How Paris children’s newspapers reported #CharlieHebdo terrorist attack: Free special editions published

To “honor the victims and help parents talk about it with their children,” a Paris publisher is offering free access to its three age-targeted dailies covering the deadly terrorist attack on the newsroom of the satrical weekly Charlie Hebdo, and advice to parents about how to talk about it.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | January 8, 2015

“We don’t do Disneyland,” said François Dufour, editor of the newspapers.  “Our news is not some form of softened, sanitized version of reality. No subject is taboo but it has to have an angle that is of interest to kids.”

As usual, all three editions explain unfamilar words, keep sentences short while explaining a great deal of background, often absent in “adult” tiltes, and make sure to include durable elements useful at school. (More here about how children’s editions elsewhere covered the story.)

Each targets a different age group and covers the tragedy in a slightly different way but all emphasise the facts. The special editions can be downloaded from


Based on his 20 years of providing news to youth of all ages, Play Bac chief editor François Dufour offered this advice about discussing tough news events with children :

1. First, make sure your child really wants to to talk about it at all!
2. If your child wants to talk about it, begin with the questions they have : encourage them to talk, taking all the time they need to ask their own questions.
3. Adapt your speaking: Keep your answers simple, understandable and intelligible.
4. If you need to use difficult words (terrorist, Islamist …), explain them. If necessary, check in the dictionary together
5. Explain the difference between events (facts) and opinons: children often confuse the two.
6. 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!
7.  That said, parents must adapt to the issues of children according to their ages,  giving more detail to the oldest and more explanation of words to the youngest. The younger the child is, the more you have to offer ‘small talk,’ making even shorter sentences and even simpler words. Give even 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.” (Source: Béatrice Copper-Royer in Le Monde)


A first special edition was finished the day after the attack but dated 9 January to reflect when subscribers would receive copies in the mail. Similarly, the newsroom prepared the second special edition (dated 10-11) on 9 January.

The tone of Play Bac's cartoons about the Charlie Hebdo attack differed in each edition, ranging from the toughest in l'Actu for teenagers (top right) to the gentlest for children under age 10 in Le Petit Quotidien (at bottom are first two of the four panels).The tone of Play Bac’s cartoons about the Charlie Hebdo attack differed in each edition, ranging from the toughest in l’Actu for teenagers (top right) to the gentlest for children under age 10 in Le Petit Quotidien (at bottom are first two of the four panels).


Mon Quotidien [My Daily], targeting 9- to 13-year-olds, is the company’s orignal and flagship paper and the one with the highest circulation (about 60,000 daily).  In addition to a basic story about the killings and a small story defining an “attentat alert” [warning of attack], the coverage concentrated on the death of Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier), director of Charlie Hebdo. Early in his career, Charb had drawn 10 000 cartoons featuring Mon Quotidien’s mascot, Quotillon, which he created in 1994. The newspaper’s cartoonists have drawn a two-page hommage of caricatures, and a separate story explains the role of a “mascot.” The edition also features a one-page overview about press freedom itself, destined to be cut out and saved as a resource.

The title for the two-page civic education "discovery file" is "When press freedom isn't respected"The title for the two-page civic education “discovery file” is “When press freedom isn’t respected”

Le Petit Quotidien [The Little Daily], for 6 -to 10-year-olds, used two of its four pages for a larger version of the press freedom overview (pictured above). The front page explained the attack itself in 43 words. The last page carried a cartoon featuring a character who banned drawings of the sun and flowers, and a cat using inane arguments such as “cats mean bad luck.”

L’Actu [News], for teenagers, featured seven Charlie Hebdo covers about religion, a page of hommage cartoons by staff, this time showing guns and a dead body. The major story concentrated on the religious controversy. Meanwhile, ECO, Play Bac’s business and finance weekly for teenagers, profiled the murdered economist.


Front pages of second special editions of Paris-based dailies for childrenFront pages of second special editions of Paris-based dailies for children

For the edition of the next day, the four-page Le Petit Quotidien, for the youngest readers, concentrated on explaining “why all of France has been attacked” for the second edition after the attack and included a two-page educational dossier about the country’s core values. The back page cartoon that day was simply a silly story of using an ostrich to get your golf ball back out of the hole.

On the first of its eight pages, Mon Quotidien, for 10 to 14-year-olds, asked readers to send their cartoons about Charlie Hebdo via post or email. The main story concentrated on what teachers and children had to say about the attack. Other features included:

  • One of the staff cartoonists explained how his work differed from that of the Charlie Hebdo caricaturists.  Inside pages featured:
  • A one-page educational dossier explaining islamic terrorism
  • A profile of the brothers who were the suspected attackers (both born in Paris). It was written before news of a third attacker emerged.

L’Actu, eight pages for teenagers, featured comments from readers and their teachers about the attack with a front page photo of young people holding “Je Suis Charlie” [I am Charlie] signs during one of the many spontaneous rallies happening all over France in the days after the attack. The cartoonist’s explanation of his work and a profile of the brothers also appeared in this edition as well as a story about one of the main suspect’s teenage brother-in-law who was being questioned by police. Two pages were devoted to answering readers’ questions.


The JDE webThe JDE webFrance’s other major newspaper for children, a weekly called Journal des Enfants, used its website for immediate coverage with stories and photos  describing the attack and the controversy behind it, and then follow-up stories explaining the role of a caricaturist, what it meant for a country to be declared in mourning, and the huge international solidarity with France.

More HERE about how children’s editions elsewhere in the world covered the story.

NOTE – WAN-IFRA provides materials to help teach children and teenagers about freedom of expression and of the press. Click HERE for details. 


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