Why Koncentrat worked alongside a 14-year-old student to report on food waste in Denmark

Getting teenager Freya Kjaær to research and interview experts for a story about dumpster dives helped her, and other youth correspondents, understand the process of journalism

background

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In a nutshell

Danish teenagers work with professional journalists to learn basic journalism skills so that they can co-author solutions-oriented stories on topics not covered in other types of media.

Background

  • Koncentrat is a Danish media organisation founded in 2017 for 12 to 17-year-olds not served by traditional news providers.
  • The team of eight people publishes 3-4 ‘concentrates’ each week, an article format with multiple, short sections, that draws heavily on constructive journalism.
  • Every story is also accompanied by teaching materials created by experienced teachers, who work alongside journalists in the Koncentrat newsroom. These are available to Danish schools via a subscription package and accessed by students via a country-wide IT system.
  • ‘Concentrate’ topics are often suggested by the teenagers and have included menstruation, nuclear war, money laundering and the European Union.
  • The goal of Koncentrat is to help young people think critically about important topics by encouraging journalism to be taught in traditional school lessons.
  • In February, Koncentrat was selected as one of eight new grantees of the Accelerator and will use the funding and support to create a network of ‘youth correspondents’ across Denmark as well as a developing one-day course for potential correspondents, including regular online sessions.
Sune Gudmundsson (centre), Koncentrat director and journalist, at an Accelerator event earlier this year
Sune Gudmundsson (centre), Koncentrat director and journalist, at an Accelerator event earlier this year

How did they do it?

  • Koncentrat launched its ‘youth correspondent’ initiative in March. 14-year-old Freja Kjaær was initially a participant of a Koncentrat workshop and, when she heard about it, decided to apply. She became the first youth correspondent.
  • Youth correspondents are invited to editorial meetings (in person or via Skype) and asked to report on topics that interest them. Freja decided to write about food waste because she worries about the environment and only wears recycled clothes. She felt like she had nowhere to get this information.
  • She was paired with Koncentrat director and journalist, Sune Gudmundsson, who mentored her throughout the story gathering process. Together, they began reporting.
  • At a meeting in the Koncentrat offices, they discussed what a source is and brainstormed people she could contact for the article. Freja found a neighbour who goes on ‘dumpster dives’ to decrease food waste, an increasing phenomenon in Denmark. They also talked about how to approach sources, how she should explain who she is and who she is writing for, and how to ask for a quote or an interview.
  • Freja practised her interview technique with Sune in the Koncentrat offices, and they discussed what happens if the interviewee is evasive or fails to answer the question. (NB: All youth correspondents are expected to meet sources in person – Koncentrat believes it’s an important learning experience for students.)
  • After practising her interview technique, Freja called the source to ask to meet them. Sune was present as she did this so he could give her feedback and provide help where needed.
  • Freja met her neighbour for the dumpster dive, taking a notepad, pen and cellphone to record the conversation and a video camera to shoot video. Freja’s dad accompanied Freja on the dumpster dive waste story because he was interested in the topic. Otherwise, youth correspondents can meet and interview sources on their own, but they are expected to tell their parents what they're doing while reporting, and instructed to call the Koncentrat team if they feel uncomfortable.
  • Freja kept a food diary that she shared with Sune and the team, and did research about ways to prevent food waste. She sent the materials together with an introduction to Sune, which he edited and annotated with feedback for Freja to update.
  • At the same time, Sune interviewed the Danish founder of a food waste app and did research on Danish food chains aiming to reduce their food waste. He sub-edited the final article and edited the video. The story was published on Koncentrat’s website.
  • After the story was completed, Sune sat down with Freja to get verbal feedback about the process, particularly whether the youth correspondents can see themselves in the story, whether it resembles the story they wanted to report originally, and how they could improve the process of working together.

What did they learn?

  • Youth correspondents are very surprised that journalists are able to call anyone and ask them for an interview or a reaction to a story. Freja didn’t think it would be that easy to arrange.
  • Feedback from Freja and nine other youth correspondents so far is that they would like to get involved more hands-on in the writing and editing process. Sune and the Koncentrat team have to balance this with the need for a quality story.
  • Youth correspondents often know about stories before they became mainstream. For example, Freja and her classmates were aware of Rasmus Paludan, a right-wing politician who has recently become prominent during the Danish election campaigns because he started out on YouTube. Sune and Freja published a profile of him this week.
  • Youth correspondents often show their school teachers their articles, and teachers are excited and proud of their students. In some cases, they are pleased because the students working with Koncentrat are not always the strongest academically. This has allowed students to demonstrate soft skills that are otherwise hard to showcase in the Danish school system.

In their own words


Sune Gudmundsson, director and journalist, Koncentrat

"Youth correspondents know the genre of news but really have no clue about how it's done. It’s a whole new world for them. But, with some help, they’re very capable of producing stories of their own."

How would you improve it?

“We would instruct our youth correspondents better in how to take video and photos. Saying that, the videos resemble what teenagers receive every day from their classmates.”

Now try it for yourself

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