Junior Journo Newsroom: Curriculum crisis looms if Aussie kids aren’t taught media literacy

The Morning Show hosts Kylie Gillies and Larry Emdur welcomed cub reporters to the studio on Friday to help launch the Kids News Junior Journalist Newsroom, as experts agreed it was critical that young Australians developed skills to recognise and create trustworthy content.

As rampant disinformation rapidly redefines what it even means to be literate, education and media experts have called the lack of agile curriculum change potentially “disastrous”.

Deakin University senior lecturer Dr Lucinda McKnight said that “media literacies have long been devalued in the Australian English curriculum”.

“This conservative shift away from media, and from the texts that are dominant in students’ lives, has proven to be disastrous for meeting the digital literacy demands of contemporary society,” she said.

“Timely and generative AI-aware media literacies urgently need to take centrestage in any revised curriculum.”

University of Canberra Associate Professor Michael Jensen, co-author of the report Australian Perspectives on Misinformation, said a focus on media literacy for children was “absolutely fundamental”.

“Most of the things that we know about the world around us come to us through the media,” he said. “Given information is the fundamental fabric through which we interact with everything that’s meaningful in our world, disinformation is potentially that kind of all pervasive threat.

“Being a critical consumer of news is really important … (helping) people recognise how a source is trying to induce a response in them as opposed to providing them with information is really important.”

These calls to curriculum change come as News Corp Australia’s free digital classroom resource Kids News today launches the Junior Journo Newsroom.

Supported by News in the Community in partnership with the Seven Network, the expanded 2024 competition, now in its second year, aims to support “the growing need for Aussie kids to get on the tools”.

The Morning Show’s Emdur welcomed the competition at “a time where there is so much rubbish on the internet.”

“Misinformation can spread so quickly and be so damaging. The Kids News Junior Journalist competition is a fabulous initiative and will help the next generation of storytellers understand the power of fact over fiction,” he said.

News Corp Australia’s Community Ambassador Penny Fowler said the competition “is exciting because it encourages young people to develop their focus on facts”.

“It involves the same skills that professional journalists depend on daily – the ability to separate the truth from the false and the worthy from the worthless,” Ms Fowler said.

Kids News editor Diana Jenkins said, “There’s no definition or practice of ‘literacy’ anymore that doesn’t involve media.”

“Practical reporting and verification skills are absolutely critical for this generation of young students. Kids News has a real responsibility and passion to support that,” she said.

Named 2023 Kids News Junior Journalist of the Year, Madison Riquelme, 13, a year 8 student at St Monica’s College Epping in Melbourne, said it was “so hard for people to find a source that they can trust, with all these speculations going around and not backed up with evidence.”

“I do think that they could teach us a little bit more about it,” she said.

Now a year 5 student at Sydney’s North Rocks Primary School, 2023 category winner Adit Garg, 10, said that children were “very vulnerable to misinformation”.

“It’s really great to provide sources,” Adit said. “If people are doubting the credibility of news, they can go and check those sources to see for themselves whether it’s a reliable source or just some random information; it could just be false.”

Entries are now open to Australian school students in years 3 to 9. As well as awarding Story of the Month, the Kids News Junior Journo Newsroom Awards will announce news and sport category prizewinners after the annual competition closes on November 22.

This year also sees the introduction of two Junior Journos of the Year, one each in primary and secondary, who will both win a guest presenter spot on The Morning Show, studio tour, HarperCollins book pack and prepaid gift card.

For more information and to enter, visit kidsnews.com.au/junior-journo