News value is the editorial or publication value the media attaches to issues based on a hierarchy of worthiness, importance and impact. The value is what determines whether an issue becomes news or not. It also determines how an issue would be placed in terms of space and time allotments, and frequency of appearance. Also, news value of issues is influenced by the elements of timeliness, proximity, prominence, out of the ordinary events, relevance of the issues to the public and also how conflictual an event is to our social values and belief systems. Furthermore, the public interest, the bizarre and negativity attached to an issue could also influence the value placed on issues by journalists and editors. News value is therefore the currency of importance editors attach to issues during editorial decisions which are further influenced by the agenda the media intend to set. It must however be stated that news might not directly be influenced by the aforementioned factors alone but the systematic process of sorting and selection of topics which may be seen as realities facing society. News topics or categories about children in Colorado are therefore likely to be influenced by the above factors.
In any case, news worthiness of an event, issue, or topic is always a complex journalistic decision process of making certain issues (voice) more salient than the other in order to achieve a particular agenda and a social change perspective. Thus, the media has the power to induce a particular moral attention and action based on how it selects its news topics. Simply, the media gives a degree of voice to news considered to be worthy. Similarly, the Colorado media may assign more salient voice to certain children related news categories than the other hence the rhetoric of; When is the Child’s Voice News in Colorado?
Colorado’s Child Voice – Does it Matter?
Certainly, the voice of every child matter and so is the child in Colorado. The Well Being of every child in Colorado is of important concern to the society. Hence, Colorado Children’s Campaign, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization urges the promotion of “every chance for every child”. The chance for every child translates into every child’s voice or issues affecting children in the community. Children, fragile as they may be, are the vital engine of society’s future and growth. For how a child’s voice is nestled today bears a direct impact on how Colorado community becomes in the future. Policy makers, media and nongovernmental agencies recognizes children as vital backbone of the society and the need for public investments in children’s development initiatives. For instance, Colorado legislature’s Early Childhood Educator Tax Credit and the implementation of universal preschool for every four-year-old in Colorado from 2023 seeks to promote children’s Well Being.
Much is also expected from the media as an agent for social change in the promotion of child voice by making issues affecting children more salient in its agenda setting role. It is against the media’s function as an agent for social change this study on how children in Colorado are presented in the media was conducted. The study’s objective is to ascertain what constitute Colorado child-news-value in the media from January to June 2022. The study focused only on news headlines and news on Colorado children. The study serves as a pointer for future studies since it is limited by the study period. The study analysed 174 news stories from 49 online media. Methodology used was news content analysis with intercoder validity at 85%. The study revealed the following coverage order: Covid-19 issues 15%, Sexual Abuses 10%, Education 7%, Nutrition 6%. The least covered issues were: School Bully 1%, Suicidal Attempts 1%, Affordable 1%, and many more.
Child’s News Values Reporting Implications for Advocacy in Colorado
The study results suggest that certain sensitive issues affecting children were least covered. Affordable Care issues recorded 1% coverage although Child Care Aware of America ranked Colorado as the third-least affordable state in the U.S. for center based infant care.
Secondly, School Bullying had 1% coverage in spite of National Center for Education and Bureau of Justice’s (2019) data of 19% students in grades 9-12 report being bullied whilst 15% of all absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied.
Furthermore, according to the American Community Survey Statistics (2019), 4.3% of the under 18 population in the United States had disability an increase of 0.4% from the 2008 data. In spite of the data, the media gave Disability Support related issues only 1% coverage.
In addition, although the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), estimates that suicide is the second leading cause of death, only 1% coverage was given to Child Suicidal attempt issues.
This primary interpretation suggests that, there is not effective correlation between editorial news selection and U.S. or Colorado state department’s development data.
For any media to act as an advocate for social change, there should be a scientific baseline of what the news value categories are and subsequently juxtaposing that with the community’s development pointers and available data projections.
It is therefore very important for advocacy agents to employ continuous scientific media content monitoring instruments and analysis to measure how policy pointers, community development issues are being projected in the media.
On the other hand, the media deserves commendation for acting as agent for change in the society in spite of its numerous economic, profit edge and editorial challenges.
Further, it is recommended that news reporting on children in Colorado should be driven more by communal or state development agenda approach than conventional news selection values. Such an advocacy clarion call is important for media equity in the dissemination of Colorado children’s issues.
In addition, to maximize the media as an advocacy agent, there should be a functional tripartite convergence of intended developmental agendas of Colorado state policy agenda, the public agenda and the media agenda. This type of convergence allows both public and state agendas to influence editorial decisions to some extent.
The intent of this study is not to critique the media, but to draw advocacy agents and state’s policy makers attention to the media’s role in the promotion of issues affecting children in Colorado and how effective collaboration could contribute to child development across the Colorado communities.
Going forward, the media should be seen as a critical change maker in children development initiatives. For instance, a new form of media engagement which recognises the media as a dichotomy of profit and social change agency is required by policy makers and advocacy partners. A new partnership known as Colorado State Media Advocacy Agenda (CSMAA) should be evolved.
It is only in these contexts of media’s social dichotomy can the media through appropriate scientific instruments be well appreciated and harnessed as a force for social change towards the voice and Well Being of children in Colorado. Again, children advocacy communication strategists should make media monitoring data as a baseline for media interventions measurements and also ensure the correlation between policy advocacy strategies and news making values in order to be patrons of Save the Children’s initiative of “Be a Voice for Colorado’s Kids”
About the Author:
Messan Mawugbe (PhD) is a strategic corporate communication consultant and a lecturer.
The Meadows, Castle Rock: Colorado