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Youth as agents for a trustworthy media landscape
Fighting disinformation cannot only be about debunking and fact checking. We also need to tackle the long term and complex task of building trust in our societies, in which engaging all societal groups to participate in the democratic conversation can play an important role. This insight gave us, Swedish journalists, the idea of Mobile Stories – a publishing tool helping students to become trustworthy citizen journalists with a real-life audience outside of school.
It was when working as a reporter and photographer in the early 2010s, that we noticed that things were changing around us. We increasingly met young people with an, at best, skeptical attitude towards journalists. “Nobody cares about what we think” was something we often got to hear when talking to young people. We also saw the growing challenge with disinformation and conspiracy theories online.
When the media outlet where we both were employed closed down, as a sign of the times, we wanted to do something to meet these challenges. This is when we started to figure out how we could transfer journalistic skills to young people through a scalable tool that could potentially have an impact for kids on an international level.
So how does it work? By using Mobile Stories pedagogical production and publishing tool, students learn how credible material is produced, while developing a piece of content such as an article, opinion piece, podcast, film or photo story. Through the process, they receive tips from journalists and other experts, guidance on, as well as reminders about, fact-checking, journalistic codes of ethics and online laws. They can also be invited to peer review other students’ work and join forces with other students to co-create articles. After the teacher’s mandatory approval, the students can choose to publish on mobilestories.se. When published, the students’ journalistic content becomes a common language that bridges the gap between young people and adults. “We showed that we can express ourselves in the same way that adults can,” said a 12-year-old boy who used Mobile Stories, in an interview with the Mobile Stories team.
Over the last five years, Mobile Stories has engaged over 9,000 students in 70 Swedish schools and published more than 900 stories, videos, podcasts and opinion pieces.
And the articles are important contributions to the democratic conversation. In a Google.org funded project, Mobile Stories collaborated with the cchildren’s rights strategist in the city of Malmö to strengthen children’s perspective in the municipality. The Op-Ed “Listen to us!” puts words on how students in grade six at a school in Rosengård, a disadvantaged area in Malmö, were affected by the media’s one-sided negative reporting about their area and school. The article was acknowledged in the community, the students were invited to talk about their experiences in the teacher training college and to read their article at a festival. Their article was also published in the local newspaper.
Mohamed’s article, “Stop Bullying!” is another example of how young people have made their voices heard through Mobile Stories. This article was spread on social media and Mohamed was invited to Sweden’s biggest national morning show to talk about his experiences and give advice on how to prevent bullying. Mohamed says in the interview that he now wants to continue to make a change whenever he sees something negative in society. Interviews with participating students show that they feel that they have been taken seriously and they want to continue writing articles, to make an impact.
Together with a leading news outlet in Sweden, Aftonbladet, and Mediekompass, Mobile Stories arranges the Young Journalist Award, with cash prizes and publication in Aftonbladet for the winning contributors. The contest has sprung up in local versions in smaller communities in Sweden.
By engaging local media outlets, local politicians and schools, Mobile Stories helps build bridges in local societies.
Mobile Stories offers educators a multi-disciplinary teaching tool that nurtures communication skills, critical thinking, media literacy and global citizenship. We are now adjusting our tool for new target groups outside Sweden.
Mobile Stories are looking for pilots with teachers and students in…
– IB schools (International Baccalaureate programme)
– Ireland and Great Britain
– Teachers in English as a second language
Jenny Sköld and Lotta Bergseth both have extensive experience as journalists from some of the leading newsrooms in Sweden. In addition to training teachers and students through Mobile Stories’ publishing tools, they offer education in the form of online courses, recorded webinars, and how-to guides. Lotta and Jenny are also co-authors of the book “Digital competence and source criticism in practice”.
Article reposted with permission from Media & Learning Association