Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives a missed opportunity[1] to News24 and GroundUp for neglecting to access children for their views in their articles titled, “A splash of inspiration: Hout Bay activist offers kids free swimming, breakdancing and life skills lessons” (News24, 15/01/2022) and “Guitar instead of guns for Cape Flats children” (GroundUp, 21/01/2022).

The News24 article reports on a group of children from Hout Bay in Cape Town who have been given an opportunity to be taught free life skills, breakdancing and swimming lessons by a community activist named Jeffery Jonkers. The story is accompanied by photographs of the children, during the swimming and dancing activities. Despite the story being about children and portraying them positively, none of the children are interviewed in the story. It would have been great if the journalist accessed the children to get their views on how this is changing their lives.

The second article is by GroundUp and it reports on children from the Cape Flats in Kraaifontein who are being provided with a music school programme to reportedly prevent them from falling prey to gangsterism. The article includes a video of the children participating in the program and playing guitars.

Seeing as this story touches on an important topic affecting the lives of children from the Cape Flats, the journalist should have spoken to the children on how the program impacts their lives. This could have likely inspired other children to join the music program and not gangs.

MMA is of the view that if media are going to report stories that have a central focus on children, then the children must be extensively quoted so as to share their perspectives. Of course this must be done only when it is in the children’s best interest to speak. In both the stories above, it was in the children’s best interest to share their views.

The failure to include to stories children’s voices goes against best journalism practice when it comes to reporting on children. MMA’s Ethical Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media[2] advise journalists stating, “Children have a right to have their views heard on matters that affect them, so try and include them.”

While we acknowledge and commend the efforts by News24 and GroundUp to report on issues affecting children, we submit that both media missed an opportunity to tell very powerful stories by including the children’s voices and letting them share their perspectives.

We encourage both media to continue to report on children, highlight and celebrate their achievements and talents and portray them as active agents and, to find ways to include their voices in media coverage when it is in the children’s best interest.

Written by Yinhla Ngobeni

Edited by Lister Namumba

[1] A missed opportunity is a story in which, for instance, children should have been accessed but are not.