Interviewing Kids In the Wake of a Tragedy

Friday, December 21, 2012


A lot of criticism was leveled at the press for interviewing the child survivors of the Newtown school shooting in its immediate aftermath. Bob talks to WABC-TV reporter Bill Ritter about whether it's ever appropriate to interview a child in the moments after a disaster of this nature, and whether the very act of interviewing a child could contribute to the childrens' trauma.

Emiliana Torrini- Dead Duck


Bill Ritter

Hosted by:

Bob Garfield

Comments [10]

William Caxton from Anaconda, Montana

Good to see other listeners also recognized how self-serving, disingenuous, and generally bogus Mr Ritter's arguments were. In my opinion, these victim interviews are purely exploitive; they may gratify the prurient impulses of the audience but serve no public or social purpose. At root, this is capitalism, baby! Whatever can be sold, will be sold. Individuals may have consciences and moral compunctions, but the capitalist system doesn't -- if any corporation refuses to engage in exploitation, it will be overrun by others with no such limitations.

The Werther Effect is relevant to this topic: after any highly-publicized suicide or murder, suicides or murders tend to increase (for about the next ten days). This has been well-established; it's discussed in "Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion", by Robert Cialdini. Do the news media respond responsibly by limiting their coverage of these shocking incidents? Of course not; that might cost them money -- "and if I don't do it, someone else will."

Jan. 05 2013 11:57 PM

Ritter and most "journalists" are cowards... Hiding behind "finding out the facts to help prevent future tragedies" is hogwash. Eye witnesses have proved time and again to be the most unreliable source of information. I'm sure Ritter and his ilk know this. Those reporters used these kids for their sensationalist garbage machine... Period.

Dec. 31 2012 04:46 PM

Like Curt I also caught the use of "automatic weapon" (at about 2:05, "how many pops they heard from the automatic weapon discharging") in this segment when it's well documented that the gunman used a semi-automatic. I'd think a show about the media should be especially careful to get its facts straight.

Dec. 31 2012 01:03 PM
Nate from Los Angeles

I was disappointed that Mr. Ritter did not once defend interviewing kids on it's own merits, only by comparing it to the equally dubious practices of interviewing adult victims of tragedy or of showing images of destruction. Thank you, Bob, for pressing the issue.

Dec. 24 2012 11:55 AM

Bob used the phrase "automatic weapon", lets fact check that one folks, its a "semi-automatic weapon". Those four letters completely change the definition.

Dec. 24 2012 10:24 AM
Stacy Harris from Nashville, TN

Even with the child's parents' permission, it is never appropriate for a reporter to interview a child following a mass murder.

Dec. 23 2012 03:02 PM

Congratulations to Bob for his neutrality. It allowed WABC-TV reporter Bill Ritter, all by himself, to show how his self-serving and self-aggrandizing approach to his ratings, no matter the damage. I suspect that the damage Bill has inflicted may be very great indeed.

Dec. 23 2012 12:14 PM

As noted by others Mr. Ritter's self serving rationalization is bull. I do hope he gets an earful from friends and family about how offensive his insipid sorry excuse for sticking a camera in the faces of young children is and maybe then he will think about something else besides rating. Kevin Stevens is right: this is the stuff that explains why people are generally angry at the media.

Dec. 22 2012 09:05 PM
Kevin Stevens from Buffalo, NY

Bill Ritter is representative of what makes so many people angry at the modern media. He is placing his desire to get the story above the plain harm he is doing to children. His justification that lot of people watched the coverage makes his motivation clear: ratings.

The emotional pornography that Mr. Ritter is purveying is not "providing insight", it's taking advantage of the fragile state of children and their parents. His comparison to the 33 car pile up is apt as both that story and interviewing children focus not on anything substantive of how to deal with these events but provide disturbing eye candy.

Dec. 22 2012 07:29 PM

Every one of Mr Ritter's responses were self serving to his business and the quest for more eyeballs on their coverage... I find his statements about interviewing children as a valid approach both beyond belief and offensive, and will seek other venues rather than ABC to find my news.

Dec. 22 2012 03:32 PM

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