Reporter (9) undeterred by critics who say she should be ‘playing with dolls’

Hilde Kate Lysiak: ‘Just because I’m nine doesn’t mean I can’t do a great story’

A nine-year-old reporter who wrote about a suspected murder in her small Pennsylvania town has defended herself after some locals said a young girl should be "playing with dolls" and not covering serious crime.

Hilde Kate Lysiak, who has been running the Orange Street News newspaper and website since 2014, got a tip on Saturday afternoon about police being called to an incident in Selinsgrove, a town about 240km north-west of Philadelphia.

She went to the scene to get the details and posted a story and video clip on her website later that day under the headline “Exclusive: murder on Ninth Street!”.

The story said a man was suspected of killing his wife with a hammer and included quotes from neighbours and police.


Soon after, her Facebook page and YouTube channel were clogged with negative comments urging her to "play with dolls" and have a tea party, and questioning her parents' judgment in letting her do such work.

Sean Christine, the former mayor of Selinsgrove, said the story was "sensationalist trash".

On Tuesday, Hilde responded to the criticism.

“It kind of gets me angry because, just because I’m nine doesn’t mean I can’t do a great story,” she said. “It doesn’t mean I can’t be a reporter.”

In a video posted on her website she said: “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 news, then you get off your computer and do something about the news. There, is that cute enough for you?”

In the video she read some of the negative comments aloud, including: “I am disgusted that this cute little girl thinks she is a real journalist. What happened to tea parties?” and “Nine-year-old girls should be playing with dolls, not trying to be reporters.”

Wearing a badge reading “I love free speech”, she giggled as she read out the comment: “You are nine f**king years old. Seriously, what the f**k is going on?”

She went on to defend her hard work.

“Because of my work, I was able to inform the people there was a terrible murder before my competitors got to the scene.”

As the story spread, her defiance was welcomed by commenters who hailed her determination as a victory for freedom of the press and called her a “hero”.

“You go tiny newsperson, don’t let them get you down,” one poster wrote on YouTube.

Another wrote: “I see a Pulitzer in your future. Keep reporting the news! (And remember: if nobody gets upset, you’re not doing it right!) .”

Hilde gets some help from her father Matthew Lysiak, a former reporter for the New York Daily News, and her 12-year-old sister, Isabel Rose, who handles videos and photos.

What started out as a newspaper for her family, written in crayon, has become a community news source complete with website and Facebook page.

In recent weeks, in short stories under headlines frequently punctuated with exclamation marks, she has reported on a possibly rabid skunk shot dead by police, several acts of vandalism, the many empty storefronts in downtown Selinsgrove and the removal of a Christmas wreath from a building after several years (under the headline "Christmas Finally over in Grove! ")

Matthew Lysiak said on Tuesday the comments on his daughter’s stories are usually positive.

“She was embraced when she was doing cuter stories, but about six months into writing the paper, she got more confident and started stepping outside the box,” Mr Lysiak said.

Lysiak said Hilde caught the journalism bug when he worked for the Daily News and would occasionally take her along on the job.

“She found journalism really interesting, and my older daughter, too. They would ask lots of questions,” Mr Lysiak said.

She was normally unfazed by comments, he said.

“The tea party comment really lit a fuse under her,” her father said. “She was pretty annoyed by it all.”

Anne Carter, a licensed practical nurse in Selinsgrove, was among those who commented disapprovingly on Facebook of Hilde's involvement in the story.

“I think she’s very talented and her aspirations are great, but it’s probably a bigger case than a nine-year-old should handle,” Carter said. “Adults in the community are having trouble wrapping their heads around what happened. I can’t imagine how a nine-year-old can cover a story like that.”

Hilde is undeterred. When asked if she has a follow-up story in the works on the suspected homicide Hilde replied: “You’ll have to find out what happens in the next issue of the Orange Street News.”