Sunday December 13, 2015

A case for kid-friendly news

(CBC)

The daily news has felt like an especially ugly place the past few month, and those stories of terror and fear are seldom more than a click away.

It falls upon parents to help children navigate the often morally murky world of news and current affairs.

But Rebecca Brown, a journalism student at University of King's College, has a better idea. She says Canadian kids should have current affairs programming of their own.

The full interview is available in the audio player above. The following portions have been edited for clarity and length. 

Why do you think children in Canada need news tailored for them; why not just watch the regular news?

I think there's a few reasons for that. The most important one that I picked up from my research is that it really helps children develop as citizens. So in Canada, we have 18 as the magic number, where all of a sudden you have the right to vote, you're supposed to be active in the political sphere, and it's kind of hard for children to take on that role if they haven't had any information or foundation in anything, starting when they were young... And I even spoke with a researcher in the U.K. who found out that without a foundation in the current events, kids are reluctant to participate in the social and political sphere. And I think that's best demonstrated in the voter turnout. If we look at the 2011 federal election, we only saw 39 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds at the polls.

And you think that may have something to do with the fact that they may not have been paying attention for the first 18 years of their lives?

Well, I think that children are definitely aware of what's happening in the world. I mean, how could they not be? You're constantly getting updates on your phone, through Twitter, even Snapchat stories are telling them what's going on — and Facebook posts. But I really think they need something that engages them, as a younger audience, and is a reliable source where they can go and get information and then have conversations because I'm sure that when they see this information or the raw footage, they have questions in their head but there's no outlet to discuss that. And with a kids' newscast, they have that opportunity: it engages them in the conversation on issues and debates and then they have an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings.

What got you thinking about this?

To be honest, it started as a project for the university because in our fourth year we have to ask ourselves, 'What are the critical issues in journalism?' and report on that. I basically started thinking about what is missing; who is not being served by the journalism body in Canada. And I really figured, 'Well, kids. What do we have for them?' And then I started looking into it and it just so happens that in Europe, 11 different countries produce newscasts for children. Why don't we do that?

Click the blue button above to listen to the full interview.