Press Ignore Young People

Young people and youth work agencies were on Fleet Street this week, with a 7-foot high jar of ‘Pickled Hoodies’ with the message “Labels R4 Jars – not young people”.  The press launch for this research and campaign held at St Brides Church on Fleet Street, a church which has a long and deep relationship with the press, found the media conspicuously absent!

At the launch Bishop Roger Sainsbury (Chair of the National Youth Agency) said that we should not demonise or use young people as scapegoats for the social ills of society and he went on to say, “The message of this research is that we should not make premature judgments on young people today but wait to make more informed judgments both on their behaviour and their opinions”.

The research carried out by a coalition of sixty youth work agencies found evidence that adults overestimate levels of anti social and criminal behaviour among young people. Whilst the level of crime committed by young people has dropped dramatically (down 21%) 75% of adults believe it has increased and 80% wrongly believe the crimes have got worse (violent and serious crimes by young people have remained stable). Adults also overestimate the use of drugs amongst young people and the level of teenage pregnancy by more than 5 times its actual rate.

The research clearly shows that adult opinions are being distorted by media representations that are creating a negative spiral in attitudes and beliefs across different generations and that this is something that young people are very concerned about themselves.

The jar of ‘Pickled Hoodies’ and several youth workers then visited TV stations and newspaper offices to present the research findings and to talk to editors and TV controllers – as they clearly didn’t want to attend the press launch. One young person said, “We just want the media to listen to us too. We know that not all young people are saints – but we are certainly not all demons either and that is often what comes across from their reporting. We get tarred with the same brush of ‘yobs’, ‘thugs’ and ‘ASBO kids’”.

However, despite the young people making the effort to contact the media and to visit them they received a low profile welcome in the lobbies of media reception and were not even allowed to do any filming of their own for a short documentary that has been made about the campaign. One of the youth workers commented, “Perhaps we should have used some the tactics the media use on their investigative journalism. Perhaps someone would talk with us and listen then?”

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