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I’m doing a journalism workshop at a local school on Friday. It’s for eight year olds. That was the draw for me since I have my own eight year old and I am pretty sure there are going to be some entertaining questions.
I’ve done primary school ‘what’s my line’ style events in the past and the main thing the kids seems to be interested in is shorthand. They think it is like some sort of magical code.
This time round I’ve got two 40-minute workshops and I’ve got to come up with some activities. I did a half-day workshop years ago and it was fun. I pretended to be a police officer and the kids had to ask me questions about a car accident and deduce from their questions – and my answers – what had happened and then write a news story about it. I had planned that in the questioning it would emerge that the incident involved a famous singer. They would only find out, though, if they asked the right question. For some reason they seemed to go down a huge detour about driving licences and number plates. I am preparing for the unexpected question as we speak.
I tried out my format on only son yesterday. “What is a journalist?” I asked. “No idea,” said only son. You what? I often wonder what he thinks I am doing all day. I recall him telling one teacher a while ago that my job was “staring at screens”. I decided not to ask only son the follow-up question – “What skills do you think a journalist needs?” – for fear that the answer would involve shouting at computers and such like.
I tested out my interview scenario. It was going to be an incident involving the queen and an escaped Bengali tiger. “The incident involves an elderly lady whose car was involved in a crash. The lady and her driver are fine, but she has a sore arm and a bit of neck pain as the car was forced to swerve,” I began. “Ask me some questions.” Only son was not very enthusiastic. “Ask me what kind of car it was,” I suggested. “What kind of car was it?” he asked gloomily. “A Rolls Royce.” “What’s that?” asked only son. This was not going well. Maybe I should throw in some sort of Minecraft-related element. The queen was on her ipad, building an obsidian temple when the car swerved to avoid a velociraptor. It might at least keep the class awake, but would it create an even greater appetite for fake news and clickbait?
I made a mental note to emphasise the importance of accuracy and attention to detail. It may be dull and fact-based, but never underestimate the power of dull in a world of fantasy politics. I came away from my trial run feeling ready to take on the world.
This was not just going to be just a journalism workshop. It was about shredding all the lies and building a better future. Beginning with the eight year olds.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.