Dear Newspaper Editors, what should I tell my kids who have questions about this?





This morning my seven-year-old son asked me the most uncomfortable question I’ve ever been asked as a parent.

As he stood dressed in his green and gold school uniform, he looked up at me with his dark eyes and asked me why the black ninja was trying to cut the bald man’s head off.

Did you cringe as you read that?

Because I cringed as he said it.

But for a seven-year old whose world is Lego Ninjago and Minecraft diamond-swords that’s what he saw.

He saw a bad guy dressed in black. He saw a glistening knife. He saw a man about to die for a cause that most of us cannot understand.

wasn’t in jail

It was a complicated conversation after a complicated morning.

Working as the News Editor for Mamamia, I get up early to write the daily news wrap. The horrors of the world screamed at me this morning from Twitter. Outrage over the beheading of James Wright Foley, anger at newspaper publishing front-page photos of the act taking place.

Many people feel that newspapers have a duty to print such atrocities on their front pages; they say the world needs to know and that such horrific things can’t be stopped unless they are talked about.

The hashtag #ISISmediablackout quickly gained momentum yesterday after the YouTube video of Foley was broadcast.

It is an age-old debate for photo editors worldwide whether to print graphic images, and it is one where my feelings as a journalist and as a parent clash.


Just in the last few months we have seen the twisted half-naked bodies of the MH17 victims splayed out on the front page of The Australian. We have seen a semi-blacked out picture of a jihadist’s son holding what was purported to be a soldier’s severed head. We have seen the brutality of the Gaza conflict almost daily and now we have seen this.

And yet it isn’t anything new, is it?

How many of us remember the icy hand of death that woke up Australia on the morning of 9/11? The front-page images, helpless, torturous of victims jumping from the World Trade Centre.

Or John Tulloch the Australian burnt nearly beyond recognition, bleeding swathed in bandages staring at us from the front pages the day after the London bombings in 2005.

Shauna and her three kids.

As I attempt to explain to my son that the bad guys are trying to frighten the good guys, that the bad guys have said they want the good guys to stop dropping bombs on them, that the bad guys will be caught and put in jail, he looks at me with dark flashing eyes.

He says he hopes the Americans find the bad guys and “smash their heads in”.

Again I wince and muddle through an explanation of how jail might be a better option.

The media make it tough to protect our kids, to shield them from this kind of violence, and yet the terrorists, the heartless fuckers who destroy innocent lives half way across the world make even tougher to explain why the senseless violence takes place in the first case.

How do you protect your kids from the atrocities in the news? 

For more information on James Foley try these:

James Foley’s parents speak to the media.

Don’t share photos of the moment James Wright Foley died. Share this.

US journalist reportedly beheaded by ISIS militants.