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Representing Traumatic Events in Children’s News

Grant Holder: Dr. Cynthia Carter

Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) - extended study leave

The project explored how traumatic events are represented in children’s television news (Channel 4’s First Edition), the sorts of judgements news producers and journalists make about language and images so as to ensure their reporting is appropriate for children, and how children make sense of shocking news stories. During the period of research leave, I examined the language and images First Edition used to speak the reality of the traumatic events for its audience, the narrative conventions in operation, and the vocabulary used. Also important will be the analysis of production values, not least the devices used to enhance the newsreader’s authority, legitimacy and prestige.

I also examined the children’s letters sent to First Edition’s producers, with a particular focus on those pertinent to September 11. This data was supplemented with analyses of children’s published postings appearing on children’s news websites, such as those associated with First Edition and Newsround. Additionally, I undertook semi-structured interviews with First Edition producers and journalists to help to identify what they consider to be the most pressing issues associated with representing traumatic events to children. Finally, focus group interviews were undertaken with children and their teachers. Children were asked what they think about the news in general and more specifically in relation to the reporting of September 11, 2001 (adult and children’s news).