Playing With Fire: The Brooklyn Five-Year-Old Who Tried to Kill His Grandmother


Stories with children are tricky, especially ones that have tragic consequences such as this one, in which a 5-year-old boy suffered critical burns after he allegedly tried to kill his grandmother. According to the Post, the boy was angry because his grandmother had punished him, and he exacted revenge by setting her apartment ablaze. She only suffered minor injuries when she tried to rescue the boy.

Both papers cover the story, but in incredibly different ways. The Post relegates the story back to page 12, while the News includes a small strip headline on the front and places it on page 2. The most glaring difference is that the Post withholds the names of both the boy and the grandmother, while the News names both and even includes a picture of the two. This is where the issue gets tricky. Papers tend to not release the names of juvenile offenders, but this situation features a five-year-old who presumably didn’t know any better (or did he?). Despite starting the blaze, he’s a victim of the fire as well, which may be the logic in releasing his name.

The News has the more sensational coverage, with the headline, “‘Gonna kill grandma’: 5-year-old critical after sparking B’klyn fire as act of revenge.” The Post goes with “”Revenge’ boy, 5, hurt in B’klyn fire.” Both papers note the boy has prank-called 911 before claiming his grandmother was dead, the last time being the reason for his punishment. The News paints the child as a bit of a “bad seed,” as they quote a friend of the family who said the boy would frequently threaten to burn the house down if he didn’t get his way.

So, did the News just publish a scoop, or did they perform an ethical breach by naming the boy? It depends on where your own ethical compass lies. Regardless, a 5-year-old boy is clinging to life in the burn unit at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell.