A full-page spread in Beeld on the rising food prices and the related Cosatu strike on 6 August 2008 does not stick to reporting on the impact of food prices on adults. It also dedicates a small article (“Stygende pryse het invloed op kinders” or ”Price hikes influence children”, Beeld, 07/08/08 p. 4), by Leané du Plessis, to the influence rising food prices have on the lives of children already affected by poverty. Influences highlighted include malnutrition, underdevelopment, irregular school attendance and criminal activities. The article is to be glad about as it brings attention to the impact that economic changes have on children.
Research by the Media Monitoring Project (MMP) reveals that children are under-represented in the news 1.
Showing the effects of so called ‘grown up’ matters on children portrays children as equal members of society. The article serves to demonstrate that they too are affected by economic changes and that the consequences these have on them are equally important – and newsworthy.
The article could have been improved by including the views of children on the impact of rising food prices. As UNICEF and MMP (2003) write:
“By providing children with opportunities to speak for themselves – about their hopes and fears, their achievements, and the impact of adult behaviour on their lives – media professionals can remind the public of children’s rights…..The way in which the media represents, or even ignores children, can influence decisions taken on their behalf, and how the rest of society regards them.” (UNICEF and MMP, 2003, p. 50 2.
Recent examples of articles that have done this very well have been highlighted in MAD OAT commentaries, “Giving a voice to children during xenophobic attacks” (May 2008a) and “Children’s voices of hope given expression” (May 2008b).
Although the article in Beeld does not resource children’s own opinions, MMP feels it is commendable in that it acknowledges the influence current economic affairs have on children.
The article provides a good example of how keeping children’s best interest in mind is not always about leaving information out (for example, their personal details and identities, in relation to crime or abuse 3), but is also about telling children’s stories and providing a platform for their issues and interests.
1. Daya, B., Vreenegoor, B., Bird, W. & Harries, G. 2004. “Children: Dying to Make the News”. Media Monitoring Project: Johannesburg.
2. UNICEF and MMP, 2003. “All sides of the story. Reporting on children: a journalist’s handbook”.
3. The Criminal Procedure Act obligates journalists to protect a child’s identity, where a victim, witness or perpetrator.