May 18, 2016

Local youths’ views on TV programs part of festival

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Findings about children’s television programs judged by local youths earlier this year will be part of an international festival where the focus is on promoting quality television for children throughout the world. 

The results will be part of the Prix Jeunesse International Festival --“What it means to be me: Identity and Children’s TV,” May 20-25, in Munich, Germany. Hundreds of children’s media producers and academic professionals will meet to watch and discuss the top programs in the world while learning from each other. Festival participants will vote on the best programs, Elizabeth Spezia, community engagement and education field representative with Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s WSIU Public Broadcasting, said. 

The College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, WSIU, and the college’s Global Media Research Center are involved with the outreach project. During spring break, local students spent two days, March 16-17, screening and discussing international finalist programs in the non-fiction category for 11-15 year olds. With assistance from the WSIU-TV production crew, the “youth jury” put together a video of their findings to share at the festival and for broadcast on television in Europe, Spezia said. 

The group was part of “International Youth Jury USA,” and there are similar groups in Bangladesh, Chile, Egypt, Kenya and Kosovo. The local students were from area middle schools, junior high and high schools, and they learned about geography and the values, perceptions and beliefs of young people in other countries. 

“What an amazing opportunity for children living in Southern Illinois to be exposed to the lives and experiences of children around the world and to broaden their horizons to cultures and countries they may not have even heard of before,” said Dafna Lemish, college dean and Prix Jeunesse International Advisory Board member. “Here they are in Southern Illinois – but via quality media for children, they get to travel the world!” 

The United States is one of the largest exporters of children’s media products in the world, but with the exception of the BBC, Canadian and Mexican productions, does very little in imports so children here are not as exposed to a diversity of cultures that children in other countries experience, Spezia said. In 2013, WSIU collaborated with area public libraries to present international programs as part of the “Have Book Will Travel” summer reading program, she said. 

Spezia will be in Munich at the conference. She will be involved in educational workshops with the program’s producers and oversee undergraduate media students from the University of Cincinnati. The students will document the festival and produce a daily newsletter.  

Youths from the SIU Carbondale International Youth Jury were, by hometown -- Carbondale: David McEathron; Carterville: Rebecca Flath; Makanda: Charles Metz, Emma Metz; Murphysboro: Todsheon Cole, Allyson Dominguez, Emma Francis, Allison Jaynes, Paige Jaynes,

Erin Niesporek, Matthew Polk, and James Pugh-Segler. 

In addition, WSIU facilitated production of a video of Southern Illinois children for “Guessing Games,” a workshop element designed to stump children’s media producers during the festival. In this video, children were taped watching and responding to competition programs The children in the video, all from Mascoutah, were: Quentin, Roman and Jada Collins; Zoey Kohring, Kaimi Lilly, Dillon and Kaitlyn Reinneck, and Cole and Finley Williams. 

In collaboration with the festival, WSIU hosted an art contest for area children in kindergarten through high school. Youth from throughout the region submitted more than 150 drawings and artwork on the theme: “What it means to be me.” The works will also be on display during the festival. 

The area winners were, by hometown -- Alto Pass: Gabriel Demmin; Du Quoin: Katilyn Simmons, and Eldorado: Ja’Nae Roberts.