News reports focus on the unusual. While this might seem obvious to adults, it can be difficult for children to understand. Seldom will you see a news story focused on the thousands of airplanes that take off and land safely on any given day. However, it becomes headline news when out of those many safe flights, one is involved in a plane crash. Often news coverage of particular issues is disproportionate to their occurrences in real life. For example, news coverage of crime has increased in recent years, even though the total crime rate has decreased significantly.
The news often reports only the simple facts of a story. Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? These are the six questions journalists try to answer in even the briefest news report. This leaves very little time to add background, context, or explanation to complex news. In fact a typical broadcast news story is only 30 seconds long. Even though newspapers can provide more contextual information than TV news, the average print report is only 400 words. The result is our kids only hear who's killing whom with little or no explanation of why those countries are at war.