writing for younger audiences

Producing news for children is just as important as doing so for adults.

In a recent ICFJ Pamela Howard Forum on Global Crisis Reporting webinar, “News for kids: what it can teach us,” editors who produce news for children from publications in the U.S., the Netherlands, Singapore and Honduras discussed their methods for engaging and informing young people on the news.

“I think that there are lessons that we’ve learned producing a children’s newspaper that can be applied for all news platforms, for all ages,” said Russ Kahn, editor-in-chief of News-o-Matic.

In addition to Kahn, Carlos Echeverri, editor and publisher of Mi Primer Diario (My First Newspaper, in English), Henrike van Gelder, editor-in-chief of Kidsweek, Serene Luo, schools editor for The Straits Times and Dr. Aralynn Abara McMane, president of Global Youth & News Media, shared their insights on producing news for young people.

The panel discussed tips for appealing to young people and including them in the journalistic process:

Use visuals 

News formats should be as visually appealing as possible to children. Khan emphasized making news for young people visual above all else to create an immersive experience that draws kids into stories. With more access to tablets and other technology, young people also expect more multimedia in content designed for them. “I think the days of sharing an article with a single picture, those days are long gone, at least if we want to really, truly engage students,” Khan said.

The Straits Times children’s publication, “Little Red Dot,”  seeks to begin conversations about civic engagement early through formats like comics and illustrations. Luo sees it as a way to encourage young people to engage with valuable information through entertainment. “It’s almost like parents hiding the broccoli and carrots in the mashed potatoes and the hamburgers,” she said.

Echeverri explained that each page or screen must be a strong experience for readers. Echeverri publishes “My First Newspaper” for children in nine countries, including one in Honduras, “Mi Primer Diario.” Mi Primer Diario is particularly valuable for young readers in Honduras because of poor access to books and libraries in the country, Echeverri said.

Take a solutions journalism approach

Journalists should also emphasize solutions in their reporting for young people. “Solutions journalism puts the emphasis on solid, rigorous journalist inquiry into possible solutions to a problem rather than just reporting about the problem itself,” McMane explained.

One way to incorporate solutions is to include an action perspective, van Gelder said. “If you’re really worried about the climate, really worried about things that happen in the world, this is what you can do,” van Gelder explained as an example.

Finding ways to include children as a part of the solution to a news story is another important part of engagement, encouraging young people to take part in addressing a problem they read. “I think it’s really important to give a glimmer of hope of a bright spot at the end of an article,” van Gelder explained. Van Gelder’s publications, Kidsweek and Samsam, try to have a bright spot with each article, although it can be difficult.

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by Annie Jennemann, International Journalists’ Network

Photo by Gabriel Tovar on Unsplash

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