children have a knack for news relevant to them

Namhla Tshisela

Namhla Tshisela

Children are some of the most discerning consumers of newspapers and television, if the outcomes of a recent children's media monitoring programme are anything to go by.

The project was started in 2003 by the Media Monitoring Project and the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism.

Started as a measure of the prominence and representation of children in news stories, the project encourages the participation of children, journalists and newsrooms in the advancement and protection of children's rights in the media.

In the latest project, participants included pupils from three Gauteng schools.

During a period of nine weeks the groups observed newspapers that included Sowetan, The Star, and the SABC's children's news and actuality programmes, mainly Kids News.

The groups visited the newspapers' and television station's newsrooms to meet the faces behind the news articles and reports, to learn about how they operate, and to present some of their findings.

Project coordinator Judith Mtsewu said: "The aim of the project is to create space for children and journalists to meet and to sensitise journalists about children's rights and to improve the reportage of issues affecting children in the media."

She said there was a visible improvement in the reporting about children, but there was still a lot to be done.

Some of the suggestions made by the children were:

l A children's section in newspapers written for and by children;

l The inclusion of children's activities and competitions to attract young readers;

l The limitation of obscene material such as nudity and violence; and

l The inclusion of more children's opinions on most the issues that affect them.