Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives a Missed Opportunity[1] to The Star for three articles that were published in the first week of April that failed to access the children at the centre of these stories.  

The stories focus on critical education-centred subjects. For example, “Pioneering education for deaf students” (The Star, 04/04/2019, p.6) reports on some of the challenges that deaf and hard of hearing children face especially when it comes to education. It relays the story of Roberta Cordano who runs Gallaudet University in America which focuses on how best to educate deaf and hard of hearing children and adults to maximise their productivity and success. Similarly, in “Oprah school embracing 4IR” (The Star, 04/04/2019, p.6), strides that Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (Owlag) has taken to ensure that their learners are equipped with the necessary equipment and skills to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) are showcased. The last story “Textbooks found to have gender, race bias” (The Star, 08/04/2019, p.6) covers the findings of a ministerial task team report that looked into different forms of discrimination present in South African school textbooks. Importantly, the data shows an over-representation of white and male subjects in the published content and calls for greater diversity in representation were made in the article.

To start, and on a positive note, these stories clearly indicate the remarkable diversity of children-centred issues that The Star covers. This range of subjects highlights the myriad of child-centred issues that journalists could report in any given news cycle, and we want to draw attention to the deliberate efforts undertaken by this publication to report on these.

Despite these positive strides, however, a child was not accessed in a single one of these articles. This is despite the countless opportunities offered in this coverage to access them. The failure to give children a voice is not unusual and has in fact been shown in countless MMA reports. For example, previous research conducted in 2016[2] and 2015[3] shows that children were accessed in only 12% and 9% stories about children, respectively. It remains a fundamental flaw in mainstream media coverage to not hear from any of the children who were the subjects of the stories or to source their views on issues that affect them. A good journalist would never consider running a story about a specific political party without getting that party’s views. Yet, we continually see stories about children where there is no expectation that we would hear their opinions, views and voices. We therefore urge journalists to push the boundaries of their reporting by upholding one of the basic tenets of journalism: to give voice to the voiceless. Where children remain one of the most marginalised groups in South African society, we call on the media to seek their voices out, especially on issues that affect them.  

We look forward to reading stories by The Star and other media that access children to deepen and enrich the quality of stories published, especially when in the best interests of children.


Sarah Findlay


[1] A missed opportunity is a story in which children should have been accessed but were not. 

[2] Media Monitoring Africa. 2016. Findings on the media coverage of children.

[3] Media Monitoring Africa. 2015. Findings on the media coverage of children.