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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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