The latest story skedded to run in the New York Times' Thursday edition seems an even-handed look at the situation which seems to boil down to the issue of what did the parents know and when did they know it?
As the Times reports:
The parent of at least one participant has complained to New Mexico authorities that the conditions were abusive and that several children were harmed during the production.
The 22-page agreement leaves little room for parents to argue that they did not know what their children might encounter. As is standard in such agreements, the parents and the children agreed not to hold the producers and CBS responsible if their children died or were injured, if they received inadequate medical care, or if their housing was unsafe and caused injury.
The overriding issue with "Kid Nation" is obviously the question of what would motivate any parent would be willing to let their kid take part in a show built around the premise of kids being without (much) adult supervision to fend for themselves for 40 days in a New Mexico ghost town. Fame? Money? The $20,000 prize at stake at the end of each episode isn't much by reality TV standards. According to the Times' story there was also a $5,000 stipend paid to each family.
Hard as it is, I'm trying to reserve judgment until seeing the show, which bows Sept. 19. CBS has so far only provided a glimpse in this promo clip posted here last week.