How do you reassure a very young child after a terrorist attack? After the horrific events in Paris last Friday I’m sure a lot of parents are wondering the same thing. Le Petit Journal’s interview with a father and young son hs gone viral. The father speaks beautiful words of reassurance to his young son. And importantly the response to the question “Do you feel better?” is “Yes, I do feel better”. Bless.
But I was a cynical kid and I’m not sure I would have been entirely satisfied with that answer. Papa – what do you mean there are bad people everywhere?! That alone might have brought on a panic attack. Flowers and candles are pretty and it’s nice to see the world united in expressions of sympathy for Paris but how exactly is that going to keep us safe?
Back in the 1970s and 1980s kids in the UK turned to Newsround, a short daily news show for children and young teenagers on BBC1 (just before Blue Peter and Neighbours), and I’m pleased to say they still do. It was one of the first magazine shows in the world to be aimed at children but it could never have been accused of dumbing down or shying away from the big stories. In fact, because of its 5pm time slot often it would be the first programme to break the news… I realise this might sound alien to anyone who grew up with the internet and 24-hours rolling news channels, but back then we had news on tv in the morning, at lunchtime, at 6pm and again at 9pm. So Newsround would get in there before the ‘normal’ evening broadcasts. It was the first British television programme to break the news of the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, to report an assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in Vatican City in 1981 and provided the first reports from the Windsor Castle fire in 1992.
Growing up there was just one presenter – the unflappable John Craven. His presenting style was great, serious and knowledgeable but with a wry smile during the amusing ‘and finally’ segments. He left the show in 1989. How could he ever be replaced? Well, they did alright. The programme became a training ground for presenters who often graduated to grown-up news (Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Lizo Mzimba – I still can’t deal with Lizo reporting on anything serious. I just remember him from all his Harry Potter reports).
Newsround could always be relied on to clearly explain difficult world issues as simply as possible. I still remember being confused by the reasons behind the Troubles in Northern Ireland when I was growing up (actual quote from me “Well if the Nationalists love England so much why don’t they move here?”). It all seems so simple to a opinionated kid who thinks she knows it all, but a simple explanation of the facts and interviews with people living in Northern Ireland quickly set me straight. The world is a complicated messy place and Newsround told me why.
It covered all the issues important to children and teenagers – green issues, anorexia, autism, poverty, violence and war. The series of Newsround Specials covered one topic in-depth, but still only needed a 15 minute format. When I heard they were covering Hiroshima on the 50th anniversary of the atomic bomb earlier this year I made sure to record it. I learned stuff I never knew about Japan and sobbed my little heart out watching women in their 80s talk about their devastated childhood. I can’t recommend it strongly enough.
As with a lot of things on kids tv Newsround is almost unrecognisable today. I remember the shock when they revamped the studio and lost the desk and the presenters had to stand up. If you do stumble across it hidden away on CBBC today I’d recommend watching it with sunglasses on – so bright, such colours, much shouting! – but be reassured, it’s still doing the same good work, online and on the telly. And if you’re struggling to make sense of the events in Paris, I know a show that can help you work it all out without being condescending in the slightest.