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The news at nine

Tim Levell | 13:13 UK time, Tuesday, 29 August 2006

What were you doing when you were nine years old? And, more to the point, what was going on in the world that year?

Newsround logoIt's quite a sobering exercise. Look up the year when you were nine on Wikipedia (mine was 1978) and you'll probably be surprised how much you don't recall from the news. All I think I was aware of was the World Cup (Archie Gemmill's goal), two Popes dying in close succession and suspicious circumstances, Georgi Markov being poisoned in London by an umbrella (a real-life spy story!) and, weirdly, the Times newspaper strike.

Whereas, I remember far more clearly what I did on my summer holiday, who my primary school teacher was, and the trauma of my favourite pet dying.

I ask because Newsround has a new target audience, and it's a slightly younger one than before. As part of the BBC's Creative Future review , there will be a new teen brand, which will aim at, um, teenagers. Which allows CBBC and all the BBC's "children's" output to focus clearly and fully on the primary school audience.

It's a shift for us. In the past, Newsround has catered for a slightly older eight to 12-year-old age range - going into the first two years of secondary school. So focusing is a bit of a challenge.

But we're up for challenges. From today, regular Newsround viewers and readers will notice some differences.

We are using larger pictures on the stories on the Newsround website and a larger text size on our TV bulletins. Our round-up of 20-second stories on our TV bulletins will be chosen on the strength of the pictures, rather than including stories which are "important" but visually dull (no more court arrivals). We are aiming to use simpler language in the first four sentences of our web stories, on the basis that that's the right amount for children who are slower at reading.

And will be focusing ever more on stories that are relevant and interesting to nine-year-olds: stories about their lives, about other children in the UK and around the world. So behind-the-scenes, we have a new newsroom structure which should improve our forward planning, making richer, more proactive and more investigative.

It means that Newsround will probably cover fewer of the hard political stories that make it into the Wikipedia summaries of the year. But it might also mean that, thanks to our research, we break more stories about children's lives that seep into the national agenda.


  • 1.
  • At 03:07 PM on 29 Aug 2006,
  • Shawn wrote:

The year I turned nine, Bush ordered troops into Iraq after tanking the U.S. economy and started a war deep in controversy. The U.N. required Iraq to destroy or surrender its chemical and biological weapons, while Iraq denied it even had a biological weapons program. Ongoing disagreements with regard to U.N. inspectors made political tensions in Iraq even worse as the U.S. armed forces killed thousands of Iraqi troops and civilians.

Living in a small town in the U.S. in 1991, I hardly remember a thing. I remember seeing videos of U.S. troops in the desert but not much more than that.

  • 2.
  • At 03:51 PM on 29 Aug 2006,
  • Tom wrote:

Why do younger children need huge writing at the bottom of the screen? They might be younger but they're not blind.

  • 3.
  • At 04:05 PM on 29 Aug 2006,
  • Miriam wrote:

In sometime during 1981-2 (?) I remember seeing the Blue Peter appeal for the people of Cambodia. I remember being told that people who wore glasses were killed for supposedly being too intelligent and this would have meant my Daddy and me! I was 8/9 and living in a very Socialist household. I apparently came out with a very precocious comments that Pol Pot and Mrs Thatcher should both go back to school to learn about being nice to people. My parents were thrilled with my political activism!

  • 4.
  • At 04:46 PM on 29 Aug 2006,
  • Mandy wrote:

I was 9 years old in 1983. I can remember being scared of a nuclear war. I grew up thinking that the USA and Russia were going to destroy the world. I couldn't understand why everyone else, who had nothing to do with their row, would get hurt too.

It's funny how I can remember some of the stranger things that happened that year too - how everyone now had to wear seatbelts in the car, how red sand fell and, I can distinctly remember being upset about Bjorn Borg retiring from tennis.

  • 5.
  • At 05:01 PM on 29 Aug 2006,
  • Sarah Anderson wrote:

I come from Aberdeen where we were very close to the traumatic effects of the Piper Alpha disaster and then later in the year, the Pan Am explosion over Lockerbie. I can remember hearing the helicopters flying over our house out to the rig and remember watching the news about Lockerbie. However, it is probably the incidents themselves which stick in my mind more than the TV coverage. That said, the fact I remember watching reports on television must mean something.

  • 6.
  • At 05:25 PM on 29 Aug 2006,
  • Lee McEneaney wrote:

When I was nine I watched the BBC News, and avoided the dumbed down Newsround. From your blog it looks like the dumbing down is set to continue. Just because a court case is not aesthetically pleasing does not mean it is of no relevence to a younger audience. Today's youth are more savvy than ever, don't talk down to them or they'll look elsewhere!

  • 7.
  • At 05:33 PM on 29 Aug 2006,
  • Lucy wrote:

I was nine in 1981 and I've just had a look on the Wikipedia website to see if there was anything I could remember from that year, and I'm quite surprised at how much I do remember.
There are events I remember quite vividly like Charles and Diana's wedding and the launch of the Space Shuttle, but I also remember other things like Ronald Reagan being shot and the Yorkshire Ripper being arrested.
As a family we tended to watch the news on a regular basis - and not just Newsround - and so this is probably why I remember alot of detail from that year.

  • 8.
  • At 05:33 PM on 29 Aug 2006,
  • Katie wrote:

I was 9 in 1992 and looking at the list on Wikipedia I remember a surprising number of the big news stories, largely I'm sure from Newsround's input. I think it's a shame to be moving away from that kind of thing.

  • 9.
  • At 05:37 PM on 29 Aug 2006,
  • Chris Formaggia wrote:

The fall of Siagon took place when I was nine. Whilst I am sure I did not understand the conflict I remember with some clarity some of the strong imagery that was coming out of Vietnam - particularly the over-loaded US carrier crews having to throw helicopters off the flight deck into the sea. I am not sure that you need avoid the harder political stories to target a 9-year old audience but pictures may be stronger than words.

  • 10.
  • At 06:17 PM on 29 Aug 2006,
  • Anna wrote:

Well, with regards to Newsround, I remember vividly when I was seven or eight, and a group of us were sitting around a table at school having lunch. One of the girls in my class was absolutely convinced that everything on Newsround was made up, none of it was true. We were all trying to convince her that it was real news. She was adamant we were wrong.

Prior to that we'd been discussing a feature on the previous evening's Newsround about street children, until she interjected to say it didn't matter as nothing on Newsround was real!

  • 11.
  • At 06:18 PM on 29 Aug 2006,
  • Barry Salter wrote:

Various "highlights" of 1987:

  • Terry Waite kidnapped in Beirut
  • British Airways privatised
  • M/S Herald of Free Enterprise sunk shortly after departure from Zeebrugge
  • Great Storm in October saw hurricane force winds across Southern England
  • Construction started on the Channel Tunnel

And deaths:

  • Alistair MacLean
  • Liberace
  • Andy Warhol
  • Patrick Troughton
  • Rita Hayworth
  • Fulton Mackay
  • Fred Astaire

What do I remember? Not that much really. I remember the Herald of Free Enterprise sinking as they cancelled a showing of the Poseidon Adventure (or possibly Beyond the Posiedon Adventure), for obvious reasons; Going Live replacing Saturday Superstore; and waking up at around 7:30am on the morning of "The Great Storm" to discover we had no power (no school either, as a chimney had blown off the building, as well as several trees falling over), but having slept through the storm itself! That's just about it really...

  • 12.
  • At 06:19 PM on 29 Aug 2006,
  • Lizz Holmans wrote:

When I was nine, my brother in the army was stationed in Berlin, so we paid a lot of attention to the Cuba Missile Crisis. My grandfather's oil tank company started making fall-out shelters. We practiced 'duck and cover' at school on a regular basis. Silly now to think that crouching under one's desk is going to protect us from an atomic bomb, but the panic was very real.

Being in Oklahoma, U.S.A., I don't expect we were much of a target, but boy, did we practice. And it's all the adults talked about.

My grandfather died a month afterward.I think the stress was simply too much; he served in the US Army in WW1, so he was no coward. But living under constant threat of nuclear annihilation was terribly stressful. Also, his company's fallout shelters tended to pop up out of the ground whenever it rained.

1963 was not a happy year.

Having not looked thoroughly at the revised website, or seen any of the new style bulletins, I'm going to jump to conclusions like how I imagine the Daily Mail would.

Dumbing down! Stories about children? Political correctness gone mad!

On a slightly more serious note though, I don't think Newsround should shy away from covering political stories and harder news- as aside from it being more important, it can play an important part of explaining to kids how politics works.

The level of political ignorance among people of my age (I'm only 19) shocks me- I don't have any statistics to back this claim up so this sounds incredibly spurious, but talking to people in everyday life I hear things like "I don't understand the political things on your blog", or "Nuke 'em all, that's what I say" (this was my hairdresser talking about Islamic terrorism, on discovering that I'm a politics student... I had to sort of smile and nod, as she had the power to cut my hair badly if I questioned her views).

How are kids going to begin to learn about democracy and things if its not covered on Newsround? Surely a "proper" bulletin will just scare people off or bore them because they don't understand what is going on.

When I was at school, only a few years ago, I found that any sort of politics was barely covered in PSE lessons- this might be better now (they call the same lesson 'citizenship' these days), but surely Newsround as a child's eyes on the world should reinforce and educate about what is going on?

I might be dramatically underestimating kids here, but at the last election my peers were voting for people they didn't understand, and some were expecting the ballot to be a vote for Prime Minister (with "Tony Blair" printed etc) and not local MP.

I realise this isn't Newsround's sole duty, but being the only childrens news programme, I'd imagine it has a fair bit of influence when it comes to warping the minds of future world leaders and captains of industry.

  • 14.
  • At 08:40 PM on 29 Aug 2006,
  • Andrew wrote:

Instead of leading with stories for which you have good pictures, why not pick the story and go out and get good pictures?

The BBC should stand for news gathering, not just reportage of cheap video.

  • 15.
  • At 10:58 PM on 29 Aug 2006,
  • Andrew wrote:

I well remember the watching the space shuttle Challenger disaster on Newsround, and vividly recall the horror and uncertainty during and following the explosions at the Chernobyl nuclear plant - both events from 1986, when I was 11 years of age. From the Wikipedia entry for 1984, when I was nine, the only event which seems familiar was the fire at York Minster...

  • 16.
  • At 11:40 PM on 29 Aug 2006,
  • Ally wrote:

An interesting move. Does this mean the teenagers will get their own current affairs programming now?

That would work very well- I do remember being around 14-16 and finding Newsround a little beneath me, but the main News a bit above. I guess this move could plug the gap.

  • 17.
  • At 11:56 PM on 29 Aug 2006,
  • Andrew Hargreaves wrote:

The year I turned 9 was a year I remember because all of a sudden, the world started to look scarier.

1986. I remember Challenger because it was all my school talked about that day. Later that year, Chernobyl was the big spectre that would hang around for years to come.

Perhaps worst for the english, was also the the year of the Hand of God Goal. Priorities are interesting things.

  • 18.
  • At 02:13 AM on 30 Aug 2006,
  • Philippa Sutton wrote:

Just before my ninth birthday the news impacted on me with the Cuban Missile Crisis. My father had us take precautions against the dropping of an atom bomb. I learned about Hiroshima.

I remember piper alpha and pan am but that's about it. THough I can't help but be surprised at the amount of air incidents which happened that year and my 'arm chair' interest in the causes of such things now.

As for why young kids need larger writing - it's easier to read. Surely you remember how as you got older (as a child) the writing in books got smaller.

  • 20.
  • At 11:21 AM on 30 Aug 2006,
  • xiang wrote:

I was 9.Everything to me is terrible because I am not good at anything. i felt all of the trouble came into me every day, every time. nothing perfect happened. I always made something to be broken such as bowl, glass at lunch or dinner. After that accidents, I was sent out of home by my mom. She often complainted that how clumsy I was. So at that days, I used to think that I was a bad egg, couldnot do anything well. but now, everythig 've gone. I am not awkward anymore. My belief is that I am not a useless person as I thought before. Althought I 've got certain success yet, I can sure that I can creat a big promising prospect for my life.

  • 21.
  • At 02:22 PM on 30 Aug 2006,
  • Orville wrote:

I'm not sure how much of my personal life I remember. (I'm a bit fuzzy on dates.) I remember attending "Challenge" classes at a nearby elementary school.
I turned 9 at the end of 1988, but I do remember a few things.
-Bits of the Winter and Summer Olympics
-I remember bits of the presidential race. (Jesse Jackson was from my hometown)
-The shuttle Discovery's return to space, which I watched on TV.

  • 22.
  • At 03:22 PM on 30 Aug 2006,
  • give it a rest wrote:

"I'm going to jump to conclusions like how I imagine the Daily Mail would."

Do stop whining about the Daily Mail. Seriously. Get over your obsession.

Interesting! I can remember very well that when i was nine i was in fourth standard. I had become first in class as usual and i had got gift from my grand father. My parents used to live far from me. Specially I used to miss mom very much and first time i had written a letter to her which had been caught by my Aunt and I could not send to her.
In our school there were no desk and bench to sit. We used to make leaf's desk and bench. It used to be very dirty and later we would get allergy. At the end of the year we heard that Nepal Government was about to give us some block we were very excited and we had worked as volunteer for our school. We went half kilometer far to bring bricks. Finally we had two class room of bricks in our school but we, class four student did not get chance to sit in class room. one and two class got that opportunity.
Well, that was very cool year. I had enjoyed each and every moment. No tention at all. I had so many friends. My study was well. Everything was good, situatuion of country also good. No crime, no fear. Everything was fine that's why I used to see dream about future.
I used to go tea shop with my grand father and used to listen to elder about politics. They used to do discuss.
I wish I would recall those moment. I was happy because world was happy with me.

  • 24.
  • At 03:32 AM on 31 Aug 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

When I was nine, the Dodgers left Brooklyn and the Giants left Manhattan, both going to California to find greener pastures. This betrayal of their fans to make more money taught me lessons about what really matters to business, what sports is all about, what loyalty is worth, and a lot of life's other cruel disillusioning lessons that has stood me in good stead ever since.

  • 25.
  • At 08:05 AM on 31 Aug 2006,
  • Sue Hibberd wrote:

Since the end of November 2005, Newsround has published news stories and PressPack stories Ceefax Pages 570-579 and BBCi Digital Text page 571.

Will the new service for young people be given text pages too?

  • 26.
  • At 01:21 PM on 31 Aug 2006,
  • Blake wrote:

I was 9 in 1990, quite an eventful year with things like the Berlin Wall coming down and Mandela's release, plus growing up in the middle of London some stories were happing all around me like the Poll Tax riots and I vividly remember the joy when we found out Maggie Thatcher resigned - our deputy headmaster came in the classroom to announce it and we all cheered.

Looking on Wikipedia it was also the the year the Leaning Tower of Piza had to be closed while they tried to stop it falling over, I remember that quite well and it's probably because it's the type of story Newsround would have spent a lot of time on. That and pandas.

  • 27.
  • At 07:24 PM on 31 Aug 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Ally wrote: An interesting move. Does this mean the teenagers will get their own current affairs programming now?

Reports elsewhere say that the head of Radio 1 is the BBC's new "Teen Czar", so I guess Radio 1 is where teens will be expected to find all they need. Given how short and how dumb news broadcasts are on Radio 1 that bodes very badly.

How can the vast range of the teenage years, in the first three years of which it is illegal to have sex, and in the last one is absolutely fully adult, be considered together for news and programming?

Another quesion is why, if teens are separated off, Newsround needed to abandon eleven and twelve year-olds, since they aren't teens. Who is to cater for them, older than primary but not yet teens?

Did no one notice the research showing that, even from the very first school days, children can have a very good grasp of subjects that matter to them, if they can get the information in a suitable form. Which is why a child's legal right to give or withhold medical consent is based on what a they each individually understand, not some arbitrary minimum age. They aren't more stupid, they do tend to be more distracted, more protected, and more easily tired.

And has the BBC decided to ignore that the international legal definition of childhood is up to 18? If you decide to define it as just up to 10 how will you account for the International Convention on the Rights of the Child covering 0-17?

This really all seems crazy. Is it part of multiculturalism, with age-bands as different cultures? Why do all of these changes to existing services involve dumbing down? Are the interested and intelligent all expected to stay up for Newsnight or watch News24 or BBC Four (which require digital, which most children do not have on the televisions in their rooms)? Why is the BBC mainstream becoming like the kids in schools who ostracise "nerds" or "swots"? Why doesn't"inclusion" include intelligence? Who decides that is the type of country we want? Simply marketing folk?

  • 28.
  • At 11:37 PM on 31 Aug 2006,
  • Judith wrote:

Great to see what other people remember when they were 9. I was 9 in 1948. Perhaps it was a momentous year, there was no television, my parents read the News Chronicle which was in lovely clear print and easy to understand. I got the Children's Newspaper every Tuesday with my Sunny Stories (Enid Blyton) and read every word of both. So I remember events that were of interest in the family, and wrote bad verses at the time to mark Israel's independence and the declaration of Human Rights.

It was a worrying time, with atom bombs being tested - that year I was sure that by the time I was 20 the world would have been destroyed.

The London Olympics was going on, stories of the royal family were a charming distraction.

I was interested in the Pacific, having read Tom Harrison's Living Among Cannibals, so took an interest in the fate of rubber planters in Malaya who seemed to be in jungles not too different from the New Hebrides.

I see my grandchildren troubled by aspects of the news, and newsround tremendously helpful in dealing sensitively and appropriately with frightening information. Even at 9 their judgments are satisfying balanced and tolerant in my eyes.

From both observation and memory, I think the correspondents who suggest we underestimate the interest and intelligence of young people are absolutely right.

  • 29.
  • At 08:52 PM on 02 Sep 2006,
  • David Allison wrote:

I'm the same age as you, Tim, (as you might remember); my earliest news memory is Elvis dying, shortly before my eighth birthday. I only knew because my father and grandfather mentioned it in conversation. My first memory of news in the media is the winter of strikes: I remember seeing pictures of rubbish piling up on street corners, on Newsround of course. I absolutely remember Thatcher winning the '79 election and seeing that reported on Newsround, and being interested that she was the first woman to hold the job.

After years in broadcasting I'm a secondary school teacher now. I agree with some of the other comments posted here: I hope the BBC will continue to take the 11-14 year-old 'tweenagers' seriously. They deserve a range of programming designed with them in mind, including news and factual programming, whether it is provided on TV, radio or online. ITV appears to be withdrawing from the market, at least as a producer of new programming; I hope the BBC won't follow suit.

  • 30.
  • At 10:17 PM on 03 Sep 2006,
  • martin wrote:

I remember very clearly sitting in front of our little black and white tv, having just watched a cartoon, and seeing a newsflash that the russians had just invaded Afghanistan. Absolutely terrifying.

I'm half German and was living in Germany at the time, and so was aware of the cold war and the Berlin Wall, although obviously not understanding it all. I just remember thinking that an atomic war was going to breakout. That invasion caused me a lot of nightmares for a very long time.

  • 31.
  • At 10:31 AM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • David wrote:

In a way it saddens me to hear that Newsround is focusing on a younger audience, as Newsround was an important source of news for many years for me as a child and teenager in pre-internet days, before I finally 'graduated' to grown-up news.

(But even as a student, in the days before News 24's and's 3 minute summaries, Newsround was great for a quick, and not overly-patronising, news update when you didn't want to wait for, or watch, the full evening news.)

While the grown-up news went on at too much length about stories of less interest to me at that time, such as wars and the more turgid items of political news, Newsround ensured that these were mentioned, but briefly and in a child-friendly way.

I always remember Newsround's focus on more positive stories, when sometimes the adult world seemed to be particularly depressing during the chilly Cold War: stories about animals being rescued from flooding hydro reservoirs (in canoes which I'm sure were pink!), school mock elections (which sadly never made it to my school), and new developments in science and technology (ok, mainly the Space Shuttle). In fact, I think it's fair to say that it was John Craven who sparked my interest in environmental issues and participative democracy.

I just hope that the BBC will provide a suitable successor to Newsround for the teenage audience: brief, without being dumb; and positive, without overly-focusing on celebrity vacuity.

"Our round-up of 20-second stories on our TV bulletins will be chosen on the strength of the pictures, rather than including stories which are "important" but visually dull"

This can't be true, surely? What if something massively important happens and you can't get a good shot and don't have anything in the archives?Surely it's better to give our kids a more rounded news service, rather than spending that time instead focussing on events like Jordan's wedding?

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