Daily Sun is highly commended by the Media Monitoring Project for featuring a positive story about children on the front page of their 23 October 2008 edition. “Learning…by streetlight!”, article and photo by Sabelo Mpana, is a refreshing break from the more traditional stereotyping of children in the media. The story and photo draw attention to the children’s commitment to their studies, despite the challenges they may face.
The story shows two young learners surmounting hurdles in their efforts to study in preparation for their Grade 5 exams. The featured children were without light to study by at night in their homes, and so studied on the pavement under streetlights.
Stories about children are rare in the news, and even more rarely make the front page, unless it is concerns a major tragedy (See Daya, B. et al, 2004 ).
In addition, the media usually portrays children as victims or even perpetrators of crimes, and primarily in a passive role (Media Monitoring Project, 2004 ).
Familiar stories in the media relating to children include public service delivery failure, and children disrupting the delivery of education through protest, without explanation for this behaviour.
Mpana’s story breaks this standard mould for children in the media, showing children in a positive light, working hard to achieve their ambitions. By publishing this story on the front page, Daily Sun further highlights the children’s achievement.
Equally commendable, the children are directly accessed and quoted in the story. Their quotes prove that, even at the ages of 12 and 13, they can speak for themselves and articulate their dreams and commitment to their education.
Readers, including children, learn that children can be committed to learning and achievement, and have the power to act on their ambitions. In this way, children are provided with positive role models, and adults learn that despite their vulnerability and lack of life experience, there is much to respect in children.
Child participants in MMP’s Children in the Media Mentoring Project regularly comment that they want and enjoy such positive stories about children. MMP hopes that the Daily Sun recognises the positive impact that such stories can have on its readers, and the lives and ambitions of children, and continues to publish them while other newspapers follow suite.
1. Daya, B., Vreenegoor, B., Bird, W. & Harries, G. 2004.Children: Dying to Make the News: An analysis of children’s coverage in the South African news media. Media Monitoring Project: Johannesburg, p.9.
2. Children’s Views on the News. 2004 . Media Monitoring Project: Johannesburg.