Newtown shooting and protecting child interviewees

In light of the Newtown shooting in the US, where media were interviewing very young children, we have to restate our policies ensuring we act as a “safe harbour” (principle 8):

All children under the age of 14 are guaranteed anonymity unless waived by a parent or guardian (directly or through schools, youth clubs, or other organisations). Details of those children [for example, names attached to court proceedings but not published], regardless of whether they are available via social media or through other media outlets, are archived for legal reasons but never revealed. Those children can later choose to waive their anonymity above the age of 14. A single identifying detail, such as an age, or home community, can be used in a publication, with permission, and provided it cannot be used to identify the child from within We cannot ensure anonymity across all media outlets, only our own, but take our position seriously regardless.

Young people aged 14 to 16 are not named automatically but can waive anonymity themselves. We advise those young people to speak to an adult before making that choice but do not enforce any restriction on their right to free expression.

Any young person aged 14 to 18 is advised to use Tor software to ensure maximum anonymity should they feel necessary in provided story tips etc. Any photos submitted will be checked and GPS information removed. Social media messages such as Tweets to, when the age of the person is known, will not be repeated where it would expose the social media identity of the individual.

Photographs or videos in public places cannot always ensure children will not be within frame, particularly for breaking or major news events. But we respect the need for the privacy of a child and will do our best to limit such examples to those of significant public interest (for example, children injured within a conflict zone).

There are also examples in the public interest where children under the age of 14 must be interviewed, such as examples of child exploitation or abandonment, outwith permission of an adult. Anonymity is guaranteed and reporters take interactions with children very seriously, and specific training to interview children will be sought where possible.

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Comments Guidelines

We must tread a line between principles 1, 8 and 11 in particular when it comes to comments on our reporting. Everyone has a right to be heard, but we must protect some members of the public on occasion and promote RESPONSIBLE debate and mediation. That means some comments must be removed or edited.

For example, if a comment mentioned criminal allegations against an individual, this would be removed as it might identify innocent individuals or victims.

Harassment of fellow commentators will not be tolerated, nor will discriminatory or offensive language, particularly if made from behind false identities or anonymity.

Please apply this basic approach when considering a comment: would you make it to a parent or close friend? We encourage readers to discuss stories with friends, family or anyone and then return to make comments. Then you will be meeting principle 11 as well.

And remember, as a news editor once said, you only get five exclamation marks in life, so use them sparingly.