is, however, being 9. Humans develop over time. It’s not suggesting someone has a disease to point out that brain development + experience + years to learn lots of necessary information are pretty much definitely lacking to certain degrees in people below certain ages.
“Reporters today provide titillating information from â€œsources who are not authorized to speak.â€ This girl went out, found people who would speak, and reported what she found.”
Unless there is some article that I have not found, she didn’t report what she found. She reported nothing more than the conclusions she drew from what she found without telling anyone what FACTS she actually discovered to support these conclusions.
She reported “husband is murder suspect,” with absolutely no justification for that statement whatsoever, not “eyewitness reported seeing the husband escorted from the home in handcuffs” or “unidentified sources close to the investigation stated that the husband is suspected of killing his wife.” The first is nothing more than the completely unsubstantiated opinion of a 9 year old. The second two are actual information.
@pentamom Let’s try your statement with women instead of children: How do you propose we discover whether any given woman has all the skills, including the on-the-fly judgment, to safely fight fires, without exposing the woman and everybody else to the risks that come with letting women fight fires, given the fact that it is next to impossible that any woman actually does have all those skills?
You say that “brain development” is “lacking” in people below certain ages, which implies that it’s physically impossible for people of those ages to learn good judgment, etc. If it’s physically impossible for someone to have a skill, there is of course no need to test whether they have the skill, and even if they are able to prove that they do in fact have the skill, you still can’t allow them to use it because It’s Impossible, there must have been some mistake.
She is adorable.
I wonder if the guy who emailed her the F-bomb has committed a punishable crime â€“ corrupting the youth or something. Wouldnâ€™t that be funny if he got his butt prosecuted?! Maybe just publishing his name would be sufficient.
More on topic, though, doesnâ€™t our society constantly tell young kids they should be afraid of being kidnapped, raped, and murdered by bad guys? Donâ€™t we make them practice lockdowns in school so they will know how to hide from the machine guns that will be pointed at their heads? Why is it OK to scare kids about what â€œmightâ€ happen but itâ€™s not OK for them to talk about what â€œdidâ€ happen? We are sick.
I can’t believe people are holding a 9yo to some sort of journalistic standards.
One would think news never spreads in the neighborhoods without the TV reporting it first. Really? You really think that every private citizen child keeps quiet about crimes and rumors of crimes because of the rules of journalism?
When I was a kid, I lived in a small town and a guy allegedly murdered his wife. We didn’t even have a local news station, but you’d better believe everyone knew about that murder and who the suspect was before they went to bed that night.
This is a child with a hobby. It would be more helpful to kindly coach her about why an official grown-up journalist would have done some things differently, rather than tell her to shut up and sit down. Or call her names. Really?
“How do you propose we discover whether any given woman has all the skills, including the on-the-fly judgment, to safely fight fires, without exposing the woman and everybody else to the risks that come with letting women fight fires, given the fact that it is next to impossible that any woman actually does have all those skills?”
Not an apt comparison. First, there is no documented scientific proof that the average female brain is less developed than the average male brain in the areas that control judgment (and actually some evidence to the contrary). However, numerous studies on basic brain development show that a 9 year old brain is not even close to fully developed in the areas controlling judgment and impulse control as an average adult brain.
Further, the learning and experience of both men and women are pretty comparable at the same ages. At least in western society where women are educated equally to men. However, 9 year olds do not have the equal opportunity to learn and experience life as a 21 year old. They have simply existed for less time on the planet to gain this learning and experience. And much of the time they have existed so far has been dedicated to learning basic human skills (eating, walking, talking) and not to the higher orders of functioning that are required to have the same judgment as a 21 year old.
Now some will say that they know 9 year olds with better judgment than some adults. I agree. My 10 year old has far better judgment than most, if not all, my clients. That speaks very little of the 9 year old and volumes on the adults in question.
I am not sure why some have to insist that 9 year olds are simply short adults that society is holding back. I am fine with my kid having the development, learning, experience and judgment of a 10 year old. She is an extremely smart, well-versed in life 10 year old with outstanding judgment for her age, but she is still just 10. Her judgment, while excellent for 10 when compared to her peers, would pretty much suck if she were 20.
I used to “publish” a handwritten newspaper when I was of a similar age.
My parents certainly did not review my work before it went out. They probably didn’t even know I was in the news business. 😛
We didn’t have any murders that I recall in that neighborhood, but if we had, I probably would have mentioned it.
I am really really surprised at the reactions here. The child is half-grown and she blabbed some neighborhood information she heard. Who didn’t do that when they were 9yo? Don’t even lie and say you were too delicate for that.
I for one don’t expect 9yos to act like professional adults. I have two 9yo daughters myself, and they are certainly not short adults.
Oh and if we try, we can all think of some famous big real stories where adult, professional journalists published information that proved to be both false and prejudicial. Some of it led to much bigger problems. So once again, the high standards to which some are holding a 9yo with a hobby are baffling. Teach her, don’t trash her.
“This is a child with a hobby. It would be more helpful to kindly coach her about why an official grown-up journalist would have done some things differently, rather than tell her to shut up and sit down.”
A hobby that has the potential to affect people’s lives in serious ways. This is beyond kids whispering about a murder among each other – an activity that had absolutely zero possibility of affecting anyone involved in any way other than some hurt feelings if what was being said got back to certain people. That is a little different than articles and videos posted on a public Facebook page capable of being accessed and shared by hundreds of million people around the globe in a matter of minutes.
While I am not telling her to shut up and sit down in general, I do wish she would do so when it involves serious crimes. That is just not a place for a child’s hobby. There is too much at stake.
“Oh and if we try, we can all think of some famous big real stories where adult, professional journalists published information that proved to be both false and prejudicial. Some of it led to much bigger problems.”
So, someone else did it wrong at some point so it is okay for her to do so too? I guess I don’t understand this idea at all. Basically, it appears to say “adults occasionally mess up too so have at anything you want to try kid regardless of your knowledge, ability, and the potential damage you could cause.”
Under this theory, I could say “I don’t see a problem with my 9 year old driving a car on the road as a hobby. Sure, she has no idea what she is doing so she may hit some pedestrians, but adults have done that too, and with much bigger results if my child doesn’t end up killing the pedestrians, so what’s the problem.”
And, by the way, I am not extremely bothered by this whole thing. I simply don’t see it as a cute story and have absolutely no problem with the idea that writing about murder investigations on a mass media format is not something a 9 year old should be doing. Not because murder is icky, but because they don’t know what they are doing and have no real concept of what is at stake. For them it is exactly what SKL said, a fun hobby. For the people involved, it is a tragedy that is being exploited by a kid for her fun hobby.
I think you guys are exaggerating the difference between everyday hearsay and what this child did.
I think you are exaggerating the damage she may have done by communicating her kid talk in an unusual way.
I think the reactions I see here are sensationalist.
Donna, I think you may be looking at it very narrowly through the eyes of a criminal defense attorney. But even in the neighborhoods of your clients, are you going to tell me that people of all ages don’t spread stuff around long before it is filtered or vetted by police? Are you going to tell me that nobody is accused in their communities before receiving a fair trial? Or are you saying people are going to believe a 9yo girl more than everyone else in a community?
As for it being on a facebook page, I think we exaggerate the effect of information being “out there” for consumption by people not local and not involved in the situation. Wife murders are one of the most common types of murders; we’ve all seen enough of this in our own vicinity; we don’t have any interest in expanding our horizons as far as that goes. We know the facebook page can’t be used as evidence. And if the guy goes on trial for killing his wife, based on some evidence the police gather, then the jury is going to be influenced with or without this kid’s facebook page.
FTR the wife murder in my small town remains unsolved. Every kid at school was talking about the way she was killed, strangled with a cord, and allegedly her 11yo son participated and had her skin under his fingernails. That’s what everyone said. (Yes I know that is horrible; kids are kids.) But the husband was never convicted. The victim was my brother’s sister-in-law, so I know everyone in the family thinks he did it, but nope. No conviction. And he was poor, so it wasn’t because he had some high-paid lawyer to get him off.
“But even in the neighborhoods of your clients, are you going to tell me that people of all ages donâ€™t spread stuff around long before it is filtered or vetted by police?”
Absolutely. But their comments remain largely in their neighborhood and not of interest to anyone else.
I have no idea where the heck this kid’s neighborhood is – it is definitely not in the same town or state as me – and yet this story has been in my orbit pretty much all week. It has been a top story on Yahoo News for the better part of the week. It has been shared by several of my Facebook friends (other than Lenore). It is on CNN.com. In fact, the only news source I’ve seen in days where this story wasn’t was my local alternative newspaper, and it is only published on Tuesdays so maybe it will be there next week.
Well in the girl’s defense, how was she supposed to know that the news media was going to pick this up and spread it all over? And whose fault is it really that you now know about this alleged wife murder? Not hers.
Are people sending hate mail to the media that spread this beyond the usual audience of a 9yo? Are those journalists getting fired since they are adults and should know better?
Oh she certainly should be playing with dolls – more specifically kick-ass Depression era Kit Kittridge of the American Girl doll line, who too is a budding reporter who writes stories on the things others refuse to. My daughter and I heard about this and she was so excited that there was a real Kit out in the world. Good on Hilde for going for her dreams and good on her parents for proverbially flipping the bird on these naysayers. I am now following her Facebook page, though I live nowhere near her.
“Are you going to tell me that nobody is accused in their communities before receiving a fair trial?”
Absolutely, but the press generally doesn’t declare them a murder suspect before the police confirms that there (a) has been a suspected murder and (b) he is a suspect. Word of mouth in their community? Sure. On CNN.com? Not so much.
“Or are you saying people are going to believe a 9yo girl more than everyone else in a community?”
No, I think people tend to believe what they read. Most people who have read this probably accept that this was a murder and that the husband is a suspect because that is what they read. That is why reporters are generally more circumspect in their language in these types of cases.
Further, all these shenanigans surrounding this will be milked by the defense attorney to get a change of venue if the case does go to trial if they don’t like their current venue for some reason (because that is what I would do). If denied, it will be fodder for appeals for years. Either way, it is a lot of real-life work as a result of a child’s hobby.
“how was she supposed to know that the news media was going to pick this up and spread it all over?”
Which is exactly why maybe she should not be weighing in on such serious issues.
Anything put on the internet is there is stay forever and can be used by anyone who wants to use it. If you don’t understand that, you should not be posting things on the internet.
So what is the grown-up journalistic ethics rule about spreading around a small town story posted by a little kid? Shouldn’t it be subject to the same rules as if the adult journalist was covering the story first-hand? Or maybe even more protective rules, considering we’re talking about a 9yo here?
I am very uncomfortable with the idea that young kids’ speech needs to be stifled to protect adults. I’m even more uncomfortable with the idea that adults aren’t held to the same limits.
Short of illegal speech like porn, threats, etc., I think kids should have free speech in their free time, subject to their parents’ discretion.
My own kids don’t use social media freely because I have not decided to give them that freedom yet. That is a parenting decision, and just because I don’t choose it doesn’t mean everyone who does is wrong.
While I think a lot of the comments come from jealous, I think there is a real problem with media in general (including here) called “trial by media”. This actually happened to someone I know. Within a day the media, including and especially NBC, had accused them of the crime, without even using the world allegedly. While I offered to speak to them, instead they decided to do random on the street interviews where they quoted such idiotic things as how horrible it was because there is a school nearby and people stating how he should be sent to jail. So much for American’s understanding the Bill of Rights, I’m sure if they were accused of something they would want an attorney and a trial, not the throw them in jail and throw away the key approach because the media say its so. So on that note I have to agree with Donna that this can be a real problem.
“I canâ€™t believe people are holding a 9yo to some sort of journalistic standards.”
If she were, say, driving a car, would you hold her to some sort of rules of the road? If she were a golfing prodigy who was entering adult golf tournaments, would you hold her to the rules of golf?
When my friend was murdered by her ex-husband, the first one to *break* the story was a local realtor, who happened to be by the township building, and heard of the gruesome discovery of mutilated bodies by a child of the couple over the police radio. It was ALL over social media even before the family was notified or the other children could be pulled out of school. And this was an adult, a well-respected member of the community.
Digital.and social media has changed the way news is delivered, whether we like it or not. You can believe that “amateurs have no business inserting themselves into murder investigations”, yet the reality is most people get their news via Twitter and Facebook and I don’t see this changing.
Independent and self-confident kids don’t fit so well into the socialized livestock pens we like to keep them in.
Like free range chickens that want to bust out of prison and live a real life.
With an actual active brain, a bit of courage, and a real imagination.
(They’re just supposed to be dormant and docile “consumers in training” don’tcha know?)
KInda sad that a kid “goes public” and earns such disrespect – but hey…it’s one more pebble tossed to disturb the ripple rings in an otherwise stagnant pond.
Bust the mold – and when a kid shows up with gumption it winds up being a bit of an embarrassment for all the amateur sedentary armchair critics.
It’s easy to wag a finger. Anyone can do that.
Acting “grownup” requires a bit of moxy.
A 9 year old “covering” a “murder”? I agree completely with the objections some people here have with this whole premise. To call this “cute” or laudable is outrageous. It is only to be hoped that this kid’s interference and “reporting” won’t cause justice to not be served if indeed a crime was committed. Imagine reading about the death of a loved one in a story written by a kid. sure, kids can be independent, self-reliant and definitely are not constantly in danger or should not be supervised 24/7 but celebrating a child covering a potential murder is ludicrous. People who think this is a “cute” story should give their heads a shake.
Then there was a piece earlier about a mother with very questionable decision-making abilities driving without a licence, stopping frequently on a road where that would create a hazard and letting her kids walk on a narrow shoulder of a busy road. Yet, she was celebrated by many here. Or leaving a 9 year-old in charge of a 3 year-old and celebrating their independence and bemoaning that someone actually thought that might not be a good idea.
Seriously? I love the message Lenore usually spreads and the idea of free-range parenting but lately the causes to be celebrated are turning more radical and off-putting and I don’t think that’s good for the movement of free-range kids. Are there no more worthy causes to bring attention to?
@Donna @SKL I would still blame more journalists who spread the word about what she wrote so effectively over whatever 9 years old wrote on her site. She is a kid and I am of the opinion of kids not being small adults. However, if whatever she wrote is really damaging, adults should not spread it further.
Personal blog, even if named “orange street news” is modern equivalent of community gossip. CBS news reporting on that is exactly as CBS news reporting on opinions of pack of kids about murder. No matter how cute, if information in it is really damaging, I would expect adults to be the ones acting responsible about it. If she was wrong to publish it, adults were much more wrong for spreading it further.
However then, maybe we should not call it journalism or some greater proof of how almost adult 9 years old are – and that sentiment was in some comments in here. It is kid writing on her site having misfortune of jumping onto something bigger and then writing text the way 9 years old write (maybe a bit bigger). Maybe the instinctive disproportional adoration every time a kid does something is not helping either, because people then take those things more seriously then they should.
“given the fact that it is next to impossible that any woman actually does have all those skills?”
If you honestly believe it’s actually *next to impossible* that a woman has those skills, then it should be a reasonable question. But then you definitely have some strange ideas.
If you don’t believe that, then you can’t turn it around on me because you already realize it’s a ridiculous comparison.
“You say that â€œbrain developmentâ€ is â€œlackingâ€ in people below certain ages, which implies that itâ€™s physically impossible for people of those ages to learn good judgment, etc.”
No, it really doesn’t imply that. It doesn’t imply they’re unable to “learn good judgment.” It does raise the possibility that their ability to exercise good judgement doesn’t yet extend to every possible situation, no matter how traumatic, confusing, and critical.
Do you dispute that brain development is lacking in people whose brains are not yet fully developed? Or is it somehow possible for something to be fully developed and not fully developed at the same time?
@Aaron Ok, I will tell it out loud: it is physically impossible for 9 or even 12 years old to have as good overall judgement as an adult. It is not just a matter of experience. That does not mean all adults make good judgements all the time nor that 12 years old make bad judgements all the time. But, for example, abstract thinking is not fully there yet. They are also much easier to be influenced and manipulated then adults.
“How do you propose we discover whether any given woman has all the skills, including the on-the-fly judgment, to safely fight fires, without exposing the woman and everybody else to the risks that come with letting women fight fires, given the fact that it is next to impossible that any woman actually does have all those skills?”
It is perfectly possible for a women to have on-the-fly judgement and knowledge. Women have it pretty much as often as men. What women lack is physical force and I claim that it is pretty easy to test whether any given women has the strength needed for firefighters work. Have her run around in firefighters cloth and with firefighters equipment long enough. Have her cut metal the same way as is needed in car crashes.
Those tests already exist for men, firefighters don’t accept every men that signs up either.
The comparison to a 9yo driving is silly. It is clearly illegal for a 9yo to drive, and every 9yo knows it. A poorly driven car can kill a human; a childishly written blog cannot.
And I don’t know that anyone has said this girl’s news story was awesome and should be put up for a Pulitzer. I said she is adorable, based on watching her video of herself reading and responding to the nasty comments she received. She is just a 9yo girl being herself. What some adults wrote to and about her was really hurtful and I liked the way she responded to that.
Now I really want to know what is going to be done to the person who sent her the nasty F-this F-that messages. Let’s see his interview on CNN.
@pentamom I was counting on you believing that discrimination is wrong. Maybe women on average have less upper-body strength, maybe black people on average commit more crimes, maybe men on average aren’t as good with children. But it’s wrong to use those averages to unilaterally forbid everyone in a group from holding certain jobs. People should have a chance to prove themselves.
Of course I agree that children’s brains are not done developing. But it’s dangerous to think like that, because people like to go: Children’s brains aren’t fully developed, AND job X requires a fully developed brain, THEREFORE Alice or Bob must not be allowed to do job X. In fact there is no task that cannot theoretically be performed by a bright 9-year-old, granted it doesn’t require years of experience. We all have different aptitudes; or brains develop at different speeds and in different ways; Alice can do calculus at age 7 but Bob will never be able to do calculus; Bob can give a moving speech at age 8 but Alice won’t be able to give a coherent speech until she’s 14 and Jack will never be able to get on a stage without having a breakdown.
” It is clearly illegal for a 9yo to drive, and every 9yo knows it. ”
It’s not, but whatever.
I don’t understand the desire to have it both ways. If you decide that, sure, a 9 year old can be a journalist, because people can do whatever they want at any age, why turn around and say “you can’t hold a 9 year old to journalistic standards?”
The firefighting example was brought up earlier, and is appropriate since, in fact, the majority of firefighters in the US do it as a hobby. The hobbyists, though, are still held to standards, since not doing so leads to death and destruction. If someone thinks a 9 year old should be allowed to fight fires, would you not hold them to the same standards?
@Aaron I would really like to know how much experience you have with 9 years old. Because, even most developed 9 years old are not like adults. Even former 9 years old child soldiers are not adults and even not like former adult soldiers. Your argument about individual development and skills could hold true for 16-17 years old, but anything below puberty is quite a huge stretch.
The difference between female upper-body strength and male one is quite notable too. We are not talking societal construct nor culture nor bias that disappears after correlating with poverty here neither. Endurance is different, difference between male and female marathon record is small. Aerobic system is totally different. But, the strength is that thing where men really excel compared to women simply by biology.
Just to clarify what I said yesterday. I agree with Donna and that journalist must check facts and not short cut this in order to be the first to relay the story. This is how innocent people get convicted by Facebook and lives ruined. No one should short cut fact checking no matter how cute you are.
I just wanted to point out that TV and reality are connected. (sort of) Dramatized TV does not reflect reality. However, reality starts to reflect TV.
We love shows about murder. We can’t get enough blood and guts. We insist that police wear lipstick and high heels while they measure the maggots on a corps in order to determine the time of death. Wasn’t John Travolta and Samuel Jackson the coolest in Pulp Fiction? I want to be a hit man, mobster, or a crime boss. They always have hot girls swooning all over them.
We are then surprised when a 9 year old wants to report a murder.
It’s a well known fact that what you feed your body will affect your health. If your criteria is, I’ll eat whatever taste good’ then you have to live with the results. However, I’m trying to point out that what you feed your head also has an effect. If your criteria is, ‘I’ll watch whatever is entertaining’ then you also have to live with the results.
This explains it better
TV starts to affect reality… is what I meant to say
I don’t mean to interrupt the back-&-forth fun, but has anybody checked if the person suspected of being the murderer has now been either charged or exonreated by the police?
Aaron, firefighting is not “a task” like doing calculus or giving a speech.
It is a very complex set of tasks requiring a whole set of skills that are not necessarily closely connected to one another.
It may in some abstract sense be theoretically possible that a nine-year-old could do all of those tasks at a level sufficiently reliable to be useful and not endanger himself, the other firefighters, or the victims to a degree greater than if he were not there. It is not possible in the real world that any actual nine-year-old can, and there is no social benefit either to any actual nine-year-old or to society to permit it even if were possible. It is neither a good use of resources nor of intellectual power to argue in favor of removing age restrictions from certain things, or even to argue against the idea that there are simply things that nine-year-olds are not suited for by virtue of their ages.
“There is no social benefit either to any actual nine-year-old or to society to permit it even if were possible. It is neither a good use of resources nor of intellectual power to argue in favor of removing age restrictions from certain things…”
That’s easy for you to say, since you’re not a child. Any child, who is not under pressure to conform, would disagree with you. There was a time when women were not allowed to vote, and men made the literal exact same argument you just made to keep them from voting. (Many women also made the same arguments, because that’s how social norms work). More recently, many women and minorities have been kept out of certain jobs and certain sectors of society by the same arguments. It all seems innocuous enough as long as you are not the one being discriminated against. Now of course you will argue that children are different, that their brains are underdeveloped and they lack experience. The problem with this is that it assumes that all children are the same. It’s true that women generally have less upper-body strength than men, and so generally make worse firefighters. So it seems fine to say women can’t be firefighters, unless you’re a women who wants to be a firefighter and also happens to be sculpted. Then the rule is just arbitrary discrimination and is an outrage. I’m not trying to say that firefighting is easy or that anyone can do it. I’m trying to say that whatever test we use to qualify people for the job should be accessible to anyone of any age, gender, or ethnicity. If children are unilaterally incapable of passing such a test, so be it. It’s a fair test. It makes no sense to forbid then from taking the test. I’m also not trying to say that many or even any children are really capable of being good firefighters or journalists. Since they have never been allowed to do those jobs or even take qualification tests, it’s hard to know. I’m only saying that we should be fair, not ageist or sexist or racist. Driving, I think, is a good example of something simple that many young people would be able to do if they were allowed to. If, say, a 12-year-old can pass a driving test, he should be allowed to drive. If he can pass a driving test and still be a poor driver, then obviously the driving test is a sham and we should get a better one. Judging by the large number of car accidents that happen regularly, it seems very possible that our driving tests are not nearly strict enough.
The firefighter example is also silly because that is a matter of life and death. A 9yo’s local news blog is not.
It’s more like a sport. My kids play 10u recreational soccer. They are not held to the same rules as the World Cup. My kids’ swim strokes at meets aren’t required to have perfect form. My kids’ gymnastics skills are not derided for being below Olympic quality.
When my kids write an essay, CNN doesn’t do a story on how awful their mechanics are compared to the Harbrace Handbook.
“Thatâ€™s easy for you to say, since youâ€™re not a child.”
Oh, please. I’m sympathetic to your desire for anti-discrimination, yet still willing to say that there are some fields that 9-year-old children are not qualified to perform, no matter what their natural aptitudes might be. There are no 9-year-old brain surgeons, no 9-year-old college football players, no 9-year-old fighter pilots. Yes, it was once argued that women could not perform any of these jobs, and, dare I say it, places where people say women are unqualified by reason of gender even today. Not the same thing. (All have been successfully done by women) There was a time when blacks would have been excluded from all of these things, too. Not the same thing. (all of these have been successfully been done by blacks, too.) Can you point to anyone, at any point in time, who was qualified to do any of these things at 9 years old?
“Itâ€™s true that women generally have less upper-body strength than men, and so generally make worse firefighters. So it seems fine to say women canâ€™t be firefighters”
This logic does not follow. Women generally have less upper-body strength than men, and so there will be fewer women who can pass the physical requirements test to qualify as firefighters, so there will be fewer gyno-American firefighters. There are other arguments against hiring the first woman into a field that historically has been all-male (the need for separate facilities, and, in the case of firefighters, quarters) but these arguments fail in a society dedicated to equal opportunity.
“Then the rule is just arbitrary discrimination and is an outrage.”
Yeah, but you made it up. It’s easy to be outraged by a strawman.
“[If} Itâ€™s a fair test. It makes no sense to forbid then from taking the test.”
Except that it’s a waste of resources that could have gone towards testing someone who had a chance of passing it.
Why don’t we let anyone who wants to, sit for the state bar exam? Or the medical boards? Both are limited to people who have certain academic credentials even though it’s entirely possible to learn everything needed to practice law or medicine without ever setting foot in a school. The resources to check out a candidate, however, are best used for those most likely to qualify. So if a 9-year-old shows up at the firefighter academy and says they wanna try out to be a firefighter, they may well let the tyke try to pull the hose, or carry the dummy, for their own amusement, if they have the time. But they aren’t going to consider his (yes, it’s probably a nine-year-old boy, and not a girl) application seriously, nor should they. We’re not going to let him enlist in the Marines, either, no matter how fast his time in the 3-mile run or how accurately he shoots on the rifle range.
Or, consider a TV show that has just started its current season, Deadliest Catch. Are you suggesting that there is, somewhere, a 9-year-old who can do that job? That any 9-year-old’s application should be seriously considered? (If you are a follower of the show, and say “Mandy Hanson”… she’s a little bit older than 9, and PROBABLY benefitted from a tiny bit of nepotism in addition to the many admirable qualities, including what appears to be some fairly intense motivation, she possesses. I’ll freely admit that she is FAR more qualified than I am. But… so were many others who failed.)
“The firefighter example is also silly because that is a matter of life and death. A 9yoâ€™s local news blog is not.”
See how you feel about it when you’re the one being accused of murder.
@Aaron – your argument doesn’t hold water, for the simple reason that, while women can never become men or vice versa ( at a genetic level) and Chinese, say, cannot become white, all children who survive childhood will become adults. They can learn patience and wait for a turn to try their hand at things they don’t have the maturity for at 9. As Andy has suggested, I don’t think you know many 9 year olds. And this child has demonstrated that she doesn’t have the maturity to report on serious situations like the one she’s tried to, for all the reasons Donna has outlined above.
Gee, and here I was thinking this post was about the effing way the effing adult commenters talked to this girl. :-/
James, if I was accused of anything by a 9yo, I would recognize it for what it was. The idle chatter of a 9yo who has no power over me. (The exception being if the 9yo accused me of abusing her, of course.) I don’t believe this girl’s writings have any influence over what the cops and the prosecutor decide to do. Prove me wrong.
It would be a little different if she was lying and alleging that she personally witnessed the crime. An alleged eyewitness account of a 9yo could be taken as evidence by adults. A child saying a guy at xyz house “suspectedly” did xyz is not comparable to that.
@hineata “…all children who survive childhood will become adults…”
Yes, you’ve found the one way in which discrimination against children is actually different from other kinds of discrimination. However, the difference is irrelevant. Even if we somehow had the technology to flawlessly and completely change somebody’s race or sex, racism and sexism would still be wrong. Why? Because whether or not someone can be, say, a good brain surgeon, has nothing to do with race or sex and everything to do with how good a brain surgeon they are. Now, the qualifications for a brain surgeon include a college degree, a medical school degree, and several years of residency, so it’s perfectly reasonable to require that somebody proves he has done those things before he can be allowed to be a brain surgeon. It may be that it’s technically impossible for a 9-year-old to have those qualifications because he would have needed to start before he was born. So be it. But if you are to disqualify him, you must realize that you are disqualifying him on the grounds of insufficient credentials, not on the grounds of age. The credentials are what matters. Age, like race and sex, are irrelevant.
“I donâ€™t think you know many 9 year olds.”
Sure, most 9-year-olds would not make good firefighters. Most 9-year-olds would not make good journalists. Probably no 9-year-olds would make good brain surgeons. But some people are different. Some people are weird. Some people are geniuses. On the other hand there are some jobs that are simple enough that a large number of young people could do them, such as delivering things, building things, taking calls, writing code, etc. I’m reminded of a novel in which an 11-year-old is able to become a successful food critic for a newspaper because she submits all her articles by email and has never actually met the editor and is thus able to pose as an adult. Imagine if she were to be caught; she has already proven that she is good for the job (in fact she is making the paper a lot of money), but nonetheless she would be kicked out just for being 11. What’s the use in that?
@James Pollock “Weâ€™re not going to let him enlist in the Marines, either, no matter how fast his time in the 3-mile run or how accurately he shoots on the rifle range.”
So you admit that you’re excluding him arbitrarily and for no good reason. Or are there some other skills required to be a Marine other than running and shooting? If so, why were they not tested for? If they aren’t tested for, you must find that there are some Marines who don’t have those skills. Then you have got yourself into a conundrum and you’re either dealing with a broken system or one that arbitrarily discriminates.
Aaron asked me, Would you say that about an adult reporter? Sheâ€™s not being cute, sheâ€™s being serious.
Yes, I would say that about an adult reporter. Sanjay Gupta is cute as a bug’s ear. Smart as a whip, too.
SKL said, I wonder if the guy who emailed her the F-bomb has committed a punishable crime â€“ corrupting the youth or something. Wouldnâ€™t that be funny if he got his butt prosecuted?! Maybe just publishing his name would be sufficient.
No, it wouldn’t be funny at all. Publishing his name wouldn’t be funny, either. The guy used a bad word. If Hilde is bothered by that, I am sure she’ll get over it.
Donna raised good points about responsible journalism. I love that Donna expects even nine-year-olds to be responsible journalists. That is pretty solid free-range thinking.
By the way, when I was growing up, farm families fought prairie fires. Kids of all ages helped. I imagine that is still true.
“Now, the qualifications for a brain surgeon include a college degree, a medical school degree, and several years of residency, so itâ€™s perfectly reasonable to require that somebody proves he has done those things before he can be allowed to be a brain surgeon.”
Now who’s being arbitrary? Why does a brain surgeon need a college degree? (The practical answer is that it gives medical-school admissions officers some indication of whether or not a candidate will be able to complete the medical school coursework. But wait… why does a brain surgeon need a medical-school degree? All we care about is that they cut accurately. Surgeons used to also cut hair.)
There’s also a substantial error in the quoted passage… you say that a brain surgeon must have completed a residency. Nope. A first-year resident may be a brain surgeon. Residency is on-the-job training and practice.
And, of course, it’s possible that a brain surgeon…properly licensed and authorized… may never have set foot in a medical school… because the brain in question does not belong to a person, but rather, to an animal.
“Iâ€™m reminded of a novel in which an 11-year-old is able to become a successful food critic for a newspaper”
Novels are fiction. A food critic who cannot review wines will not be successful for long. I recall a novel where an 11-year-old pilots a spaceship. And then there’s Podkayne of Mars. Charming, but fictional.
“are there some other skills required to be a Marine other than running and shooting?”
I suggest you find some Marines, and ask them about it. Seriously, I think it would do you some good.
“If so, why were they not tested for?”
The short answer is, they are. But it is expensive, time-consuming, and resource-intensive.
Okay, so it’s discrimination to say children shouldn’t be brain surgeons. Got it. Question: why isn’t it soft discrimination to say children can be reporters, but aren’t supposed to be held to journalistic standards? It sounds like we’re assuming they can’t do as well as adults, so shouldn’t be expected to – and those falsely accused just have to deal with it.
Oh, yes, we’ll just say “I was falsely accused by a 9 year old, no one will take that seriously.” People might if you let 9 year olds do brain surgery, but, in any case, what happens to the person accused is “oh, isn’t he the guy in that story, the one who killed his wife with a hammer?” The nuances are quickly forgotten.
Anyway, the arguments that banning children from being brain surgeons are the same used against women would imply, logically, that camels can also be brain surgeons.
@James Pollock it sounds like we pretty much agree — qualifications should not be arbitrary. A requirement of a college degree is probably less arbitrary than an age requirement, but still arbitrary. Point taken. It’s not, on the other hand, arbitrary to fire a food critic for refusing to review wines (though it’s perhaps a bit petty). As for your point about exams for Marines being expensive, there’s a simple solution for that: give the candidates the option of financing their own exams.
@Puzzled show me a camel that can reliably perform quality brain surgery, and I’ll let that camel operate on me.
“it sounds like we pretty much agree â€” qualifications should not be arbitrary.”
True enough. But arbitrary measures can stand in for difficult or expensive to measure qualifications.
“As for your point about exams for Marines being expensive, thereâ€™s a simple solution for that: give the candidates the option of financing their own exams.”
You want Marines to pay for their own basic training, in order to eradicate the possibility that our arbitrary age requirement for enlistment isn’t discriminating against a perfectly-qualifed 9-year-old?
You’ve gone around the bend, continued down the straightaway, and nearly completed the bend that’s after that. You’re so far in left field that you’ve left the stadium and are in the parking lots. You’re nuttier than a pecan pie, if the cook left out everything but the pecans. Are you picking up a theme here?
@Aaron “Sure, most 9-year-olds would not make good firefighters.”
No 9-year-old would be a good firefighter. None of them, because they are small and don’t have physical strength. Not even boys, because their bodies did not changed into man bodies yet. That happen during puberty.
Also, most of firefighters work consist of checking regulations (stop the fire before it happens) and taking bodies from crashed cars. If you are not ready to jail 9-year-old for being careless in independent regulation checking work, for taking bribe under pressure from adult or when getting car ready, then 9-year-old can not be firefighter. Legal responsibility comes with that job. Are you ready to jail 9-years-old for any of that?
9-years-old have neither height nor strength for cutting cars and lifting parts. None of them, it is physically impossible at that age.
@andy “9-years-old have neither height nor strength for cutting cars and lifting parts. None of them, it is physically impossible at that age.”
Okay, so give candidates a height test and a strength test. All I’m saying is that if you’re going to restrict who you hire, it should be non-arbitrary, that is, on the basis of actual traits relevant to the job. Of couse requiring a college degree to become a brain surgeon discriminates against poor people, but as James pointed out, we can’t just stop looking at people’s college credentials because we don’t have another efficient way of measuring people. This is a true dilemma. I don’t have an answer for it. But I want people to recognize that it is a dilemma. Many people here offer reasons why it is right to discriminate against children. But if those reasons were to be debunked, those people would just go looking for other reasons. The reasons are not important to them; they just want to keep kids out of the workforce. Discrimination is the goal, rather than an unfortunate fact of life.
I may have been ambitious, arguing that 9-year-olds should be allowed to be firefighters. The minimum age for firefighters is 18. I bet there are plenty of 16-year-olds who would make good firefighters. The minimum age for work in general in the US is 14-18. I bet there are plenty of 9-year-olds who could be baristas (assuming they want to — I’m not advocating forced child labor). In a perfect world we would have non-arbitrary tests to qualify people for these jobs rather than relying on minimum ages.
James, it’s one thing to say that it’s inefficient to put a random 9-year-old through Marine training and therefore we shouldn’t do it. It’s another thing to say, who cares about the 9-year-old, he’s just a kid and needs to learn his place, the world is harsh and life isn’t fair, etc. I want people to recognize that this is a dilemma. If a kid could somehow pull a Mulan and get into the army disguised as an adult (obviously impossible), and earn everyone’s respect and do an excellent job, and subsequently get caught and expelled on account of his age, I would want people to consider that an injustice. If he has proven himself reliably competent, that should be enough.
“If a kid could somehow pull a Mulan and get into the army disguised as an adult (obviously impossible)”
Learn some history. Find out how many military careers began with people enlisting while underage.
Not the issue, however.
Let’s try a different angle. OK to hire a 9YO to be in a porn film? Or shall we assign some arbitrary minimum age before we’ll consider hiring her? If that’s too distasteful to contemplate, how about just a regular old movie, but in a role that calls for nudity?
“The minimum age for work in general in the US is 14-18.”
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson had earned hundreds of millions by the time they were 14. There’s rather more than few other 13-year-olds who are gainfully employed, quite legally, because entire industries are exempted.
@Aaron 9 and 16 years old don’t have full legal responsibility. You can not be firefighter if you do not have full legal responsibility. That is the jail thing I mentioned – you go to jail when you are too careless or someone convinces you to take the bribe.
Adults can sign contracts and law then requires them to follow that contract. Children can sign contract, but law wont fine them for not following nor put them to jail. The age cut off makes perfect sense.
Andy, A society which is OK with young people being firefighters will surely be OK with young people signing contracts. As long as the government takes sufficient measures to ensure that the contract is fair and to ensure that the signer knows what he is getting into (which hopefully it will be doing for people of all ages), I don’t see what the trouble is. It may be that young people in particular need to jump through extra hoops in order to be allowed to sign contracts.
James, I say good job to the film industry. Other industries should follow suit.
As for the porn thing, honestly I think that’s a separate issue and none of the arguments we’ve made about labor laws so far really apply in that situation. It’s a good question what to do about minors who want to be porn stars. In his book Escape from Childhood, John Holt suggests that there should be a mechanism by which minors can emancipate themselves, thus acquiring the legal rights of adults. An emancipated minor could be a porn star or sign contracts or whatever, though it should be difficult to accomplish and it would come at the cost of losing all the protections that are afforded to children. It’s just an idea though. Maybe not a good one.
@Aaron I am asking if you are ok with putting 9 years old to jail or paying big fines the rest of his life as result of that signed contact or work.
You ignore that question.
Andy, I don’t know enough about the legal system to answer that question. Under what circumstances would that happen? Does that happen to some 18-year-olds? It seems like a harsh punishment for anyone.
“An emancipated minor could be a porn star or sign contracts ”
You’re half right. An emancipated minor can sign contracts. (For some reason, you talk about emancipated minors as theoreticals rather than actualities. They are quite real. Historically, the fastest path to emancipation was by marriage, although most states require parental permission for minors to marry. There exists a judicial process for minors to become emancipated, as well.)
See ORS 419B.552, helpfully linked here:
Emancipation doesn’t remove hard age limits. You’re still a minor for purposes of voting, buying intoxicating substances, etc. It also doesn’t affect federal law at all, and the age limit for working in porn is set by federal statute.
The key point, however, emerged when you offered up the “but that’s different!” argument.
@Aaron Firefighters are responsible for checking regulations. So for example, if he would take bribe or caved under pressure from business owner. Or, if he was careless while preparing/maintaining car and equipment and somebody died as a result or there was too much of material damage. Or, if he was careless/lazy while checking possible smaller fire, did not find it and fire would got big.
All of these can happen.
@Andy OK sure, if a 9-year-old was really a firefighter (I must repeat that that would be really surprising as he would have had to prove sufficient maturity and judgment, which is hard for a 9-year-old to do) he should pay whatever price for mistakes that older people have to pay, be it going to jail or paying fines for life or whatever. I mean that if said 9-year-old is identical to his colleagues in all qualities that matter for firefighters, namely strength, skill, maturity, judgment, etc., and the only difference is age, I see no reason why he should be treated any differently in any respect. It bears repeating what you already know, that it would be very surprising if a 9-year-old possessed all of those qualities.
This is just the principle of equality; equality does not mean that children are just short adults, just like old people are not just young people with wrinkles, just like women are not just men with vaginas, just like black people are not just white people with darker skin. There are real differences in aggregate between social classes. Equality means that all classes of people should be afforded the same rights, protections, and opportunities under the law.
@James The difference is a practical one. How do we know whether someone can handle a given responsibility? Sometimes there’s a simple, low-cost test. Sometimes there’s not. To test whether someone can handle being a food critic is easy: look at her portfolio. If it turns out you were wrong, you can fire her. On the other hand, to test whether someone can handle being a porn star is harder. You have to deal with contracts and potential exploitation and far-reaching consequences. Not to mention the legal minefield that is sex, which affects not only the actors but the producers, distributers, and viewers. Were you expecting me to give you a one-size-fits-all solution?
Ultimately the question is how to protect people who need and want to be protected. It is not how to protect young people; that would be missing the point; age is a red herring. To the extent that we have age restrictions for things, it should be because age is a decent heuristic for determining how competent and experienced someone is. But that’s all; it’s only a heuristic, a means to an end, and not an end in and of itself.
“To the extent that we have age restrictions for things, it should be because age is a decent heuristic for determining how competent and experienced someone is.”
And that’s what is. Done and done. It isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough, and EXTREMELY easy to test.
And thatâ€™s what is. Done and done. It isnâ€™t perfect, but itâ€™s good enough, and EXTREMELY easy to test.
Yes, I think we sometimes forget that government isn’t magic, and also doesn’t have infinite capacity to accomplish things (to put it mildly). Administrability matters and gets so little discussion when people are theorizing about what the law ought to be. Oddly enough, it’s often those who, like me, are generally suspicious of both government power and competence who forget that this matters when proposing solutions.
So at what age exactly are you supposed to be aware that there are bad things in the world. I applaud that girl for doing the story and her parents for giving her the freedom to do it.
Ken White at http://mimesislaw.com/fault-lines/thinking-of-the-children-and-the-journalists/8702 has picked up this story.