Please don't have a go at nine-year-olds just because they're covering murders

I constantly find myself feeling motivated to create journalistic content after indulging in engaging and interesting works of reportage, whether it be a Louis Theroux documentary, an episode of Serial, or even a documentary like Going Clear or The Thin Blue Line. However, this week I stepped away from BBC iPlayer and iTunes and found inspiration in an unlikely form - a nine-year-old girl from Pennsylvania.

I had a brief email exchange late last year with Hilde Kate Lysiak, for an assignment I was working on, but she made headlines all over the world this week, after she scooped every other media outlet on the story of a murder in her neighbourhood. 

I should probably clarify, Hilde is a reporter. A nine-year-old reporter. As presumably the world's youngest journalist, Hilde set up the Orange Street News, with a little help from her reporter father, back in 2014, realising that there was no local newspaper for her hometown of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. Since then, she has spent her free time finding stories, interviewing people, and publishing her articles online and in a monthly newsletter. I should also add that in many cases she manages to do this without co-operation from local politicians and the police department. 

This week, however, Hilde's exclusive story on the murder of a former Selinsgrove council employee made a change from her usual articles about vandalism to local business and the selling of drugs at a school, and it certainly attracted a lot of attention, attention that wasn't entirely positive.

As Hilde suddenly became the story, she received bullying and condescending comments from people around the world, saying that she should be "playing with dolls"and having tea parties. Someone even wrote "I am disgusted that this cute little girl thinks she's a real journalist". Even the town's mayor got involved, calling the Orange Street News "sensationalist trash". 

Hearing all these negative comments directed towards a little girl broke my heart a little bit. We've all been there at some point, when we were younger, dreaming of doing something big and exciting but then later feeling that perhaps we're a bit too young to do it. Nine-year-old Alfie used to excessively watch episodes of Tom Baker-era Doctor Who and want nothing more than to be Sarah Jane Smith, the bold and ambitious investigative journalist who would run around in a trouser suit and go undercover to expose secret organisations. And, without getting too much into a sexism debate, I can't help but feel as though there wouldn't be as much backlash towards this story if Hilde was a boy. 

The lyrics to No Doubt's 1995 song 'Just a Girl' surfaced in my head whilst watching Hilde's response video, where she addresses her critics, cheekily saying: "I know this makes some of you uncomfortable, and I know some of you just want me to sit down and be quiet because I'm nine. But if you want me to stop covering the news, then you get off your computer and do something about the news. There, is that cute enough for you?".

Hilde also wrote an article on The Guardian's website yesterday, where she writes: "I like playing with dolls, and having tea parties. I also think racing cars are really cool! Grownups shouldn’t assume that a kid – boy or girl – should be doing just one thing or another. Kids can do exceptional things and still be kids!"

I'm standing with Hilde here. Children are constantly told that they can do anything they want and that they should follow their dreams, so why should a nine-year-old girl be criticised and bullied for doing exactly that? Hilde has established the Orange Street News as a trustworthy and ethical publication that effectively holds power to account and reports objectively on local issues. Therefore, I believe that she deserves to be respected and treated like any other professional journalist. 

In short, Hilde is my hero. I only wish that I was more like her when I was her age.