Research Highlights Need for Young People to be Included in Australian News Media

A new report on the inclusion and representation of young Australians in the news finds that young people are seldom given the opportunity to speak for themselves and are given almost no attention as a social group.

The research, led by Dr Tanya Notley from Western Sydney University’s Institute for Culture and Society and Associate Professor Michael Dezuanni from the Queensland University of Technology’s Digital Media Research Centre, analysed the representation of young Australians aged 4-18 in the news media.

Graphic showing statistics: 1% of news stories directly quoted a young person. 2% were about young people as a social  category. 11% included images of young people. 11% included the views and experiences of young people. 34% were about issues likely to impact young people.

Dr Notley says young people’s views and experiences are rarely included, even on issues that most affect them.

“When young people do appear in the news, the most common focus of these stories is accidents and social welfare. They are not adequately represented on stories about the economy, politics, environment and climate change.”

Associate Professor Dezuanni says that too often, young people appear in news stories only as victims or family members, or they are spoken about and seen in images, but not listened to.

“This is an issue because it may increase young people’s lack of interest in mainstream news media and it is likely to exacerbate their existing low levels of trust.”

The snapshot study critiqued a sample of national, state and regional Australian news media on 1 April 2019, a day chosen for being an ‘unremarkable’ news day. A total of 276 news stories across 8 newspapers and 4 television news bulletins were analysed.

The study found:

  • 34% of news stories were about issues likely to impact young people, yet only 11% of news stories included the views or experiences of young people
  • Just 1% of stories quoted a young person
  • 11% of news stories included an image of a young person
  • Just 2% of news stories were about children or young people as a social group or category

Dr Notley says there is a clear mismatch between young Australians’ expectations of the news and what major news outlets are providing them in terms of focus or framing of the news stories, and who is included.

“We have a crisis of trust in news media in Australia and we believe young people’s low levels of trust in news media is linked to the fact that they are not adequately included in the news. This exclusion tells them that news organisations don’t think their views and experiences matter.”

The researchers encourage further investigation into the inclusion and representation of young people in the news media, and suggest news organisations can respond by including young people in their coverage in meaningful ways, for example, by allowing young people to speak for themselves on issues that affect them.

To support further investigation, the researchers have released the study’s methodology as a toolkit alongside the research report so that researchers, teachers, students, youth-focused organisations and young people can carry out their own analysis of news media in local, regional or national contexts.

This study was supported by funding from the Museum of Australian Democracy, Google Australia and Western Sydney University as part the Advancing the News Media Literacy of Young Australians project (opens in a new window).

Resources:

ENDS

2 September 2019

Emily-Kate Ringle-Harris (opens in a new window), Research Media and Communications Officer, Institute for Culture and Society