When I learnt about WoW! News, I was keen to share it with you. Providing young people with opportunities to access age appropriate and balanced news is so important – WoW! News offers a platform to engage children with current affairs in a more positive and solution focused manner. It’s an invaluable tool that has been a success with children, parents and educators. Founders Catherine and Alastair tell us more…
What is WoW! News
WoW! News is the first media venture to bring solutions journalism to the very youngest consumers of news, children as young as 7 or 8.
Using texts, pictures, podcasts and video, WoW! presents news about the problems the world faces, from the climate and pollution to conflict and social exclusion, but from the point of view of people looking for, and finding, solutions to them.
Providing free articles and podcasts online, in English and in French, since 2019, WoW! News launched a quarterly illustrated magazine in late 2020 and will soon launch a subscription smartphone app that combines solutions news with a shared experience for parents and children around exploration of major news topics.
Why did you start it?
We came to a realisation that the news offered a negative picture of the state of the world. Journalists see their role as highlighting problems that society needs to address. However, the technological and economic disruption of the media in the past 20 years has increased that negative bias (bad news scores more clicks) and, due to the pervasiveness of 24-hour news, increased its impact on news consumers. Among those impacts is a tendency for some people to turn away their attention altogether and for others to experience a sense of despair and impotence in the face of a perceived accumulation of problems. As a journalist, Alastair showed people the problems in the hope they would act to fix them. But he realised that if you only talk about the problems, you may undermine people’s energy and will to take action. It is vital, therefore, to show people that there is some hope of solving problems at the same time as they are discovering problems. Hope is essential for action.
This is the basis of solutions journalism, or constructive journalism, which has been taken up by a number of adult media.
Catherine’s realisation was that she had transformed from an avid news consumer, when she worked in financial markets, to someone who had turned away from news because it was getting her down. She was also interested in how children develop and realised that this kind of negative impact of the media was having a particular impact on children. Without adult filters to question the picture of the world they draw from the media, children were prone to have a particular gloomy outlook.
Speaking to children and parents in the preteen age group, we discovered many instances of children feeling worried or anxious about the future, notably about climate change but also political conflicts. At an age when they should be starting to explore the world around them, some children were fearful of what it holds – this despite the fact that there is plenty of evidence that the world is actually getting a lot better for most people [see the work of Hans Rosling, of Factfulness fame].
So we set about finding a way to show children that for all the problems of the world there are inspiring people seeking and finding solutions and that we can all, at whatever level, even at the youngest age, contribute to solutions.
We don’t only report ‘good’ news. In fact, we report a lot about problems in the world, and generally the same problems that dominate the rest of the media. What we add to our reporting is news about solutions or potential solutions. We also take care to show that the glass can be half full. For example, in reporting on the Covid pandemic, we ran numerous reports not only efforts to find solutions to the problem but also on things that were positive about what was happening in the world. This shows that the world is a more nuanced place. For example, we highlighted the benefits for nature of lockdowns and how this gave us concrete grounds to hope that efforts to reduce pollution and carbon emissions would help the planet recover.
Gain from WoW!
Our prime goal is to inspire children to feel confident in their own abilities to change the world for the better. We believe that hopeful and confident children will both learn better and have a more accurate understanding of the world around them and that this next generation will contribute to making the world a better place.
We have had almost universally positive feedback. Those who have expressed doubts that solutions journalism can foster ill-founded optimism have said that, on discovering WoW! News, they have understood the rigour of our approach. We hear regularly from children who express surprise and delight at the novelty of the solutions our subjects come up with. And we hear from teachers and parents that WoW! is providing a valuable antidote to what education and health professionals say is a mounting problem of anxiety about the world among preteens.
We have received support from a number of organisations. The startup incubators Ticket for Change, Créatis and, now, SEMIA, have all backed the project to succeed. We won a La French Tech grant from France’s public investment bank, a similar grant from France’s Grand-Est region and a prestigious award for media innovation from the French Culture Ministry.
Our priority now is to launch the WoW! app, first in French in the coming months, and in English later in the year. Viable paid-for content is vital to put WoW! on a sustainable economic footing. We are also publishing further issues of the quarterly magazine and aim to further link our paper and digital offerings, using techniques such as QR codes and novel augmented reality tools. We have developed a standalone video product aimed at distribution on educational TV platforms. We also aim to work more closely with schools on packages designed to address teachers’ needs.
And finally, we have a dream to create a “Tribe of Young Changemakers”, involving our young readers and viewers in choosing what stories we cover for them and encouraging them to share their own ideas and solutions with each other. We already have partnerships with the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots movement, for young people taking action to help the planet, and with United Schools, a trilingual global network linking classes which undertake projects to change the world.