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Media & PR

Your handy guide on how to be a journalist

A forest

There are as many children stuck up trees in this photo as in the story.

 

UPDATE: For a different interpretation of events, especially that final quote below, see Heresy Corner.

There’s nothing like a practical example for learning a skill. So here’s a little example of how to take a story and then carefully apply journalistic skill and judgement to make it into one of those proper stories they put in newspapers. Or something like that…

The core of the story is this: child climbs up tree, child climbs down tree, stranger walks up to child, school staff walk up to stranger, stranger walks off, police have a word with stranger.

Fact 1: “At no point was any child ever stuck in a tree”.

How do you report this? Easy:

  • TEACHERS LEAVE BOY OF 5 STUCK UP A TREE (Daily Express)
  • A FIVE-YEAR-OLD pupil was left stuck up a tree (The Sun)
  • She spotted the stuck five-year-old at Manor School in Melksham, Wiltshire (Metro)
  • TEACHERS refused to rescue a five-year-old boy stuck up a tree (Daily Star)

 

Fact 2: The child was in the tree for no more than “ten minutes”.

How do you report this? Easy:

 

Fact 3: Because no child was stuck, there was no child to rescue.

How do you report this? Easy:

  • Teachers leave boy, 5, stranded in tree because of health and safety (Daily Mail)
  • A DAREDEVIL five-year-old boy who got stuck up a tree at school had to stay there for nearly an hour – because health and safety rules banned teachers from rescuing him (Daily Express)
  • A FIVE-YEAR-OLD pupil was left stuck up a tree at school because a bizarre health and safety policy BANNED teachers from helping him (The Sun)
  • TEACHERS refused to rescue a five-year-old boy stuck up a tree because of daft health and safety rules (Daily Star)

 

Fact 4: A stranger walked up to the tree, by which time “the child was standing on the path, having exited the tree” on his own.

How do you report this? Easy:

  • The boy was only rescued after 45 minutes in the tree when passer-by Kim Barrett, 38, noticed the child and helped him down herself (Daily Mail)
  • The child was only rescued when a woman noticed him and helped him down herself (The Sun)
  • The stranded pupil was finally rescued from the 20ft tree when passerby Kim Barrett spotted his plight and helped him down (Daily Express)
  • She came to the aid of a five-year-old boy who had been left on his own in a tree (Daily Telegraph)

 

Fact 5: The child’s mother says, “I am amazed at the gullibility of the press and some of the general public. My child was never stuck in a tree and was very unhappy about a stranger approaching him in his school … The staff were doing their job and were fully aware that my son was there. They were also aware that a stranger was approaching him. They intercepted her to ensure there was no possibility of my son being removed from the premises.”

How do you report this? Easy:

  • Err, you don’t.

 

Hat-tip: Andreas Christodoulou for ideas and information behind this post.

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