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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 March 2008, 07:39 GMT
Young reporters tackle finance
By Nuala McCann
BBC news

Laura and Emer with Nigel Dodds MLA
BBC school's reporters reporters interviewed Nigel Dodds
They may have brass in pocket but when it comes to their rights, young people in Northern Ireland are lagging behind.

Despite their strong spending power, they don't have the tools and knowledge to be informed and confident, according to new research by the Northern Ireland Consumer Council.

Laura and Emer from Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch turned reporters for BBC School Report - an initiative which gives over 10,000 students an insight into the news-making process.

On behalf of their generation they took their concerns to the economy minister on Tuesday 11 March which was World Consumer Rights Day.

They travelled to Belfast to interview Economy Minister Nigel Dodds on how best to inform and support young people.

Preperations

Beforehand, they did their homework. They carried out a series of radio vox pops with friends to find out what they knew about their rights.

"A lot of young people we interviewed felt they were discriminated against in shops," said Laura.
Young people find they are targeted just for being young.
Laura, young reporter

"It is as if everyone is punished because of a few who shoplift. Sometimes shopkeepers tell you to get out of their shops. If you are lingering at all, they come up and talk to you.

"As for the hoodie - the common perception is that if you're wearing a hood, then you're up to no good.

"If you wear a hoodie, that immediately draws attention. Young people find they are targeted just for being young," said Laura.

Emer said those she interviewed would like to think they knew their rights but they didn't.

"We don't have enough information and it can be intimidating to question someone or to complain," she pointed out.

Emer and Laura were also present at the launch of the NI Consumer Council's report which shows 73% of consumers in Northern Ireland feel confident about expressing what their rights are, compared to 37% in 2003.

But groups like the young, as well as older people, do not feel empowered.

Interviewing the big-shots

After the report's launch, they interviewed Minister Nigel Dodds. The cub reporters said interviewing a government minister proved "nerve wracking but worth it".

"The whole experience of BBC School Report has been great," they said.
The BBC bus
Students worked on the BBC bus

"It has been a real taste of what journalism is all about. Nigel Dodds was helpful and he was informal about the interview which made it easier."

Teacher Marcelle Orsi said BBC School Report had opened her students' eyes and made them thicker skinned about going out and getting that story.

"The lesson plans are extremely helpful and I have also used them with my journalism classes, as they give excellent advice about writing reports, recording for radio and hints on what makes a story newsworthy," she said.

"The fact many of these lessons are presented by BBC reporters that the girls recognise from television adds credibility to what they are saying and the students tend to listen more than if it were simply me in front of them."

The pupils had their own ideas about what was newsworthy and in Assumption Grammar School the range of issues covered includes cyber bullying, St Patrick and the snakes and coursework plagiarism.

"They have definitely learnt to be more thick-skinned about asking people for help and interviewing, as initially they were a little shy and hesitant about trying to get information or soundbites from people," said Marcelle.

For some of them it really was a once in a lifetime experience and it's given them a real taste of what it is like to be a journalist.
Marcelle Orsi, teacher

"The highlight was having the BBC bus out with all the equipment at their disposal. The students learned so much from the crew in terms of technical skills and how to put a story together quickly.

"For some of them it really was a once in a lifetime experience and it's given them a real taste of what it is like to be a journalist."

Emer and Laura are putting the final touches to their report which will feature on their school website on Thursday, BBC School Report day.

  • Coverage from NI schools can be seen by pressing your red button after BBC Newsline at 1900 GMT


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