Raising Up a New Generation of News Consumers (Focus Age Under 14)

Session Convenor: Anne Anderson, Knight Fellow in Community Journalism & Freelance Writer

Discussion Participants: Neil Budde, Bill Densmore

Just as we don’t wait until children are adults to hand them a toothbrush, we should not wait until children are adults to train them to read and use news.

Bill Kovach and Ted Rosenstiel in their book The Elements of Journalism wrote, “In the name of efficiency and profit margins, we did nothing to make a new generation that wanted news.”

Many people agree that reaching younger audiences is a business imperative. But how young is young?

Anne Anderson researched this question and found that the newspaper industry generally defines young audiences as being between 18-34 — yet, according to an NAA study, at least half of 18-34 year-old regular newspaper readers began reading newspapers before age 14, many before age 10.

How newspapers cover (or don’t cover) children affects the newspaper’s credibility as a mapmaker for the community, its level of civic responsibility in helping readers navigate their community, and its ultimate financial stability.

Anne’s content analysis, conducted this past summer as part of her graduate work, found very little coverage about children and even less targeted to children. Much of what was targeted to children was written at a grade level much higher than most children would be able to read and comprehend.

Neil and Bill paged through yesterday’s Tampa Tribune and also found some coverage, but not much, about children. Bill commented that a sports section front page article seemed written at a simple reading level, but that it presumed a great deal of background knowledge about sports.

Anne shared several articles she had written using normal “journalese,” all of which were written at a 10th grade reading level or above — including one article about an event for children. She then rewrote the articles at grade levels ranging from 2nd to 5th grade and used other techniques, including breakout boxes, images, etc., to convey the information.

About Peggy Holman

Peggy Holman supports organizations and communities to uncover creative responses to complex challenges using innovative engagement processes. The Change Handbook, co-authored with Tom Devane and Steven Cady, documents many such processes. The book is the considered the definitive resource for leaders and consultants working to increase resilience, agility, and collaboration in organizations and other social systems. Peggy co-founded Journalism that Matters in 2001 with three journalists to support the pioneers who are shaping the emerging news and information ecology. Peggy’s latest book, Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity, supports people facing disruptions to invite others to join them in realizing new possibilities.
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1 Response to Raising Up a New Generation of News Consumers (Focus Age Under 14)

  1. Maurreen Skowran says:

    Yes, but

    Submitted by Maurreen Skowran on Mon, 03/02/2009 – 11:39pm.
    This is a good point, and there is opportunity here.

    But it would be an overstatement to say newspapers have done nothing — for instance, The Mini Page and NIE.

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