After a drive-by shooting involving two teens, Chicago CBS affiliate WBBM interviewed a few preschool-aged criminologists who happened to witness the incident—including a four-year-old boy who had some pretty "scary" things to
When a freelance photographer reporting for WBBM asked the little fellow if he feared all the drive-bys and other violences in his neighborhood, the little boy sassily told them that he did not—because when he gets older, "I'm going to have me a gun!" The Maynard Institute, a media-focused nonprofit, transcribed the conversation between the cameraman and the boy as broadcasted by WBBM:
Boy: "I'm not scared of nothing."
Reporter: "When you get older are you going to stay away from all these guns?"
Reporter: "No? What are you going to do when you get older?"
Boy: "I'm going to have me a gun!"
Bartelstein ended the story saying, "that was scary indeed."
Surely some of the viewers watching at home instantly dropped their forks into their nutritious, microwaved Salisbury steak TV dinners, turned to each other with shocked expressions on their faces, and said stereotype-reinforcing things about African-American males. It's how things often go.
As an unedited version of the interview shows, however, the boy's words were taken completely out of context. He wants a gun because he wants to become a police officer and bust all the drive-by types shooting up his neighborhood. Which—unless you're homeless and schizophrenic—isn't "scary" at all.
A representative for WBBM has issued a public apology on behalf of the station:
We accept responsibility for the mistakes that were made, both in the reporting and editing of the story. The video of the child should not have aired. As soon as news management identified the problem, they took immediate steps to ensure that the video would not air in subsequent newscasts. In addition, we have followed up with our employees to make sure that we all have learned from the mistakes that were made.
It seems pretty Journalism 101 that you're supposed to present sources' quotes in a way that conveys the true meaning of their words, instead of the total opposite meaning. But maybe there's no time to teach that kind of basic reporting guideline in J-School anymore, what with all the emphasis on using the right equipment and learning how to write compelling tweets.