accessibility & help

Jon Snow's dilemma

Jon Snow on his bike© InfoJournalist and Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow posted what he called his “shameful dilemma” on his blog. He was cycling through a smart part of north London. Invite students to imagine the scene:

I suddenly see a man in his 20s bashing a much younger woman’s face into the bonnet of a car.

I hear her screams and the man’s shouts, and by the time my bicycle is abreast of them, she is upright, in tears, her face badly marked.

Ask students – what would they do and why?

Then read on to reveal more of what happened:

I instinctively intervene and ask if she needs help. The man is in a hyper-paranoid, violent state, and turns fast and menacingly on me, shouting and cursing, and I take to my bike in flight.

I pause further down the road and look back, and there seem to be more people about. I cycle back towards the group, seriously concerned for the young woman’s welfare. And it seems to me the man is standing close to a motor cycle.

What would students do now? Let them know what Jon Snow did:

The road is straight and somehow enclosed, with few escape points, and I conclude very quickly that if he were to give chase, he’d get me. I retreat, and I think about calling the police. But for some inexplicable reason, I didn’t.

In the spirit of journalism, ask students to summarise their thoughts about this story of Jon Snow’s incident by writing a headline for it. Or students could choose, or adapt, from the options below. Would it be critical:

“Cowardly newsreader runs off”

“C4 journalist does nothing”

“Snow balls”

Or would it be more understanding:

“Tough call for newsreader”

“Journo in scary incident”

“No shame for concerned hack”

Or would it applaud his commonsense and self-preservation:

“Journalist shuns have-a-go heroism”

“Snow reins risky instinct ”

“Common-sense dodges threats”

Use the headline-selecting process to discuss attitudes. What do students know of other people who intervened in fights? How did it end? What chance is there of someone stepping in and being seriously injured, perhaps fatally? How does that knowledge affect attitudes?

Read the original post on the blog.

Discuss similarities and differences between the readers’ comments and students’ views. Do students think that not intervening was good, but failing to call the police a mistake? What do they hope they would do? What might they really do?

Talk about Jon Snow’s feelings. Do students appreciate that sometimes you can want to do the right thing but still feel bad about it? Why is this? Why is it hard to accept limits to what we can do to help others? Talk about active citizenship and what it means in real-life situations.


Related resources

The Good Samaritan lesson plan explores reasons why people help strangers, and what factors stop them from intervening.



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