Scottish council tries to silence 9-year-old citizen journalist

June 15, 2012

If you’re 9-years-old and writing a blog about your school dinners you’re obviously a menace to society that needs stamping on.

The Internet may be a place where dangers lurk around every corner for children, but it’s also an essential tool for them in this day and age. Some aren’t just soaking up the content created by other for the Web but are contributing their own content. Some are even acting as citizen journalists, detailing life from behind the front-line of childhood.

This is exactly what a girl called Martha Payne was doing with her NeverSeconds blog. With the help of her dad the 9-year-old from Argyll, Scotland set up a website on which she detailed the meals served up to her and her friends every day at school. She rated each offering taking into account portion size and healthiness, and included a picture of each day’s dinner.

The Daily Record newspaper ran a story about the blog under the headline “Time to fire the dinner ladies.” This bad press was traced back to Payne who was then informed by her head teacher she was banned from taking pictures in the school canteen. The ban was imposed by Argyll and Bute Council, with the defense that, “the photographic images uploaded appear to only represent a fraction of the choices available to pupils, so a decision has been made by the council to stop photos being taken in the school canteen.”

Thankfully after criticism from all sides, including school dinners campaigner Jamie Oliver and Scotland’s education secretary, the ban has since been lifted. But not before the fayre served up to kids at the school was improved. This was an attempt at censoring the views of a 9-year-old child, views that she should always be free to express.

The fact that the dinners have improved in the few days since this story started developing shows that Payne has actually made a difference. Thus suggesting there was the utmost value in what she was doing. Not that the council could see that. Heaven forbid it that the views of our youngest members of society would actually be listened to and acted upon.

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