TV station portrays little, law abiding boy as a thug

theGRIO REPORT - After a drive-by shooting involving two teens, Chicago CBS affiliate WBBM interviewed a few preschool-aged criminologists...

Chicago news station WBBM-TV has come under fire for misconstruing the words of an African-American child in an interview at a crime scene. Last month, the news station aired a piece about a drive by shooting in which two teenagers were injured. At the scene of the crime, a freelance photographer asked a 4-year-old boy who had reportedly seen the shooting if what had happened made him scared. According to the Maynard Institute, the transcript of the edited piece that aired last month reads as follows:

Boy: “I’m not scared of nothing.”

Reporter: “When you get older are you going to stay away from all these guns?”

Boy: “No.”

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.”

Co-anchor Susan Carlson exclaimed, “hearing that little boy there, wow!””

What the aired piece failed to include was the rest of the little boy’s interview — in which he clarifies that he will have a gun because be wants to be a police officer. Maynard Institute reports that Shawnelle Richie, the director of communications for CBS 2, freely admitted that the piece should not have been aired, saying, “We acknowledge that a mistake was made, both in the reporting and editing of the story.” She did not however clarify or mention that the boy’s comments were misconstrued.


On top of interviewing a child (and a possible witness) at a crime scene, Dori J. Maynard, President of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education feels that the “Airing a video of the boy saying he wanted a gun that edits out the context simply reinforces stereotypes that African American males are violent, even preschoolers.”

President of the NAACP Ben Jealous called the incident “disturbing,” saying that as a journalist “it’s important to tell the whole truth, because when you tell half a truth you’re, in effect, lying,”

WBBM-TV has released the following statement in response to the incident:

“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.”