WNMC19: Chasing media literacy for digital natives

WNMC19: Chasing media literacy for digital natives

Recognising that catching readers when they are young is the secret to building continual audiences, a World News Media Congress audience heard of several ways media companies were serving junior readers.

While the world seems to have moved its focus on from millennials, Generation Z are defined as the age group from eight to 24, and boosting the media literacy of this firmly digital cohort is seen as an answer to the challenge of misinformation.

Using schools as a conduit, Singapore's The Straits Times has a six-strong team under schools editor Serene Luo (top) which produces a newspaper for ten weeks of each school term, designed for the half a million 13-17 year-olds on the island, and involving "several stakeholders including youth, teachers and government"."

Revenue from subscriptions and circulation are growing from the department, originally established to serve what had been termed the "lost generation" within Singapore Press Holdings.

"In 2012, we reached a turning point when sponsors wanted to become involved in our events such as a national spelling bee, going where young people go and attempting to give readers "a balanced diet of educational stuff like politics and economics explained... and plenty of fun too".

Luo said the group took a pop-up newsroom to schools and explained how the newspaper is produced, run an event called the youth media challenge. "We are proud of what we achieve, and teachers and parents value us as well."

WAN-Ifra's executive director of media policy Elena Perotti reported the re-establishment of the "kids committee, now as a network" and urged all to get involved in the programmes to focus on boosting media literacy of a group which numbers many millions across the world, distinguished by their ability to work with digital platforms but an inability to tell the difference between truth and propaganda.

"Working with youth is vital for democracy and our survival," Perotti said. "Gen Z are very confident in digital platforms, frugal and wary, ruthless and make purchases based on meticulous research," Perotti says.

Aslak Gottlieb - a journalism and educational consultant who works with Denmark's Southern University - went further, describing them as "being accustomed to a very wide choice on anything they like, when they like, digital-savvy but accustomed to consuming low value media.

"We need to empower them to become critical thinkers, and so a range of programmes has been established for schools to understand what journalism is and how it works, targeting the material to student age groups."

From Group Sud Ouest in France, Etienne Millien also encouraged working with schools in the battle to reconcile young people - he doesn't like the term Gen Z - to the need for news and news brands?

"We need to get young adults to come back to us and trust us again, and we must consider our involvement as an investment in the future for newspapers and public broadcasting.

"Newsmedia literacy needs to be taught by journalists and we have to be able to talk to them about what interests them, such as climate change. The Charlie Hebdo tragedy had been a massive wake up call for media in Europe.

Bavarian newspaper group Straubinger Tagblatt/Landshuter Zeitung Mediengruppe - founded in 1816 - has a newspaper for teenagers called Freistunde (or Free Lesson) inserted in its 26 daily and weekly newspapers on Fridays. Deputy editorial director Florian Wende (above) says the six-page printed newspaper is supported by a website, events and social media. "My team writes all the stories, takes our own pictures, finds our own sponsorship and creates our own design and layout.

"We pick topics that are front of mind for young people and cross into politics, economics, music, video games and interactive surveys. Our events are very important, and include poetry gatherings, reader visits through our printing plants, and even the creation of our own ice cream with a local partner."

Wende said they put print first because they believe that facts work better in a printed product, conveying more value and reliability for teenagers, "but we do work hard to link print and social media using Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat to reach our readers and create our own Freistunde community," he said.

Maggie Coleman

(From left) Etienne Millien of France's Groupe Sud Ouest, Danish consultant Aslak Gottlieb, WAN-Ifra media policy and public affairs executive director Elena Perotti and schools editor of Singapore's Straits Times Serena Luo