YOUR VIEW: Twelve-Year-Old on Camera Draws Criticism
COLUMBIA - KOMU 8 brought you the story June 27 about a twelve year old girl who scared off an intruder using knowledge from a TV show. Our reporter Lauren Bale talked to the girl, Marilyn Wildflower of Columbia, the day after a man broke into the girl's room and attempted to assault her.
When Bale went to the scene of the break-in, Marilyn's parents encouraged her to interview Marilyn herself, because they were proud of her and wanted to share her story. KOMU News Director Stacey Woelfel said Bale made the right decision in talking to Marilyn. "It wouldn't have been much of a story without it, frankly. That's what made it a story that stood out and why so many people looked at it online," Woelfel said.
Most of the viewer input on the story was positive, with many viewers commending Marilyn on her bravery, but some viewers took issue with KOMU's decision to interview a twelve-year-old.
Viewer Martha Palmer commented on KOMU's facebook page, saying, "I cannot understand why you would air an interview with her on camera that was the victim in the home break-in on Bicknell St. That was the most insensitive act your station had ever done. I thought it was appalling."
Woelfel said he understands that sort of reaction. "For some people I think there's a natural, fearful reaction when children appear in the media in any way. They think somehow that being on TV or on the web is going to bring harm to a child and in most cases of course that's not the case," Woelfel said.
Nevertheless, there are certain precautions when it comes to interviewing children. KOMU's Managing Director Elizabeth Frogge, explained, "We always teach our student reporters to be more sensitive when they are interviewing children: they have to get parents' permission. Again, in this case, Lauren wasn't going out seeking an interview with a twelve-year-old girl, it just happened that the story revolved around her."
Woelfel said in the future the station would approach a similar situation the same way.