Children and the media
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Children as story sources
Children are rarely part of the news agenda until something delightful
or terrible happens to them. News is regarded as something primarily
for and about adults.
The birth of a child to celebrity parents, an outbreak of meningitis
among young people, revelations about the sexual abuse of children
or children dying in refugee camps may make headlines, but the focus
is likely to be on the adult response rather than the viewpoint
of the child.
If there is one perennial grievance that children and young people
share, it is that nobody listens to them. Yet they have revealing
insights to offer adults. They share adults' physical and social
environment and also experience, in their own way, the impact of
crime or economic and legislative changes. Indeed the UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely acknowledged
body of international law.
Yet where children are catered for in the media, they tend to be
ghettoized and patronized. Appointing journalists to specialize
in gathering stories and opinions from children about significant
'newsworthy' events is one way that media organizations can begin
to adjust the balance. Developing networks of young reporters who
can provide a fresh view on the world can also make a real difference.
When young people interviewed the President of Macedonia for state
television, the public gained fresh impressions of their leader.
In Albania, teenagers reporting about an orphanage achieved changes
in the administration. Young reporters working with Children's
Express and the BBC's Newsround,
both in the United Kingdom, have obtained scoops and helped to set
the media agenda. In India, Peru and the Philippines children living
and working on the street have been able influence the attitudes
of media professionals and the public by recording their own stories
through different media such as the musical drama, Goldtooth.
Such achievements are the result of firm commitments by children's
agencies and media producers to invest time, energy and training
in the next generation of reporters while they are still young enough
to fully represent their peers.
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