Ninety-eight per cent of children and young people in the UK cannot spot the difference between a real and fake news story, according to a 2018 study by the National Literacy Trust.
In response to poor media literacy amongst young people, TSV is working with the Financial Times to send journalists into secondary schools to park an interest in journalism, and with Google to venture outside of London to help pupils produce articles for local news websites.
Starting this year, the UK Government has announced that primary and secondary schools will begin educating pupils about the dangers of mis- and disinformation. But education reform moves slowly, Brinkworth said, and the absence of media studies in the national curriculum has been sorely felt.
"I speak to numerous media studies teachers who are on one hand overjoyed that we are coming to their schools but desperate we aren't there already," he explained.
"They are also very lonely, these teachers love their subjects [but they've reached a point] where media studies has been cut from their schools because they can't afford to pay the bills. That's the reality of the situation."
Through its work, TSV meets pupils from a range of backgrounds, including those in pupil referral units (an alternative to mainstream schools), to help re-engage them in the education system and the news industry.
Pupils are encouraged to come up with their own ideas in workshops. Here, they talk about the issues that matter to them and their community. With assistance from the charity and visiting reporters, pupils work on an article over the course of three days in the school year.
"That means they can be interested in writing for the first time and go ‘I can write about my friends taking drugs, I can write about the fact my youth centre got shut down a year ago and nothing has come in to replace it'.
"Because they can engage in those topics, they engage with the education system."
Great to have @_caitfitz with us editor @5_News in Perry Bar, Birmingham this morning @Broadway_School to meet our pupil reporters. Lots of fascinating insights about news shared! #watchthisspace #5News #medialiteracy #Birmingham pic.twitter.com/VDSU34K1b2— The Student View (@TSV_ORG) October 4, 2019
So, how does a secondary school student turn into budding reporter, especially when the scheme is unable to take children out of the classroom?
The only way is to guide pupils through freedom of information requests to uncover information about their local area. This is world-changing for pupils who have had a difficult past with authorities.
"We can say 'Despite the fact you are a 13-year-old who has been arrested half a dozen times, you can demand this information and they legally have to give it to you' and that's huge for some of these kids because they think 'Wait, the police have to take me seriously'," Brinkworth explained.
"Some of the grins on these kids faces when they realise someone in authority has to take them seriously - it has a huge impact on them."
The charity works with the pupil in approaching organisations or people for comment and in drafting their story once an FOI has been received. The pupils will draft the email as much as possible, outlining what information they need. The journalists then steps in, makes tweaks and sends it off.
Journalists offer insight on how to structure the article and then edits the pupil's draft. They then issue a right of replies if needed and checks for legal issues before hitting publish. The stories are published to The Student View website, and some also make it to partnering local news websites.
Some of the data the students dig up can also be used as the basis of investigations at those organisations, which is not to be underestimated in the context underserved local news audiences.
"We are trying to act as close to a newswire as we can - that's not what we are - but we can be professional about this.
"These stories are free of charge, they've been through legal, they are quite bare-bones so they don't have a lot of comment beside them. But the heart of a news story is always there."
The central idea is to make students appreciate the importance of accuracy, fact-checking, and evidence in the wider media - and how to spot when claims do not stack up.
With many organisations also working to address the issue of media literacy, The Student View is looking towards creating a global media literacy network to allow different groups to pool resources and knowledge from around the world.
"This is an emerging space and there’s a lot of people looking to get into it, as they should be, but there’s a lot of people not realising that some of the questions they’re seeking to answer have already been answered by someone else.
"We’re trying to start that network and bring people together."
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