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Why is it important to have news especially made for children ?

Jan-Willem Bult, Chief Editor | WADADA News for Kids, Head of Children & Youth Media | Free Press Unlimited

Jan-Willem Bult, Chief Editor | WADADA News for Kids, Head of Children & Youth Media | Free Press Unlimited

It is so important to set up news programs for children in every country in the world because it helps them understand what is going on in the world. Anyway children do watch news and have to see horrible images. Studies do point out, that in countries without news for kids, children are more afraid and anxious about images of war and conflict than in countries where children’s news exist.

What exactly is ‘WaDaDa – News for kids ?

‚WaDaDa – News for Kids’ is a program, a format and a network. It covers current affairs and human-interest stories. The network consists of broadcasters in 14 countries worldwide. They produce pieces for a weekly “world news” edition. In Amsterdam/ Netherlands we put these news pieces together and produce the “world news”-edition of WaDaDa. This world edition is 12 minutes long and produced in English. Every participant of our network can broadcast the news show like it is. But what they also can do is they can take news pieces and integrate them in their own news show with their own local presenter and create a show in their local language.

And every partner within our network can use the biggest library of news pieces for children worldwide. It contains over 1.000 hours of news material from all over the world.
In exchange our partners are obliged to produce their own news pieces from their country or region and upload them in the library so that other partners can use them.

The Kids News Network has 14 partners in three continents at the moment. For instance in Asia we have Nepal, we have Bangladesh, we have Indonesia, Burma. In Africa we have South Africa, we have Ghana, we have Zambia. In South and Central America for instance we have Peru, we have Bolivia, Nicaragua and Brazil.
In some countries where there is no news for kids yet we have correspondents who can report from there.

What is the target group you are addressing ?

That differs from country to country. The target group for the world edition, which we produce in The Netherlands, is from 9 to 16 years. Some countries within the network try to target children from 14 to 17 e.g. Bolivia. They want to address the teens with their news. Most of the broadcasters are focusing on kids around 11 or 12 year olds, that is the highest grade in elementary school.

Can every broadcaster join your network ?

I work with a very basic principal: news for kids programs should exist in each country of the world. The NGO I work for (‘Free press unlimited’) just wants to produce and distribute the highest quality of media that children deserve to get. So we are always very happy when broadcasters from different countries join our network and enrich our program with high quality pieces. In fact what we do is we stimulate the quality of children’s media in the countries we work and one of the things we offer is this ‘WaDaDa – News for kids’ format and network.

If a broadcaster joins the network will he be allowed to use this pool of items/ news pieces and integrate them in their own show with their own presenter ?

We have created several different products and services so that everyone can start tomorrow with broadcasting news for kids. The process works like this: we (Free Press Unlimited) produce this weekly WaDaDa-News world edition. It is made out of the pieces coming from our 14 partners. They upload their material on our online library. So what a country can do is they can license the ‘WaDaDa – News for kids’ – world edition and start broadcasting it. But we are open that they can replace our presenter by their presenter. Or they can take out one item and put their own item in. It works just like a toolbox although it is a complete program as well.
The other possibility is using pieces from our library for already existing programs. If you have a children’s magazine program for example, then you could take items from our library and integrate them into your existing programs.

Before we start a cooperation we always visit the broadcaster. Then we license our format for this particular broadcaster. This is important because everything is based on working with the same format. This makes it easy to exchange items out of the library.

You are also supporting young journalists to make them able to produce high quality pieces for your network, correct ? How does that work ?

Yes, in some countries there are a lot of self-made “teenage reports” in the show. We educate youths to make their own videos with their mobile phones and these teenagers then go where we could never go with our own camera teams. And that is how we get pieces from each corner of the world.

To make it easier for the young and often inexperienced field reporters ‘Free press unlimited’ also developed a smartphone application called “story maker”. This can be downloaded on an Android phone. This app helps you to record interviews. It explains to the user how a good interview should look like. Actually it is like an e-learning app. And the user can immediately upload the pieces he produced with the app. They directly end up in our library. This means we can really cover almost every corner of the world.

Did you get any requests from Pakistani broadcasters yet ?

Not yet. Although within our network there are some contacts to Pakistan, unfortunately there has not been more than that. So I was very happy when I heard about this website. And I hope that there will be more contacts soon.

So how do you start when a new broadcaster joins the network ?

In the first year we have two trainings, all this before the broadcaster even starts producing. In this time we are developing the format and we provide trainings in story telling and producing with children. Once we have analysed where this is going we conduct a training that is adapted to the special need of the certain broadcaster. These trainings can differ very much: from camera works, to mixing sounds, to putting good graphics on screen or sometimes very basic story telling.

You certainly have heard of the terrible attack of the Taliban on a school in Peshawar. Children will definitely see this kind of horrible news on TV. So how would you cover news like that for children ?

The first thing we did was: we immediately bought footage from the AP-Server and put it on our online server so that all our broadcasters could immediately implement the original footage into their context. That is very important because this is the kind of content that is crucial to children. They will hear about it immediately and they will see very cruel images in the main news. And they will be scared. So for us it was very important that the broadcasters in our network can use footage as soon as possible even if it was from ‘adult news’. But then they can use it and explain it to their young viewers. Contextualization is very important.
So one of the crucial things about children’s news is bringing those bad stories to kids as soon as possible.

So from the pedagogical point of view: How should one cover these topics without scaring the children too much ?

The two most important things are: Truth and hope.
You need to tell them the truth. Don’t try to cover it or hide it from them. They want to know the facts. They will find out anyway. So better you tell them and put the incident into a context they can understand.
And then we try not to leave them without hope in the end of the news. For the Peshawar incidence we for instance tried to tell them that there are groups that try to move society into a positive direction so that attacks like this hopefully won’t happen again. So the kids are not left alone with the horrible images.

Thank you very much Mr. Bult!

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