Two articles in Sowetan, which appeared the same week, provided reasons to be glad; “Youngsters on road to success” by Thandukwazi Gcabashe (14/10/2009, p. 18) and “School gardens puts meal on tables” by Namhla Tshisela (16/10/2009, p. 9)1. Both articles showed children as capable, skilled, contributing members of the community and gave them the opportunity to speak for themselves about their experiences and views.
Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) has frequently highlighted that children are under-represented in the news, and that where they do appear it is often as voiceless victims of crime and/or abuse. Children themselves have commented on how they would like to be seen more in the media in positive stories and in the role of heroes and active citizens2.
Sowetan’s Nation Building initiative provides a great forum to showcase the talents, achievements and contributions of children, as active citizens, through its reporting on and involvement in initiatives like the Young Communicators Awards and the National Schools Essay Competition on Albinism.
Many of the learners from Park Senior Primary School, who have been monitoring Sowetan, as part of MMA’s Children’s Media Monitoring Project (CMMP), commented that it was their favourite section of the newspaper .
“Youngsters on road to success”, which appeared in the Nation Building section of the newspaper, was particularly commendable for the way in which it reported on children’s talents.
It reported on the successes of four youngsters in the Dettol Shona Khona soccer clinics in Meadowlands, Soweto, who qualified for the national camp, supported by an education through sport talent searching and nurturing programme of Reckittt Benckiser.
The headline, sub headline, and by-line themselves attracted readers to the positive contributions of the young people showcased, with words like “success”, “talented” and “aiming high”.
The story was given half a page in the newspaper, and included a photograph of the young achievers, who were named and thereby credited for their achievements.
Most importantly, each of the youngsters was profiled and interviewed, with their quotes making up a good proportion of the story. As the central subjects of the story, they merit this treatment by the reporter.
The second article, “School gardens puts meal on tables”, appeared in Sowetan as part of a full page feature focusing on World Food Day. It reported on a food garden initiative, a partnership between Danone Clover Kids and the Food Gardens Foundation.
This was an interesting article, as it broke the trend in media reporting on feeding schemes and other initiatives, where children are often portrayed as voiceless and “needy” recipients of help in the form of charity. It also placed the story in the wider national and international context of food scarcity and hunger.
The article portrayed children positively, as experts, with specialist knowledge and skills, and reported the initiative from the children’s perspective, through focusing on the activities and accessing the views of one of the “charges”, Tshepiso Lekopotsa.
Reporting the children’s perspectives not only highlights the impact that this initiative has, but also shows that children play an active role in the project, providing vegetables which , according to Tshepiso, “help to feed children which come to school hungry”.
Pupils from Park Senior Primary School also commended the story, and wrote that it was “good to see children as heroes rather than victims”3.
MMA looks forward to seeing more articles in Sowetan which showcase children’s talents, contributions and achievements, and make their voices central to the stories which they are the main actors in.
For more MAD OAT commentaries on children’s voices and achievements, see the following:
“Saturday Star celebrates teenager’s achievement, making her voice central”
“Saturday Star silences children sometimes”
For MAD OAT commentaries on feeding schemes see:
“Article on failed government programmes on children”
1.Namhla Tshisela is a “child friendly journalist” who completed the Wits accredited course on Reporting on Children in 2007 convened by MMA, in partnership with Wits School of Journalism. If you are interested in this course, please contact MMA.
2. These are the views broadly expressed by children who have participated in the Children’s Media Monitoring Project (CMMP) 2003-2009.
3. Learners from Park Senior Primary School, who have been monitoring Sowetan over a 10 week period, presented their findings at a newsroom visit to Sowetan. This quote is taken from one of their presentations, where this article was used as an example of a “well reported story”.
Response from Sowetan:
Sowetan and the Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation are proud youth development supporters as part of Sowetan Nation Building and thus welcome the nomination and accept the challenge to continue giving children a voice, the platform to raise their concerns, aspirations and hazard solutions that affect communities, particularly the youth themselves.
Our young writers both inside and outside Sowetan are affirmed and empowered accordingly because we believe that they are tomorrow’s leaders and affording them room inspires and motivates them.
Victor RW Mecoamere
Sowetan Nation Building Manager