Mumbai: Four slum kids to anchor news debates on YouTube channel that launches on Children's Day

Nov 12, 2017, 08:40 IST | Kusumita Das

An NGO is grooming young children to become seasoned news anchors to run their own newsroom made of discarded material; channel to launch on November 14

The front of a rusty old Fiat, a discarded couch that was lying on the roadside, an old fishing net, tin cans, tyres and wooden planks have found a new lease of life in a one-of-a-kind newsroom run by children for children. Called the Children's Scrappy News Service, the 13-episode news show, which will officially launch on November 14 on YouTube, also hopes to promote upcycling by incorporating recycled goods to create a functional newsroom. The show, which is the brainchild of Lisa Heydlauff, founder of NGO Going To School, will also be aired on national television, from December onwards.

The Children's Scrappy News Service team during a rehearsal for the show. Pic/Nimesh Dave
The Children's Scrappy News Service team during a rehearsal for the show. Pic/Nimesh Dave

"We visited Kalina, Versova and Mahim Koliwada, Malwani and the slums of Dharavi, to scout for scrap material for our infrastructure," said Padmini Vaidyanathan, director of communications for the NGO. Each of the episodes will highlight problems relevant to children, and will feature child news anchors and reporters, scurrying around the streets like seasoned professionals.

Auditions for the show were held two years ago, wherein a team from the NGO repurposed an old truck into a newsroom and drove around the city, inviting children to participate. Four children from the city were eventually selected to lead the hour-long programme, which will follow a news debate format. Dheeraj Bhatt, 10, who lives in a slum in Kalina, and is the main anchor of the programme, said, "Our trainers kept telling us that the camera is our best friend, and that we should not be scared of it. Initially, I had trouble adjusting to it, but I soon became comfortable."

The recycled newsroom will come up at Worli Fishing Village
The recycled newsroom will come up at Worli Fishing Village

To prepare for the show, he watched news programmes on television. "But, I don't copy anyone else's style," he clarified. Speaking about the first topic that the team will tackle, Bhatt said, "When we went and spoke to people across the city, we learnt that parents were hesitant to send their kids out to play due to increasing complaints about missing children. We will highlight this issue in the first episode."

Rajlakshmi Sapkale, 14, a reporter on the show who has been going around the streets of Mumbai to source for news, said, "We ask people if they are willing to speak before carrying on with our questions. We have to understand the concept clearly to frame our questions." Vaidyanathan said the kids have impressed the production team with how effortlessly they fit into the role of journalists. "They responded very well to the topics, and through them, our understanding has also become sharper," she said.


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