World Association of News Publishers

Children's editions worldwide on the Charlie Hebdo attack: real -- if very careful -- reporting

Children's editions worldwide on the Charlie Hebdo attack: real -- if very careful -- reporting

Article ID:



The brutal attack on the staff of the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly in Paris forced some hard, new thinking about how much to tell and how to frame it for some print and online youth edition editors around the world.

Editors took the opportunity to explain that the attack was also against freedom of expression and that it produced massive and worldwide solidarity. They also explained terrorism and several other related topics. They were joined in this quest to help children understand by some new in education divisions of national news publisher associaions and media literacy organizations.

Denmark's new weekly children's edition, Kids' News (published by Berlingske), decided to devote considerable space to the attack and related issues. This is not surprising as the controversy had first arisen in Denmark when the daily Jyllands-Posten printed several caricatures of the prophet Mohammad, including one with a bomb in his turban. An unusual Page 1 for Kids' NewsAn unusual Page 1 for Kids' News
France's Charlie Hebdo had run cartoons of Mohammad in solidarity with that newspaper.

The edition for the week of 12 January included four pages telling the facts of the attacks, plus:

  • The front page completely done by staff cartoonist Bob Katzenelson.
  • An editorial. "We do not normally have [an editorial] in the paper," said Kids' News editor,  Jonas Stenbæk Christoffersen. He said the purpose is to explain "why this is an important story for all of us." 
  • An interview with a cartoonist about the role of making political satire and political drawings at Charlie Hebdo and elsewhere. 
  • An interview with a Danish school class about their thoughts. 
  • An interview with a terrorism expert about whether or not this could happen in Denmark. "This was top of mind when we asked our panel of children what their thoughts were regarding Charlie Hebdo," Christoffersen expained.
  • Images of front pages of Charlie Hebdo and quotes from different parties such as muslim organizations, Obama, etc.

Christoffersen noted several reasons for making the cover a set of cartoons: "Our coverage inside the edition is out of the ordinary, so we wanted to make a front page, that summed up this unusual approach. Also, cartoons are central in this case, so it made sense to us to mark the story that way on the front page. Furthermore, we have an audience who are used to cartoons, but not newspaper cartoons as much. This was a great way to show what a cartoon can do in a newspaper."

Norway youth edition coverage and cartooning action for children at a national commemorationNorway youth edition coverage and cartooning action for children at a national commemorationIn Norway, the news in education division of the national media, cartoon and journalists groups joined in an action in which children drew cartoons about the attack on giant sheets of paper during a ceremony at Oslo University. A twitter hashtag accompanied the action: #Fritegning  (#feel free to draw)

Guri Leyell Skedsmo, editor of the weekly Aftenposten Junior in Norway which targets 6- to 12-year-olds said “the decision was a difficult one."

“It is not our main story on the front page," she said. "We are trying to soothe AND be realistic.”

Skedsmo put the coverage in the World News section on page six. The main story titled, "The attack that shocked the world", had a straighforward description of the attack plus answers to some key questions by one of Norway’s most prominent experts on terrorism: What is it? Why does it happen? who does it? What about Norway? should I be afraid? Can it happen in Norway?

The view was similar at Kidsweek (for ages 7 to 12) the Netherlands. “We don’t want to “hide” news from our readers or make cruelty sound less bad, but we don’t want to frighten them either, said Kim Einder, online editor.

The deadline for the print edition was just minutes after the attack forcing an online solution. “We couldn’t change the week’s issue so we posted an article on our website explaining the situaion in a question-and-answer format: What happened? What type of magazine is it? Who did it? And maybe most important – Could this happen [here], too?”

Coverage by editions for teenagers in The Netherlands and Hong Kong.Coverage by editions for teenagers in The Netherlands and Hong Kong.For 7Days (for ages 12-16), there was time to change the print edition to add a news story plus reactions from three teenagers in Paris. “On the website we published the news itself, a background story about Charlie Hebdo, a photo gallery and a story about why this attack differs from others because of freedom of speech, press freedom and democracy.

The Youth Post edition of the South China Morning Post, which also targets teenagers, included an opinion piece that included a caution "not to slide into a backlash against the entire muslim community.  

Daily editions had both less time to ponder and more pressure on content.

Readers start at age 6.Readers start at age 6.
Play Bac Presse of Paris has three age-specific dailies for children ranging from age 6 to 15 that go to its readers by mail. It immediately made the editions about the attack available for free via PDF downloads on its site.

The way it handled the stories was nearly routine for the newsroom as the approach to news has remained constant since founding the first newspaper, Mon Quotidien, exactly 20 years ago as of 5 January. That approach is very similar to advice the editor, François Dufour, offered to parents about how to talk to their children about the attack: deal with the actual reality but in age-specific ways: 

“In some ways, there is no difference by age groups: The reality is the same for all. If reality is shocking, it is normal for your child to be shocked. Like you!,” he said.

However, “parents must adapt to the issues of children according to their ages. Giving more detail to the oldest. Thus, the younger the child is, the more you have to offer ‘small talk,’ making even short sentences and even simpler. Give more attention to  vocabulary. For example, while the the words "Republican values" may be understandable to a 16-year-old, they will need explaining to an eight-year-old.” (Click here for the full story in our World News Publishing Focus about the coverage by Play Bac Presse of Paris, which has been doing daily newspapers for kids for 20 years, and which I consider the "Gold Standard" for this kind of work. A.Mc.)

In Germany, the national wire service DPA (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) has a special news service with stories for children "presented in a way that helps them understand what's going on without being afraid of what's coming next," according to Christian Röwekamp, head of DPA corporate communication. The news team decided to "avoid explaining the incident with all its voiolent and brute details" but instead concentrated on questions a 6- to 12-year-old might have: "What is solidarity? Whare are so many people at home and abroad now telling the world that they were Charlie? What is satire?"

What to say provided more of a dilemma for the team at News-0-matic*, a new digital news service for children based in the United States. “There was a lot of internal debate,” said Russ Kahn, the editor.   At first, they did not cover the story, partly mindful of their youngest readers, as young as six and seven. “Our on-staff child psychologist said it would create anxiety not knowing that there are murderers on the loose, especially in light of the fact that this stemmed from cartoons.” However, they decided it was important to cover the story, partly because it became clear so many readers already had an idea about what was going on. Kahn noted in his blog, "After all, 9-year-old Thelma wrote this note in our News Room: 'Hey Russ. Did you hear what happened in Paris yesterday? It almost made me cry when I heard it.'    

News-o-matic readers send the editor up to 3000 drawings each month.News-o-matic readers send the editor up to 3000 drawings each month."We decided to focus not on the attack itself but on the unifying message that the press cannot and will not be intimidated. It’s why our article began with the concept of a free press and ended with the fact that journalists will print a million copies of the next edition of Charlie Hebdo — on time. " He has since received several drawings from readers, such as the two pictured above

The full story about the decision is at:

*News-o-matic, produced by press4kids,  has an impressive interaction with the 90 000 unique readers it has each month. What Kahn refers to as his “favorite stat” is the 2000 to 3000 drawings they receive each week “and just as many comments and questions.

NOTE - WAN-IFRA provides materials to help teach children and teenagers about freedom of expression and of the press and about those who die in its service. Click HERE for details. 


Aralynn McMane's picture

Aralynn McMane


2015-01-09 15:16

Author information

Related nodes


Aralynn McMane's picture

Aralynn McMane


2016-04-27 14:22

The editor of three age-specific dailies for children, François Dufour, provides some advice that editors and publishers who want to help parents and teachers deal with explaining horrific events in the news.


Aralynn McMane's picture

Aralynn McMane


2015-01-10 10:03

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) helps newspapers, parents and teachers work together to engage the young to create a literate, civic-minded new generation of readers all over the world. Read more ...