Media training for young people who have been in care

Young people who have been in care can provide valuable insights into the system by sharing their experiences and views with the media. But many in the media have assumptions about young people who have been in care. Social care organisations should help these young people speak to journalists and provide them with the tools to perform confidently when interviewed. This will ensure they gain from the experience and ensure their insights are not wasted.

The focus of this article is on broadcast media because that type of interview is most likely to leave the young person feeling disempowered. But our guidance can be used to prepare interviews with print media.

Motivations for interview

Young people are used to an interactive media where the boundaries between life and television are often blurred. The opportunity to become part of this world can be very appealing to individuals who may have felt overlooked. Ensuring the young person is well prepared and clear about their motivation in speaking to the media, as well as confident about what they wish to disclose and keep private, will help to make the interview process a positive one.

A young person being interviewed will probably have strong personal motivations for speaking. They may feel the process will make them feel more empowered or confident or use the experience as a way of countering negative attitudes they have encountered. Use your judgement; ask yourself whether giving the interview will provide real benefit for the young person?

If you feel that the young person is too geared towards wanting to correct a personal injustice in the interview then you should proceed carefully and consider encouraging them to find other ways of addressing the issue such as counselling.

Understanding the media

As a consumer of media it is likely that you will have heard and read countless interviews and consciously or subconsciously will have opinions on styles and approaches. Also, in your role as trainer you will be expected to be knowledgeable on many aspects of the media.

A useful starting point is to address your own preconceptions about the media, which will better equip you to help young people prepare to deal with their own.

Prepare yourself for the training by listening carefully to interviews with the aim of gaining an insight into the process. Consider how you would have responded to the questions asked. Think about how you responded to the interviewee and why? Are you more influenced by the content of their comments or the way they put them across? How do you respond to their voice and tone, their clothes and body language? These are all areas you will explore with the young people you train and it is valuable to have worked through them beforehand.

You should learn about the different types of media such as web, radio, TV and print also the differences between national and regional media. Types of media cover different stories or the same stories in a very different ways. For example: news and feature stories can benefit from a personal perspective, and journalists who produce them can approach and use interviews differently from broadcast media.

Preparing the interview

If it is possible, visit a television or radio station, preferably with the young people, because only by experiencing the frantic pace can you really describe it. It is also useful to speak to journalists and if possible involve them in the training process.

Even for those young people who do not speak to journalists, the training can give them a valuable experience of debating.

The training programme should use exercises and discussions that encourage participants to think about what will be involved when speaking to the media and explore their feelings and expectations.

Here are some areas that are beneficial to focus on:

  • Media perceptions of young people.
    Encourage the young people to start thinking about the media by considering how it relates to them.

  • How the media operates.
    Explore the different types of media and the process of creating news and features items and the roles of those involved.

  • News values and interesting interviews.
    Help the young people gain an understanding of what constitutes a news story. Explore the ways in which different sectors of the media have different news priorities. Discuss what makes an interesting interview and the ways anecdotes and personal examples add interest.
  • Managing personal agendas.
    Explore the idea of a personal agenda and help the participants understand what theirs might be. How will they manage it when faced with the potentially conflicting agenda of the interviewer? You should also talk about the things the young people may wish to keep quiet and the possible repercussions of talking to the media.

  • Interview preparation.
    Provide the young people with training to feel in control during the interview. Explain the possible distractions that may come up and go through techniques that will allow the young people to perform at their best.

  • Support.
    Ensure that the participants are aware of the support available to them at all stages of the process. Even the most confident interviewee benefits from a debrief afterwards.
  • With the right support and training young people can face the media with the confidence to put over their experiences and views so that the public can learn the reality of being in care.


  • The experiences of young people who have experienced care can be a valuable resource to the media in understanding and depicting the care system.

  • Young people can gain confidence and enjoy the experience of speaking to the media.

  • Before a young person is encouraged to speak to journalists it is important to help them to explore their motivations for doing so.

  • The experience of talking to journalists can be challenging and young people should be provided with support to help them get the most out of the experience.

  • When training young people to deal with the media it is essential to have a good understanding of the forms and workings of the sector to prevent the fears and anxieties of young people being reinforced.

  • Media training should include exercises and discussions geared towards helping young people discuss their expectations and anxieties and give them a greater understanding of the process.

  • The trainer or another adult should be present during any media contact and be there to provide guidance and support afterwards.
  • Further information

  • Scie Children’s and Families’ Services Guide 26 was written by Henrietta Bond, media trainer:
  • The Media Trust
  • The Talk Consultancy


    Author: DUMONT Joe, et al
    Title: Let’s get positive: challenging negative images of young people in care
    Reference: London: National Children’s Bureau, 2003. 58p.

    Children and young people living in public care are often perceived as victims or troublemakers – stereotypes reinforced by negative images that are promoted in the media. For children and young people in care the reality can very different. There are stories of ambition and talent, achievement and happiness. Also there are many positive stories of young people succeeding in spite of the difficulties they have experienced. This is a practical guide to developing a media campaign that challenges negative images of young people in care and promotes positive stories. The guide will help users to develop and take forward a media campaign. It provides advice on working effectively with the media and includes good practice case studies. It also includes an information kit which can be given to journalists.

    Author: CLACKSON Anne, LINDSAY Sheryl, MACQUARRIE Alan
    Title: The homes from Hell? Media perceptions of residential care
    Reference: Scottish Journal of Residential Care, 5(1), February/March 2006, pp.25-36

    Since the spring of 2001, library staff at the Scottish Institute for Residential Child Care have monitored more than 30 online newspapers and news services for stories in which some aspect of residential care has been featured. This paper looks at the online newspapers surveyed during the six month period of July 2001 to December 2001. The articles were put into five broad categories: child abuse and neglect; absconding; education; staffing and training; and legal and policy issues. Articles were then evaluated in terms of positive, negative or factual tone. This paper using analysis of the findings and two case examples highlights some of the problems and issues that can be found in press reporting of residential child care.

    Author: Carnegie United Kingdom Trust
    Title: Empowering young people: the final report of the Carnegie Young People initiative
    Reference: London: Carnegie United Kingdom Trust, 2008. 57p.

    This report is about the Carnegie UK Trust’s youth programme – The Carnegie Young People Initiative, which ran between 1996 and 2007. The Trust believes that attitudes to younger people have barely changed since the UK’s adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991 and that radical steps are needed to correct the balance. The report calls on the government to consider establishing a new profession to work with young people in order to integrate them with the rest of society, and the report is also critical of negative portrayals of children and young people in the media.

    Author: ANDREWS Crispin
    Title: On the right wavelength
    Reference: Community Care, 13.12.07, pp.22-23

    Community radio stations can help galvanise local people and engage young people. This article reports on work at Radio Regen, a local radio charity in Manchester, which is using radio to engage with some of the hardest to reach members of communities through workshops, training courses and projects. Groups they are working with include young carers, local refugees and disaffected teenagers. The charity operates two community radio stations, helping local people to develop skills that will serve them well after school and in the workplace.

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