A two day training session in Belgrade for mid-career journalists, organised by the Journalists’ Association of Serbia in collaboration with UNICEF
Belgrade, Serbia, September 2013 - The mass media in Serbia pay scant regard to the ideas and opinions of children and young people, yet they represent all of our futures.
Perhaps they are not considered wise or serious enough to be included in the 24-hour information blitz which now bombards the adult world. Perhaps they are expected to fulfill a different function - to amuse, charm and entertain adults as an antidote to the menu of crises and cruelty that confronts us every day in the news media - especially since it is the plight of children that so poignantly highlights injustice, environmental depredation and the degradation of war.
But perhaps media professionals, now more conscious that children have human rights too, are anxious not to violate those rights adults, or fear the consequences of accusations of abuse from family members, NGOs or state institutions, that make the fight shy of engaging with children’s view of and on the world.
A two day training session in Belgrade for mid-career journalists, organised by UNICEF in partnership with the Journalists’ Association of Serbia, has sought to address these anxieties and to encourage more opportunities for children and young people to participate in the debates about how society operates and what sort of future they want to be part of.
Developed with the journalism ethics NGO MediaWise the training focused on story telling, the meat and drink of media professionals and a central element in children’s understanding of the adult world. Using presentations, examples from around the world, a quiz, role plays, and a series of experts the training was designed to confront participants with constant questioning, about their motives, their capabilities and their imagination.
How much do they know, or recall, about childhood and children’s psychology? What do they know about the status of children in society according to law, custom and practice? Where are the gaps in provision to which attention needs to be drawn? Do they appreciate the power they have to both intimidate and facilitate tong people’s engagement with the media? Young people may be more ‘media savvy’ than ever before, but are media professionals any more knowledgeable about the world as seen by children?
Do the pressures of a 24 hour rolling news agenda justify not allowing sufficient time to gain the trust needed to ensure that children do not merely respond with what they think adults want to hear? How do you approach children who have been traumatised? Are media houses properly equipped to accommodate young people participating in programmes or publications?
These are complex and sometimes difficult questions which cannot be answered in two days. The hope is that such training will help journalists to find ways of resolving difficulties, discover the stories that children want adults to hear about, and create a more ‘child friendly’ media environment which can reassure young people that they are already valued members of the society for which one day they will become responsible.