Difficult stories for young audiences
At Newsround, we're often asked how we tackle difficult and upsetting stories such as the deaths of the two young boys in Manchester and Baby P in London. A good question for any news outlet and particularly pertinent to us as our content is aimed at 6 - 12 year olds. There isn't an easy answer to it nor a one-size-fits-all approach. We start each day with a team meeting where we discuss the news agenda and try to work out what stories have the most relevance to our audience. As a result, there will often be stories that feature prominently on other news outlets that we simply don't cover.
This doesn't mean that we shy away from reporting on difficult and at times distressing stories. For example, we are currently covering the Shannon Matthews trial. When Shannon went missing, the story provoked a huge response from our audience - they had a lot of questions and concerns about it and we felt we had a responsibility to put it into context and give them as much information as possible in a non-sensationalised way. Now that a trial has started, we thought it appropriate to follow the story through.
Another deciding factor for us when dealing with difficult stories, can be the amount of coverage it gets elsewhere. If our audience has heard about a distressing incident through other means they'll often contact us with questions about it. When that happens we will often try to break it down, contextualise it and provide as much reassurance as possible. Often this is about the language we use and the pictures we broadcast but it can also involve us liaising with child psychologists behind the scenes to get their advice and to ensure we are on the right track. Clearly we never want to scare our audience so a great deal of thought goes into everything we do.
We are in regular contact with children via e-mail and through school visits and this helps us gauge their reaction to stories, their concerns and their level of understanding. We also aim to provide additional information, advice and guidance online and we know that many schools use our content to explain tough news issues.
It can still be controversial though. Some parents prefer to shield their children from certain issues and don't want them featured on children's TV. Whilst others rely on a programme like ours to help explain world events. We work hard to straddle that divide. At the end of the day, we want to give children information about the world they live in and provide them with the means to discuss current issues and hear the views of their peers. Listening to our audience on a daily basis is undoubtedly the most valuable tool we have when working out what to cover and how to cover it.