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Last Updated: Friday, 11 May 2007, 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK
'Our borough' beats Britney in teen news
Students from Hackney Free and Parochial School in London making a video report for BBC News School Report
Students in Hackney want news reports about their area to be balanced
Given the opportunity to make their own news, what topics do you imagine 12 to 18-year-olds would select?

Celebrities? Computer games? Films? TV? Music? Sport? The weird and the wonderful?

In fact, pupils taking part in two separate news projects opted instead to report issues of concern in their area.

This was just one of the common revelations expressed by both the BBC and Channel 4 during a presentation at the Houses of Parliament on 8 May.

Addressing the Associate Parliamentary Media Literacy Group, editor of BBC News School Report, Helen Shreeve, said: "Before we embarked on the pilot year of this project, we thought many of the 12 and 13-year-olds taking part would make reports about Britney Spears.

"We did get some entertainment news but what struck us was that most of the reports were serious.

"Young people wanted to make reports about where they lived and about issues they really cared about. I think a lot of the assumptions we make about what young people really talk about aren't necessarily right."

Balance

In response to a 2006 documentary which concluded that Hackney was the worst place to live, students from Hackney Free and Parochial School made a film for School Report about life in their London borough.

Kenny from Hackney Free and Parochial School in London makes a TV report
Kenny from Hackney Free and Parochial School in London makes a TV report
Presenting his group's video, Kenny, 13, explained how creating his own reports had prompted him to think critically about the news.

He said: "We made our film as balanced as we could to prove that Hackney isn't just a bad place.

"The other day I saw a football report in a newspaper which was all one-sided, saying how good one team was and leaving the other team out.

"I prefer reading balanced reports and stories that report both the good and the bad, rather than concentrating on the negative."

While School Report, which this year involved more than 3,000 students in 120 secondary schools, targets 12 and 13-year-olds, Channel 4's Breaking The News project is aimed at Key Stage 4 students.

Despite the age difference, the overriding desire of the 150 participants was the same: to see more local, less negative news.

'Local, local, local'

Martin Fewell, deputy editor of Channel 4 News
The thing that struck me was the appetite for positive, if not idealistic news stories, particularly about the area people live in
Martin Fewell, deputy editor of Channel 4 News
Martin Fewell, deputy editor of Channel 4 News, said: "People like myself are getting a lot of research, week in week out, about people's changing news habits and we're being told it's local, local, local.

"To actually hear it and discuss it with reference to some of the films made was very interesting."

He added: "The other thing that struck me was the appetite for positive, if not idealistic, news stories, particularly about the area people live in.

"Anybody who has been in broadcast news is not necessarily renowned for their positivity and idealism but it's interesting to talk to viewers, users, listeners and get that desire for optimistic stories."

The act of reporting local news encouraged some students, who took part in the 2005 Channel 4 project, to take a greater interest in international news.

Yenabi, now 20, said: "If someone got stabbed in the area where I live, I'd have wanted to see what happened, but I didn't really care what was happening in Iraq or America.

"Now I see how things happening elsewhere affect you directly, for example people from the UK sending money to help the victims of hurricane Katrina."

Curbing a trend

The students' experience points a possible way forward for media organisations wishing to remedy the increasing lack of interest in news among young people.

NEWS STATISTICS
86% of 16-24 year-olds watched news on TV in 2006, compared to 92% in 2002
61% of 16-24 year-olds used newspapers in 2006
44% of 16-24 year-olds listened to radio news in 2006, compared to 60% in 2002
35% of 16-24 year-olds accessed the news online in 2006, compared to 26% in 2002
16% of 16 to 24-year-olds felt duty-bound to follow the news in 2006
50% of 16 to 24-year-olds followed the news when something important or interesting was happening, in 2006
30% of 16 to 24-year-olds were disengaged with the news in 2006
SOURCE: Ofcom 'Future of News' report due to be published later this summer
Board member of media regulator Ofcom and professor of journalism at Cardiff university, Ian Hargreaves, revealed the findings of an Ofcom report due to be published later this summer.

He said: "When I was 16 to 24, it used to be dinned into you that keeping up with the news was something you ought to do. I had a paper round and I therefore felt I had a duty to follow the news."

Comparatively, research shows that in 2006, only 16 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds felt duty-bound to follow the news, and only half of young people followed the news when something important or interesting was happening.

Mr Hargreaves concluded that, in 2006, about 30 per cent of young people were disengaged with the news.

'Give us our say'

In addition to local and positive news, students also want more opportunities for people their own age to be given a voice within the media.

Roqiya, 12, Hibaq, 13 and Tasnim, 13, from Haggerston School in London.
Roqiya, 12, Hibaq, 13 and Tasnim, 13, from Haggerston School, planning their presentation to MPs
Tasnim, 13, from Haggerston School in Hackney, who also took part in School Report, said: "If there were more children on the news, then more children might watch the news."

Teacher at Haggerston School, Steve Townsend, added: "School Report is an extension of the pupil voice, but rather than being heard by parents and teachers, the students are heard nationally."

Chairing the Associate Parliamentary Media Literacy Group, Danny Alexander MP said: "We so often hear negative stories about how young people are disengaged from news, disengaged from current affairs and disengaged from politics. Hopefully this discussion proves all is not lost."


SEE ALSO
Digital literacy 'urgently needed'
29 Jan 07 |  Technology
Dan Gillmor answers your concerns
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