It was during the dark days of lockdown the seed was sown that was to grow into ITN’s children’s book Inside Story: How the News Works.
In between finding ways to not bake sourdough bread or buy a Peloton bike I found myself exposed to a steady stream of forthrightly expressed thoughts, opinions and theories from my children.
Further investigation revealed this information was not coming from newspapers, television bulletins, or what might be considered the more conventional news outlets, but from social media.
My youngest child’s main source of news was, and still is, TikTok sensation Dylan Page, who aggregates news from around the world and shares it with more than 10 million followers.
Dylan, who bills himself as News Daddy, is in his twenties and is not a trained journalist – but is the number one news channel on Tiktok.
My children, like millions of others in the UK, use social media as their primary news source.
Social media news can ‘slip into conspiracy theory territory’
The evidence is not just anecdotal. Ofcom’s Children’s Media Lives annual study, which has been tracking youngsters’ use of media since 2014, has repeatedly highlighted this reliance among them on non-traditional outlets.
The report noted that “children generally believed that what they saw, read or heard on social media was true. They rarely reflected on its veracity, reliability and or relevance”.
It also warned that “for some children, their engagement with news topics on social media slipped into conspiracy theory territory”.
Tell me about it. And don’t even get me started on Andrew Tate…
Bemoaning my kids’ online habits (during a pitch for our original book idea based on ITN anniversary project ’65 stories across 65 years’) became the catalyst for ITN to create an illustrated book aimed at eight to 12-year-olds covering the history and mechanics of television news and how children can identify trustworthy sources.
Author and journalist Jane Marlow was already working within the ITN communications team and agreed to take on the additional task of writing a publication designed to educate children about the heritage, culture and importance of news on TV.
Jane interviewed key people within ITN including anchors and presenters such as Charlene White at ITV News who features in the book with an Ask Me Anything feature. She also spoke to dozens of producers, editors and technical team members, who shared their day-to-day experiences to create an exclusive behind-the-scenes book that de-mystifies television journalism for younger readers.
ITN book could also inspire new generation to join industry themselves
With the age of the book’s target audience in mind, it also features fun activities, quizzes and bite-sized facts, taking children on a journey through the history of news and into the modern-day newsroom, studio and production gallery.
The book highlights the wide range and variety of roles open to any young person who wouldn’t normally consider pursuing a career in TV news.
Most importantly, Inside Story: How the News Works also explains what makes a story newsworthy, why impartiality matters and how to spot fake news and covers the challenges facing journalism, today, such as the pros and cons of AI.
As well as being “available in all good book shops”, copies are being distributed to a number of schools across the UK by the charity Read for Good, which encourages children to develop a life-long love of reading. Teachers have welcomed the opportunity to teach children about the importance of knowing what information to trust online, noting the topic is absent from the curriculum for this age group.
The book forms a key part of ITN’s wide-ranging outreach and media literacy drive that is being championed by chief executive officer Rachel Corp.
This has seen us take an active role in ensuring the prominence of public service news online as well as defending and enhancing media freedom; lobbying for journalists’ online safety; spearheading the start of cross-industry discussions, involving the DCMS, to assess the impact of AI on journalism, and campaigning to allow cameras into courts in England and Wales – so important for giving younger audiences an understanding of how our institutions work.
The hope is Inside Story: How the News Works will not only show children how to decide which information sources are worthy of their trust but also inspire a new generation to one day join the industry themselves.
- Inside Story: How the News Works, written by Jane Marlow and illustrated by Terri Po, published by Templar books, is out now.
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