Chicago TV News Station, WBBM, Distorts What a Four-Year-Old Black Child Said About Guns
WBBM-TV, the CBS affiliate in Chicago, has come under fire in recent days for broadcasting an interview with a four-year-old boy, and deliberately taking his quote out of context to completely pervert its meaning.
The story aired on June 30, as part of a package about overnight violence around the city.
“Kids on the street as young as four were there to see it all unfold, and had disturbing reactions,” then-anchor Steve Bartelstein said, leading into video of an interview with the four-year-old boy.
When asked, “What are you going to do when you get older?” the boy responds: “I’m going to have me a gun!”
“That is very scary indeed,” Bartelstein adds.
At the the very least, the video attempts to show that even four-year-old black children fear and yet are attracted to the power of guns and of gunplay. At the very worst, it suggests that black boys can be dangerous and violent. What the child actually said, in response to a gang-related drive-by shooting in his South Side Chicago neighborhood, was edited out until the news station was forced to make some kind of retraction.
The reporter was interviewing all who were near when the teenagers in question were shot. At best, most were children, although some adults also spoke on camera. It was hot that night, as it was that day. People were outside, on the street corners, on the porches and on the stoops, trying to stay cool. People were probably quietly visiting with each other, “hollerin'” at each other, hanging out, minding their own damn business, until this idiot drove by and opened up.
The edited news story video is shown first in the video, and then the full interview with the child, which was recaptured from the discards, is run.
You may be surprised at what this little boy actually said and meant.
Observers say this is clearly a violation of journalistic ethics. “This decision reveals a lack of understanding of the very basic tenets of journalism,” Hagit Limor, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, told the Maynard Institute.
According to UNICEF’s guidelines about interviewing children, reporters “have a responsibility to portray children fairly,” and there is doubt as to whether such a young child should even be identified on television in the first place. Especially given that he was apparently witness to a violent crime, both the trauma that he suffered and the possibility of endangering his safety might have been reason enough to at least obscure his identity.
Beyond the ethical lapse, however, some argue that the story does even worse in its portrayal of the African-American community. “Airing a video of the boy saying he wanted a gun that edits out the context simply reinforces stereotypes that African American males are violent, even preschoolers,” said Dori J. Maynard, the Institute’s president.
Once known as the Institute for Journalism Education, the Oakland-based nonprofit organization was renamed The Maynard Institute in 1993 for its late co-founder, Robert Maynard, a black man who went on from being a Washington Post reporter to becoming the owner and editor of The Oakland Tribune. It serves to educate and train young writers and journalists of color for positions in the news media. Especially, management positions. All in order to keep travesties like this from occurring.
In short, you cannot always trust what the news media may tell you about people, places and things. Especially about little babies like this. It’s apparent that when one watches the entire interview, that all he wants to do is to stop the shooting. I mean, imagine: when the shooting began, everyone in the vicinity screamed, scattered or ducked for cover. Everything was fine, until… One would think that they were all gang-banging there 24-7. One hundred people may be going to work, going to school, cooking, mowing the lawn, but five people may be banging–and they’ll focus on the five as indicative of the whole.
Unfortunately, in this day and age, people always claim that they have no time to do the digging it takes to understand or fully appreciate what happened. Instead, what results and what is reinforced is more prejudice, misconceptions and division. WBBM was caught this time, but there are other TV news stations and other news outlets that don’t run retractions, and aren’t made to contemplate what they’ve insinuated. Although it only ran once, sometimes once is enough to damage. And really, they know better.
They KNOW better.