Why We Need News Services for Australian Children

Snapshot of Crinkling News home page

Click on this image to see Crinkling News in action.

Crinkling News is an Australian newspaper for children. Each week it brings news and current affairs to children aged between seven and fourteen years old. It also provides children with opportunities to do reporting and editing. Crinkling News is staffed by professional journalists and advised by a child psychologist so the content is age appropriate and has high standards for its news reporting. As Crinkling News points out, children are curious about the wider world, but regular news and current affairs media do not explain what is going on in a manner suitable for children.

I don’t have children in this age group so I had not heard of this newspaper until the last fortnight when Crinkling News launched a campaign to raise funds on Indiegogo. Children love the newspapers as do parents, grandparents and teachers, but without more funds for business development it will have to close.

In an era when the idea of truth is being battered; when social media is too often a conduit for rumours, innuendo and hate; when superficiality is lauded over complexity; our children need their own sources of reliable news. We want them to become informed, inquiring adults. They cannot do this if they grow up hearing snippets from scare-mongering current affairs programs and reading social media posts peddling falsities that have been dressed up as news.

Hearing about Crinkling News reminded me of a newspaper that I used to read when I was in grade five. It was called The Australian Student and was published by Southdown Press which was a Murdoch business. My mother bought me a few issues which I have kept.

The Australian Student was a monthly publication. I have the issues published between February and September 1975. This is what the newspaper said about itself:

Again this year emphasis will be put on summarising current affairs and providing background information to help you understand these things. There will also be emphasis on the world’s social problems, and running through the year, there will be articles dealing with the Australian society in the 1970s.

The Australian Student, February 1975.

The Australian Student appears to have been targeting older high school students. The articles were long, it included careers advice and each month lengthy articles were published on writers such as George Orwell, Graham Greene and Fyodor Dostoevsky – presumably for year 12 students. I can assure you that as a nine/ten year old, I did not read these! However, I clearly enjoyed the monthly ‘World Affairs Crossword’ and even managed to finish one.

Front page February 1975 edition of The Australian Student

The Australian Student was a monthly newspaper but was not published over the summer school holidays, so this February 1975 issue started the year with an article summing up the world’s problems.

The Australian Student probably did not quite meet my needs so my mother stopped buying it. But as a child I did like the idea of news specially presented for children. I watched the 7pm news on the ABC with my parents each night but did not see it all. Our parents ushered us out of the room every time the presenter warned, “this footage may disturb some viewers”. Consequently I did not see much about the Vietnam War. Behind the News on ABC television was good because it presented news in a manner suitable for children. We didn’t watch it in high school but I always turned it on if I happened to be off sick when it was being broadcast.

I don’t know what happened to The Australian Student or anything about its editor. Flicking through it now I think it would have been better if they had pitched it to a younger audience. Older high school students are capable of reading newspapers as well as any adult. We hope by that age, they see the value in knowing what is going on around them, are able to critique the news they read and discern what is and is not a well-reported article. We also hope that they have learned to value rigorous independent news sources.

I could have read about the end of the Vietnam War in newspapers when I was in primary school but I was not interested in the politics of it. I was interested in the lives of other children around the world. This photo of Chinese children has remained in my memory.

“We hope”. Why not start with younger children and help them develop an interest in their world and the inquiring qualities that our society needs? What I like about the Crinkling News model is that it is pitched to an age group who are naturally beginning to become interested in the world around them. I started collecting newspaper articles and pasting them in a scrap-book when I was eight. When we were in grade five we all talked in the playground about ‘The Dismissal’ of the Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam. Many of us had broken that news to our parents as the ABC interrupted children’s afternoon programming to cross to Canberra to follow the stunning news (see an interesting article on The Conversation about the televising of The Dismissal).

Children between the ages of seven and fourteen are ready to learn more about the news, but they need the news presented to them in a way that meets their needs, not the needs of adults.

I am excited about the opportunity that Crinkling News gives children to do some reporting and editing of their own. Not only can children learn by reading Crinkling News they can increase their understanding of news by becoming part of the process of news production. My grand-daughter is only twenty months old. I hope that Crinkling News is still being produced when she is old enough to read it.

There are only four days left to raise the remaining $76,000 needed to keep this valuable newspaper going. Go to Indiegogo now and support this important newspaper!

21/5/2017: This story has a great ending. Crinkling News ended up exceeding their goal by nearly $12,000! According to The Guardianan appearance before a Senate select committee and the good publicity for the campaign helped Crinkling News fulfil their fundraising goal.

More About Crinkling News

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7 thoughts on “Why We Need News Services for Australian Children

  1. Interesting…
    Most of the schools I’ve taught at use Behind the News as a once weekly roundup and have some kind of follow up activity afterwards, even if it’s just debate about the issues. I used to find that my students actually knew very little real Australian news because there were no newspapers in the house. (I taught in disadvantaged schools where newspapers were probably a luxury their families couldn’t afford). Their parents watched commercial i.e. tabloid news broadcasts which were always about crime and politics was just gotcha moments, or they watched ethnic news broadcasts about or from their country of origin which, if they covered Australian news, did it from a different perspective.
    All forms of newsprint journalism are in trouble. It will be interesting to see what happens next…

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    • I volunteered for many years at schools in the wealthiest areas of Australia and it was evident that the only news consumed was some of the more dubious tv news and current affairs. I don’t think wealth improves people’s discernment re news sources.

      You are right, the problems of Crinkling News can be seen as part of the general financial crisis hitting traditional news organisations. It is good to see that The Guardian is now getting as much in contrubutions from subscribers as they are in advertising, but I suspext that it is still not enough

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      • Yes, I bet their marketing department would like to know why I subscribe to some papers but have resisted subscribing to The Age (currently in deep trouble) even though it was dear to my heart for such a long time. But I have no patience with tabloid news and that’s the way The Age has gone.

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      • I agree. I am so saddened by how management has destroyed a newspaper I read every day since I was in primary school but I will only pay for original news, not for items that I have already read from the original sources. And don’t get me started on automatically playing videos and tabloid rubbish – life is too short to waste on that.

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  2. I hope they don’t fail, but then I hope that about most non-Murdoch news sources. My own kids don’t read papers, yet they are actively involved in politics and were brought up with the Age in the house every day. I can only imagine that the liberal press will survive in one form or another on the internet, meanwhile I’ll read the Age for football and a few respected commentators, Elizabeth Knight, Ross Gittins (I follow Michael West separately now he’s gone), the Guardian for First dog on the Moon, and Crikey for political analysis.

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    • There are now only two days left to raise ~ $68,000. I hope they can manage to survive too.

      Thanks for reminding me of Michael West. I also like Ian Verrender’s column on the ABC and Greg Jericho’s in The Guardian.

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