In the 1970s, well before the United Nations drafted its language of children’s rights to news and information, the national public television organization of the Netherlands, NOS, asked Dutch children if they would like a news program of their own. The large majority of Dutch children said they would. They asked for a program presented by both genders, with big national and international news, with news about children, and with humor. The NOS Jeugdjournaal was born in 1981 as the second children’s news program in the world. On October 6, Ronald Bartlema, Jeugdjournaal Editor-in-Chief of 17 years, captivated an audience of nearly 100 university and community members as he presented the 21st De Vries – Van der Kooy Memorial lecture “NOS Jeugdjournaal: How a Pioneer in Children’s News Prepares Dutch Children for the World”.
Beyond providing the story of a specific news organization, the lecture painted a clear picture of the Dutch societal approach to child-raising, which normalizes (rather than dramatizes and idealizes) childhood, and respects children as partners in society. Through depictions of news fragments and descriptions of protocols, Mr. Bartlema laid out the NOS Jeugdjournaal’s mission:
"Raising engaged and critical-thinking citizens in today’s world of unwieldy information"
In footage that included wars, refugee crises and environmental disasters, audience members saw what Dutch children see. And they learned of the care and thinking that go into bringing difficult news to children, always clear and free of taboos but never haphazard. All difficult Jeugdjournaal news is told with kid-appropriate expert explanations and with child perspectives given in children’s own voices, on the scene and around the world. The audience also learned how American news is presented and perceived by Dutch children and the culture. 9/11 is a household word, Obama a Dutch children’s hero, gun violence an outlandish phenomenon, and Miley Cyrus’s sexually explicit video a normal Dutch elementary school discussion. Contrasts in Dutch versus American politics were driven home implicitly. Dutch party leaders hold an intimate (and funny!) annual Jeugdjournaal debate for kids. American presidential candidates hold gameshow-like rallies and bombastic election grand-finales. This was a lecture that said it all without saying too much.
A video of the lecture can be found on the Germanic Languages and Literatures website, under Dutch and Flemish Studies, De Vries – Van der Kooy Memorial lecture. We thank all our donors for their generous sponsorship.