Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Citizen Journalism and Children

Childhood, or more specifically, the process of growing up, is perhaps one of the most dynamic subjects for sociological study. Of what I am today, a major chunk must be attributed to the experiences and associations I made from mid-school upwards to graduating from high school. College, then, was essentially an opportunity to refine and modify the experiences of early life and see them play out in the fun sociological web of adulthood.

 Even if you don't have children, don't plan to have any, or are at that stage in life where dealing with adolescents or teens is a distant memory, the care and attention that must go to children must be still relevant to you.

 Why and how?

 Simple. Because every adult has once been a child. It would be a rare (and a blessed) adult who would not want to tweak bits and pieces of his/her upbringing with the hypothetical hope that those few changes here and there in the past might have resulted in them being a better adult. Perhaps, that is why each generation's attitude to the next generation is often vastly different from the previous.

 Countries and cultures also differ in their approach to education and upbringing.
In India, and many of our neighbours in South Asia, children often remain "children" much after the expiry date of 18. Many relevant social questions are evaded by the magic formula, "You won't understand it yet, you are just a child." Of course, continuos guidance and support from elders is required at any stage, but such abrupt fool stops to conversations are not fair.

As a journalist, it amazes me to see the potential of our young adults, and also disappoints me that there aren't enough opportunities available (compared to say, the US) to suitably assist them into making them confident and worthy of exercising their adult franchise.

For my masters thesis at the University of Pune, I chose to do a content analysis of a children's newspaper. It was essentially the in-depth study of the editorial style and content of a weekly supplement of a local English daily that catered to children from mid-school upwards to high school. It was disappointing to note that a large chunk of the paper was devoted to colourful and overly cheerful cartoons and drawings, fables and moral folklores, puzzles and riddles, recipes and fashion suggestions. What was missing was a solid dialogue in issues that would concern these kids directly in the near future, if not now. Civic responsibilities and issues were sparsely discussed, politics was scare and there was no mention of sex education.

By the age of 12, all children start getting highly curious of their surroundings, their questions are much more complex and much more inquisitive, their queries and concerns are genuine and it is essential that during this time we find a way to give them knowledge patiently and adequately. "You won't understand yet, you are just a child," is likely not going to work because if your child has asked a question, it means the neurone spark plug has already been ignited. If you don't respond convincingly and truthfully, the young adult will catch the evasion and find his/her own ways to get to the truth.

Students of Don Bosco High School loved the JuniorScoop concept.
At the end of the short content analysis, I was certain about at least one thing: There is a huge void in the Indian news media that proactively focuses on young adults as their target audience. It is high time that children be given the dignity and the credit for their intellect and curiosity, and that they be groomed to larger responsibilities that they will be suddenly burdened with in near future.

I found a satisfying way of inching towards this goal by joining Juniorscoop.

Juniorscoop is a proposed citizen journalism project that will produce an online video magazine with stories contributed by high school students from five countries- Afganistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India. We are a group of alumni of the scholarship programs funded by the US Department of State and our project has emerged a finalist. Out of about 600 proposed projects for the Alumni Exchange Innovation Fund 2013, only about 150 made it to the final round. Juniorscoop is proud to be in the race. If we get support, we might be funded by the US State Department to go ahead with our vision for grooming children as citizen journalists.

If you are a registered alum, sign in at and vote for us here

Voting ends June 16.

All my readers, friends and colleagues, please like our Facebook page without fail

-Gauri Gharpure

Fulbright-Nehru Masters Fellow in Leadership Development 2011-2012

MS Magazine, Columbia University in the City of New York

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