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BBC News Interactive School ReportBBC News Interactive School Report
Last Updated: Thursday, 22 March 2007, 07:44 GMT
Teens tell BBC chief what news they want
By Pete Clifton
Head of News Interactive

Head of BBC News Interactive Pete Clifton with teenagers from Brooke School, Lambeth
Students from Lambeth told Pete Clifton what they thought of the BBC

The great thing about taking part in the build-up to School Report News Day is I got to learn just as much as the children!

While I could hopefully pass on a few bits of useful information about journalism, the 12- and 13-year-olds I met at Charles Edward Brooke School in Lambeth could tell me what they really thought of the BBC News website - warts and all.

Abi, Ashley, Leticha and Peta-Gay were part of the video group filming me as part of their report for the big School Report day on 22 March.

"There are too many words on the [BBC] News website, and sometimes too many long words," they told me. "Who is it all for?"

And when Mikayla, Shanique and Camilla took their turn at doing a Jeremy Paxman, the questions were just as to the point.

"Why do all the pages of the [BBC] News site look the same when they are about different subjects? Why can't it be easier to use like the Newsround site?"

Big tick for celebrity news

They had got me on the ropes now, so the best thing to do was bounce back and ask them about news. And it was good to discover that despite their reservations about the BBC News site, they were really interested in what is happening around them.

Gun crime, the environment (sometimes) and a big tick for celebrity news, and they had all watched some of that on BBC1, News 24, Sky News and the ever-reliable Newsround. But probably not the BBC News site.

And mobiles were yet to catch on as a way for them to keep up with the news. "Mobiles are for talking to friends," they generally agreed.

So what more could the BBC do for them? A place they could go on the site for news for teenagers was a popular suggestion, and a "Teens News 24", with the additional requirement - "Do you think you could have some slightly younger people doing it?"

I suddenly felt very old.

Reaching out

By the end of my time with this fantastic bunch, they knew a bit more about me - how I got into journalism, a few trusty stories about exploding houses and car pile-ups from my local newspaper days, what makes a top reporter, how do you get into the profession - and I had a real insight into the news they are interested in and where they look for it.

While the BBC News site might be aimed at a slightly older age group - our biggest audience is in the 25-44 bracket - there is a real issue for the BBC about how it reaches out to teenagers who find themselves caught between Newsround and the main BBC News site.

Shorter news pieces, a more tailored news agenda, younger people presenting it, and making it all available in places where teenagers might be looking.

All big challenges, but ones we are determined to crack in BBC News as part of a wider BBC project to provide more content for teenagers.

And School Report News Day is also part of the picture of course.

It is excellent to see so many young people taking a real interest in news, learning more about how it is produced, and then putting it all into action.

I'm really looking forward to seeing all the content that gets put together on 22 March - and if one or two of the people I met up with in Lambeth decide they'd like to be a journalist, that will be icing on the cake.

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