How old is old enough to cover a homicide?

Posted April 12, 2016

A young reporter's age has become a topic of debate after she beat other media to the story of a local homicide. Now 9-year-old Hilde Kate Lysiak, the publisher of the Orange Street News, is countering claims that she's too young to be covering such heavy stories and should, instead, be playing with dolls and having tea parties.

The controversy centers on the young reporter's coverage of a homicide that occurred in her town of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. She got a tip there was a killing, verified it with police and then interviewed neighbors near the scene, filing her story long before her grown-up competitors reported anything. Reports later said that police had asked those news outlets not to write about it. No one apparently thought to ask the young reporter, and it's not clear whether she would have held her story.

In an op-ed column for The Guardian, the girl wrote that "Yes, I am a nine-year-old girl. But I’m a reporter, first. I report the news. And so long as there is news to report in Selinsgrove, I’m going to continue trying my best to give the people the facts."

She wrote that criticisms that she should either be a "cute" reporter or is too young to handle a serious story is just another example of grown-ups not expecting much of kids, or actively discouraging them from trying to do great things and be taken seriously.

She concluded her piece: "And for those of you who think I need to mind my place, I’ll make you a deal. You get off your computer and do something to stop all the crime going on in my town and I’ll stop reporting on it."

Reaction to a child covering a homicide ignited discussion and criticism everywhere from Facebook to The Washington Post, according to a recap by CNN, where reporter Kelly Wallace wrote that "after Hilde's exclusive, commenters took to social media. While many praised the pint-sized journalist, calling her a 'Nancy Drew' destined for a Pulitzer, others raised questions, including whether it was appropriate for a 9-year-old to be covering a violent death."

The girl has grown up tagging along with her journalist father.

Wrote Wallace, "Hilde's father, Matthew Lysiak, whom we could not reach for comment, told The Washington Post that his daughter has been in the housing projects in the Bronx with him as he reported stories and that she doesn't have a lot of fear. "She just wants to get the stories out and she really wants to report real news," he said.

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