pulp and pith … current affairs blog

Archive for March 2009


Posted on: March 22, 2009

The fashion of conferring upon children, who cannot be named by the media for legal reasons, codenames like Baby P or Baby OT, strikes me as bizarre.

Whatever happened to the standard line, “[insert the baby/infant/child/teenager/age of youngster here] who cannot be named for legal reasons”?

I imagine that these kids are given these codenames in court, so lawyers and judges can refer to them specifically, rather than describing them by their age or as a member of an age group.

But why has the media decided to use the same language as the courts? At least the standard line makes it clear that it is the legal system which has prevented them from naming names.

Perhaps journalists find it easier to construct sentences when they have more than one way of describing the subject.

Maybe it’s a good way of labelling the story, making it easier to search for online and easier to refer to (like the suffix -gate which is commonly attached to crises and gaffes).

The codenames, which tend to consist of one or two letters, depersonalise the children, aligning them with well-catalogued library books, making it seem that they are just one of many codenamed children who have been in a similar situation.

However, by juxtaposing emotive images and details of the story with a cold one-letter moniker, the impact the words have on readers can be heightened.

Indeed, with the high-profile Baby P case, and the Baby A case in Doncaster, a wave of people have said that they dislike the use of the codenames because they robbed the children in question of dignity and individuality.

I think the media has been tricked into thinking that giving these children codenames is the best way describe them, because this is how the law describes them. Codenames seem discrete and accurate, and appear to nail the subject down like names do.

In reality, codenames are jargon. They obscure the identity of the child and make his or her plight seem the product of a callous conveyor belt system – as if Baby P was preceded by Baby O, and will be followed by Baby Q…