Resources - Get Mad/Glad

Children’s portrayal, far cry from consideration of their best interests

30 March 2017

The story, “MEC hands out school gear” (The New Age, 08/03/2017, p.9) was selected by Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) for a MAD1  for portraying the children in both the article and accompanying photograph in a degrading and disempowering light.

The article tells the story of a group of children from Galeshewe in the Northern Cape who received a school uniform donation from the agriculture and rural development MEC, Norman Shushu. The children in the article are not interviewed and consequently occupy a passive role in the story and the picture, stripping them of their agency.

According to “Status of Children’s Rights in South African Media”2, a 2016 report by MMA on coverage of children in the media, children in news stories are often portrayed in these typical passive roles and in more negative roles where they are constantly shown as victims.

Taking the former into consideration, it is disappointing how the article and accompanying picture perpetuate this trend by depicting these children as needy, vulnerable and voiceless. This is a major concern because as noted by Chelsy Kleinsmith, one of the child media monitors involved in the Empowering Children and the Media3 , a project by MMA, the media does not portray children in a positive manner.

The child, a grade seven pupil at Pelican Park Primary School notes when commenting on media’s coverage of children, “I feel sad because I feel that we are much more than how the media shows us.”

Furthermore, by only quoting the MEC and ignoring the views of the children who were the beneficiaries in this instance, the article placed itself in a position where it undermined the children and instead strongly highlighted the profile of the MEC, his actions and those of his department.

We encourage The New Age and other media to always exercise caution when reporting such stories, to practise the highest standards of ethical journalism and to refrain from portraying children negatively.

By Motshabi Hoaeane

1.A MAD is given to stories where the rights and welfare of children have been compromised through irresponsible media coverage.
2.http://mma-ecm.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Childrensreport2016web.pdf
3.http://mma-ecm.co.za/

The following is the response from the journalist;

I realise now my mistakes. I will continue to make an effort when reporting on children.

Yes, I agree, they should not be treated as passive but active agents of change.