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Inside Story: How the News Works

Authored by Jane Marlow
Illustrated by Terri Po
Published by Templar Publishing

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Inside Story: How the News Work is a fascinating information book which takes readers behind the scenes of the news and explains a wide variety of key concepts related to journalism in clear and accessible terms.

Produced by ITN, with an introduction and ‘expert tips‘ from ITV News’s Charlene White, the book begins by offering a potted history of the news (from ancient messengers and town criers to 24-hour news and social media) before defining fundamental principles such as impartiality, propaganda and clickbait. We are then given a backstage tour of a newsroom so that we can understand the roles played by different members of the team, and spend a day in the life of a reporter, showing a story can progress from an initial lead to the final broadcast. The main focus is on television news but newspapers, radio and online news are also discussed.

ITN and the book’s author Jane Marlow bring a huge level of expertise to this book which is bursting with informative detail – readers of all ages will enjoy learning about different aspects of news reporting, from gathering sources to vision mixing. At the same time, the book is particularly successful in finding ways of appealing to young readers. The tone is friendly and engaging, and key terms are defined (both in the text and the glossary at the end). Marlow chooses straightforward – and often amusing – examples of news stories to illustrate her points, and includes a number of ‘assignments’ to help readers detect bias or fake news. There are also frequent ‘Ask Me Anything‘ phone screens throughout the book which address key questions the reader may have.

This book is thus highly successful in educating readers about how the news makes it onto our screens, whilst communicating a number of important and timely messages. There is a consistent emphasis on media literacy, with lots of useful practical advice on how we can judge the accuracy and reliability of the news we consume. The final section of the book highlights moments in history when the news has advanced justice and peace, from Chernobyl to the storming of the Capitol. The book also champions diversity throughout: in her introduction, Charlene White discusses growing up as the child of a Jamaican-born postman and social worker at a time when there were only two Black newsreaders on TV, while Terri Po’s attractive illustrations celebrate all forms of diversity (I particularly love the page about sports news where first sportsperson we see is a female wheelchair basketball player).

Although potentially of interest to a wide age range, the language and design of this book make it most suitable for older primary readers – there are obviously excellent opportunities to link this both to the English and citizenship curricula, but many considering working in journalism and the media will enjoy devouring it independently. The reality is, of course, that relatively few readers of this age will regularly consume TV news, and this book makes a powerful and necessary case for the value of engaging with and following the news.