A North East regional daily has stopped covering stories about primary schools on part of its patch after teachers refused to let children be named in photos.
Northern Echo editor Peter Barron made the decision after one of the paper’s photographers turned up at a Middlesbrough primary school for a story on a successful road safety initiative to be told that it was now policy not to give the names of children to newspapers.
The Echo checked with Middlesbrough council which confirmed that primary head teachers, without consulting local media, had made the decision because of fears that paedophiles could use the information to target children.
In a blog post, Peter announced that as a result, the Echo would not be covering primary school events in the borough at least until there is a further discussion about the issue.
Wrote Peter: “The internet can be a scary place and I understand the concerns which lie behind the decision. I also fully appreciate that it is a decision taken because it is genuinely thought to be in the interests of child safety.
“But I also consider it to be a move which is disproportionate, ill-judged and very sad.
“I have come across individual schools which have adopted such a policy but never every school in a borough.
“There is no evidence that paedophiles are using newspapers and their associated websites to groom children. The danger has to be kept in perspective.
“The positives of reporting children’s names in the context of their achievements hugely outweigh the negatives. Publicity gives young people confidence, is a source of pride, and inspires them to aim higher.
“Not so long ago, I was the governor of a primary school and the policy there was to write to parents, asking them to indicate on a form whether they had any objection to their child’s name being published. Very few objections ever came forward.
“There are times – swimming galas being an example – where there is an argument for names not to be published alongside pictures, especially online. But a blanket ban is the wrong way to go.
“The consequence is that The Northern Echo will regrettably not be covering primary school events in Middlesbrough until there is at least a discussion about the issue.”