David Buckingham, PGCE, MA, PhD, ACSS, is Professor of Media and Communications in the School of Social Sciences at Loughborough University. Prior, he was Professor of Education at the Institute of Education, London University, where he directed the Centre for the Study of Children, Youth, and Media. He researches children’s and young people’s interactions with electronic media, and on media education.
“Rather than attempting to measure the effectiveness of the news communicating political information, we should be asking how it enables viewers to construct and define their relationship with the public sphere…. How, ultimately do [news programs] establish what it means to be a ‘citizen’?” (18)
In this book Buckingham tries to address why children are reading news less. “Increasing cynicism can…be seen as a result of young people’s growing awareness of their own powerlessness” (202). Therefore, we should replace cynicism with criticism, a very important distinction. Regrettably, Buckingham contends that much media literacy discourse assumes a gullible other, forgetting how meaningful social context is, when what we need now is a social theory for analysis. Explicit in Buckingham’s research were age, gender, and the very significant ethnicity, while social class was implicit. Buckingham calls for a social theory of political understanding because research suggests that while news consumption is linked with greater political participation, the influence of parents, peers, and community factors is more significant.
So how to fix the news for kids and engage them as citizens? One way to do this is move beyond the classical, extremely conservative model for the news. Buckingham joins Fraser’s (1992) by enjoining readers to remember ours is a world with multiple public spheres, and so we should create “other possible networks for exchanging information or means of cultural expression” (24) that better engages youth. It’s still important to be realistic about what news for young people can achieve, but we should move towards making their news programs more exciting. “As we move into a more competitive, multi-channel era, in which television will have to struggle against less linear, more interactive media forms, innovation of this kind may not be only desirable but unavoidable” (58).