Updated: October 14, 2020 11:36:54 am
When the lockdown was announced in the country earlier this year, in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Lyndee Prickitt, a former correspondent from the US, who started her journalism career in radio and loves the medium, stared at the possibility of “spending the entire summer stuck inside a hot Delhi apartment” with her eight-year-old daughter Leela Sivasankar Prickitt. Lyndee knew she needed an activity that would keep them both pleasantly occupied.
“I’m not a crafty mama! My daughter is a self-titled ‘podcast nerd’, and so am I. We are always listening to a podcast, especially in the lockdown, when there is so much cooking and cleaning to do. I knew Leela would be excited about producing a podcast of her own,” she tells indianexpress.com, describing how the mother-daughter duo came up with India’s first children’s news podcast, ‘Newsy Jacuzzi’. In an email interaction, both Lyndee and Leela talk about their love for news, the relevance of podcasts in the effective dissemination of stories, collaborating with other young contributors from around the world, and the importance to picking topics that are child-friendly, among other things.
Is there a story behind naming the podcast ‘Newsy Jacuzzi’?
We needed a name that said it was a news programme, but was fun enough for children to immediately identify as something for them. We were brainstorming for days, throwing words and phrases around. I was going with ‘Newsapaloooza’ when Leela blurted out ‘Newsy Jacuzzi’! I instantly knew that was the one. It’s both fun and says what it does on the tin, so to speak — a podcast that provides ‘a whirlpool of news and information’.
What is the relevance of podcasts these days in the dissemination of news?
Oh, that’s an interesting question. I think in India and America, podcasts are so new that they offer people a different experience , one that’s more intimate because it’s like someone’s in your head talking directly to you in a way that other mediums cannot offer. While the UK has a history of polished radio shows, whether they’re entertaining or informative or have a magic quality of being both, it’s not the same in India or America, where radio has really just been about music, brief news headlines or maybe a lot of unscripted chatter. So I think podcasts have both a novelty factor and an intimacy that you can’t get in other mediums.
What was the thought behind giving it a parenting spin and starting it with your daughter?
It was a joint project from the beginning. At first, I thought about it being only her voice, but she’s still so young and it’s just unrealistic to expect an eight-year-old to be able to know so much. And besides, most people don’t really like know-it-all kids. So I’m there to explain the big stories or any of the complicated bits that need dissecting. As parents, we are constantly breaking things down for our children to understand and so it was just natural that I would play that role on the podcast. Plus, let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to have fun and make jokes when there are two of you! Banter is important, and so are the silly sound effects, which I specialise in!
How do you decide what you are going to discuss in a particular episode?
Well, we take the podcast pretty seriously – up to a point – and have an edit meeting every week to discuss what’s going to be in the next show. But, it is sometimes hard to hold the child’s attention for too long, so sometimes we’re throwing a ball around or taking a walk during this ‘meeting’. Or I make sure that there’s plenty of popcorn or a bowl of ice-cream.
Before the meeting, I will have scrolled the internet far and wide for potential stories. Plus every day I’m listening to news from all over the world and, of course, India. So, I have a pretty good list of ideas. But Leela gets the last say. She’s the target audience, so I really listen to what she thinks would be the best story to lead with or even the funny one to end with. Often my instinct is to lead with the biggest political or breaking news story of the day – like a good news editor, for instance the big twist and turns of the US election, or the Indian economic downturn or even Brexit talks. But those stories don’t always resonate with kids! They need tangible stories, like glaciers melting to the point of no return or the latest space news or weather disasters. And let’s be fair, those are big stories, too. I think too often the mainstream media think adults only care about politics or crime, so that’s all that’s given. But if other stories are suggested – and made interesting – I think there would be more of a demand for it. In fact I think that’s why so many adults are saying they like Newsy Jacuzzi, too.
Why do you think it is relevant for kids to understand what is going on around the world?
Oh, gosh, where do I start? First of all, empathy is crucial for kids to develop. It’s crucial for them and for our civilisation. I know that sounds really highfalutin, but I passionately believe that. I think adults have a responsibility to try and instill empathy in children – a responsibility both to the child and to society at large. But I also think that having a greater understanding of more than just what’s happening in your backyard is like preventative medicine for society, because when we learn about ‘the others’ and see them as human beings, we’re less likely to be prejudiced, we’re less quick to assume the worst, to agitate, to fight and all the woes that can follow.
And then there’s the more practical benefit that a child who is more aware of the world is going to be able to find scholastics easier – whether it be science, history, literature, civics, or even math. Because the subjects are not exclusive to one civilisation. The whole world has contributed to knowledge and progress. The more kids know about different corners of the world, the more they’ll connect with the big, and little, ideas in their learning.
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Wednesday means it's time for a snazzy new episode of #NewsyJacuzzi And what does every nee #podcast episode need? An artsy cover that says it all! We've heard rave reviews from our listeners worldwide on how creative our episode covers are. So this week, we take you behind the scenes, straight to Newsy Jacuzzi HQ, and our artist-in-chief, Leela! Here's the lil' creative genius, hard at work bringing episode 15's coverart to life! Wanna see how that turned out? Scroll over 👉 And that should give you an idea about our big news story — Martian lakes. But isn't the red planet too cold to have flowing water? 🤔 Well, join us as we explore whether there's actually life on Mars, how these lakes exist, and more! Episode link in bio 🎧 #smartkids #kidsactivities #painting #coverart #podcastsofinstagram #kidspodcasts #podcastsforkids #artistsofinstagram #artoftheday
Do you consciously pick subjects that are child-friendly? Or do you break down heavy topics in a way that children understand?
Both. I don’t shy away from the big news stories of the day, but I do work really hard in trying to break them down, dissect them, give the background and context. I also actively look for more than just politics and current affairs. There’s so much more happening in the world, whether it’s science – and that’s a huge category on its own: space, animals, nature, research discoveries – or tech, entertainment, culture, sports – we’re trying to cover it all. Maybe not every single episode but certainly every month we will touch on a little bit of everything . Oh, and we always find a funny little story to end the podcast. That’s important because the stories come from all over the world and show how silly humanity is. It’s good not to take ourselves too seriously. Not just because we connect better with kids that way, but it keeps us grounded, too.
You also have a network of young contributors from around the world — how did you get these kids interested in the podcast?
I’m an international journalist with a lot of old friends and colleagues all over the world. I just tapped my network of friends and family so far, but we are always looking for new, enthusiastic voices, especially if they are kids [that are] really interested in the news and a particular subject and, especially, if they have some ideas about what should be on Newsy Jacuzzi. We love people with enthusiasm and ideas!
Interaction with Leela Sivasankar Prickitt:
When did you realise you were interested in news and current affairs?
Both my parents are journalists, so if I want to get a word into the conversation, I have to know about the news! But besides the big stories they were discussing, I didn’t think I was that interested in the news before we started Newsy Jacuzzi. But now I realise that there are so many cool things happening in the world — like about animals, and space and funny things people do — that I never thought of as news before, but it is.
What is your most favourite aspect of doing this podcast with your mother?
My mom and I were close already, but this has made us get even closer. I also love recording under the bed (because the sound is best there) and I also like eating popcorn or ice cream while we do our script edit meetings.
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You've heard us bring the best news stories for #smartkids and #curiousminds, and now we'd like to introduce ourselves on camera 😄 We're Lyndee and Leela, the mother-daughter duo behind #NewsyJacuzzi, a family-friendly news and education podcast. Nice meeting you! 😉 New episode every Wednesday. Link in bio 🎧 #educationalpodcast #podcastsforkids #kidspodcasts #familypodcast #kidsactivities #instagood #instakids #kidsgram #podcastsofinstagram @simplecast @applepodcasts @spotifypodcasts
What kind of news interests you the most, and what would you like to tell kids your age who are not that well aware of world happenings?
I always like the big news story that we do and the ‘World of Wow’, which is our name for science. I love science stories! I want to tell people my age that you might not think news is your interest, but if you realise there is more than politics and money stuff, you might find news is much more fun than you thought.
Do you also discuss news with your teacher and classmates?
We’re learning about news and news writing right now. My teacher even once played Newsy Jacuzzi in class!
Growing up, do you see yourself becoming a journalist just like your mother?
No. I guess I’m doing it now. But I really want to be a NASA engineer when I’m older.
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