News Champions Forum

Posted on December 18, 2019

Thank you to Zoe Adams (Year 9) for this article about her experience at the News Champions Forum in October.

News Media is our way of finding out about the world around us, of learning about others opinions and ideas and having a platform to spread our own. But are young Australians being properly represented and having appropriate interaction with the news?

From 20 – 22 October, 21 students from across Australia, including myself, attended the News Champions Forum held at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. The forum aimed to assist these young people to become better acquainted with the issues surrounding news media within Australia, specifically the interaction and representation of young people. As part of the conference, we also received tips from ABC reporters on how to present yourself in front of the camera and received the opportunity to trial these skills in an ABC TV interview that has since been used in promotional material.

The conference began by outlining the importance of democracy within Australian society and then explaining the crucial role that news and media play within a democracy. We were then able to view each other’s entries into the ABC news diet challenge – a competition that invited young Australians to take a look at the way that they consume news media, make a change to this consumption and remark on their experience and findings in changing their news habits. This was a valuable opportunity to share our experiences with each other, allowing us to gain a broader concept of youth perception of media.

At the conference, we were invited to brainstorm questions for a poll that will be released sometime next year regarding media literacy for young Australians which will allow for a continuation of the research. The aim of the poll is to have a few simple questions that will allow for a broad and comprehensive study without being difficult for the participants. After our brainstorming session, we were privileged to have presentations by two influential young people who have been able to ‘harness the power of the media’ in order to be successful. Amos Washington, the 2018 Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations, spoke about how he was able to utilise the media in order to connect with other young people from across Australia and use his standing to give greater voice to the youth.

The founder of GG’s flowers – a not for profit organisation that provides florist and flower delivering jobs to people with disabilities – spoke about how the positive attention her company received from the media has allowed it to grow into the large success it is today allowing many members of the Canberra community financial security when they may have been struggling to find employment. The experiences of Amos and GG’s flowers were crucial in demonstrating the importance and power of news in Australia.

In 2017, a survey was undertaken by research professors Tanya Notely and Michael Dezuanni from the Western Sydney University’s Institute for Culture and Society, in conjunction with Crinkling News, a newspaper specifically targeted at young people. In the survey, young Australians between the ages of 8 and 16 answered various questions on how they interacted with the news. In this survey, it was found that only 23% of young people felt that they had a lot of trust in the news that they received from news organisations. Only 4% of 8-12-year-olds and 5% of 13-16-year-olds strongly agreed that “young people often appear on the news talking about things which affect them.” and 45% of young Australians agreed that young people need news made just for them (1). Notely and Dezuanni (who attended the News Champions Forum) also undertook another study where they analysed the news published over a 24 hour period to see how young
people were involved and perceived within this news. Out of the 276 news stories that were analysed, only 11% included a young persons view or experience and only 4 stories directly quoted a young person. 41 stories (15%) had young people as a primary focus (2).

I feel that young people are not granted safe access to the news that we need in order to make well-informed decisions. Without safe access to news, young Australians are being prohibited from accessing the information that we need to be able to make a change in our communities. I also feel as if it is important that we take a stand against the under-representation and involvement of young people within the media. It is crucial that Australian media is involving everyone equally and that we are able to have access to everyone’s opinions.

So what can young people do to get better involved? Annabel Astbury, head of ABC education invites young people to pitch an article of interest to her, which if successful would be published on the ABC Education website, a regularly used classroom resources by teachers. Another way of getting young people involved with the media is by encouraging them to write articles for local news organisations or school publications. It was also suggested that a good way for young people to become active participants in news production was for them to begin their own newspaper, magazine, podcast or some other news platform, especially aimed at young people.

Whilst it is important for young people to take the initiative in increasing their involvement with media, it is also important that news organisations make the change in order to not only feature more stories about issues that directly affect or involve young people but that they are also striving to make a conscientious effort to include the perspectives and opinions of young people.

1 Notley, T., Dezuanni M., Zhong, H., and Howden S., 2017, News and Australia’s Children: How Young People Access Perceive and Are Affected by the News. Sydney: Crinking News, Western Sydney University and Queensland University of Technology.

2 Notley, T., M. Dezuanni, and H.F. Zhong (2019), The Inclusion and Representation of Young people in the Australia News Media, Western Sydney University and Queensland University of Technology.