Eight-year-old Leela Sivasankar Prickitt and her journalist mother Lyndee’s podcast, Newsy Jacuzzi, covers topics ranging from Baby Shark to Black Lives Matter
For the last three months, eight-year-old Leela Sivasankar Prickitt, and her mother Lyndee Prickitt have taken a liking to a rather odd spot of their apartment in Delhi. Under the bed. It is where the mother-daughter duo records their podcast, Newsy Jacuzzi, which covers global news. “It’s difficult to find a quiet spot even inside the house in Delhi. You always hear honking sounds from outside. So, we figured it’s quietest under the bed,” jokes Lyndee about their makeshift studio.
Lyndee, a Texan, began her journalism career with the BBC Radio in the UK. Then, she moved to India when she worked for Reuters. She has been living in Delhi for the last nine years. “Leela’s a desi girl though,” she says, “Her favourite food is…”
“…Rajma rice. And, idli. And, dosa,” interjects the bubbly eight-year-old. With both parents discussing news in the house (Lyndee’s husband’s a journalist too), the innately curious Leela got interested in their conversations. “She’d want to know why mummy and daddy like or dislike a politician,” explains Lyndee.
Lyndee and Leela started Newsy Jacuzzi because they wanted an activity to occupy themselves after the pandemic prevented their usual summer travel. “Stuck inside all summer during the nasty COVID-19 pandemic, all we could do to feel connected to the world was report on it,” they say in their website, newsyjacuzzi.com.
For the little ones
Newsy Jacuzzi’s a kids podcast. Most of its contributors and audience are also preteens. But unlike most kids podcasts, Newsy Jacuzzi does not shy away from discussing serious socio-political topics like climate change and racism.
“Can’t run away from bad news, right, mama?” Leela asks her mother during an episode that discusses racial inequality in the US. Lyndee replies, “As much as we want to, sometimes [we can’t]. Knowledge is power. We need to understand the problems first if we are to get anywhere near solving them and making the world a better place.” She feels it is important for children to know the world. And, the podcast is an attempt to spark their curiosity for news — the good, bad, beautiful and ugly.
The tone of the podcast might be playful; its production is professional. Lyndee’s BBC experience comes in handy. She and Leela have weekly editorial discussions. Then, they collect news stories from their Indian and overseas correspondents (mostly children of Lyndee’s former colleagues and some of Leela’s friends). Lyndee then works for two days to put everything together.
Lyndee, according to the website, doubles up the podcast’s ‘sound effects finder’ and the ‘big-story-explainer’. The first role, she says, was challenging for the first two weeks. But it is the second that is more interesting. How does one explain topics like Black Lives Matter or climate change to children?
“It’s tricky, of course. A lot of us have strong views, which we consider is the right one. We refuse to listen to others. But there are some basic tenets of journalism that you can follow. You try to report just the facts and say both sides of a story. The idea is to introduce children to news and make them curious and not impose your views on them.”
The podcast, she adds, also introduces children to the news that mainstream media mostly ignores. “For most adults, news translates to politics. That’s a shame. There are so much else happening in science, history, arts, space and more. It’s as if adults are only concerned about politics and the markets.”
The podcast, Lyndee hopes, can act as a groundwork for responsible journalism. “People are so turned off from what real news is. How do we spot fake news and misinformation? I think teenagers, who are increasingly using social media, should be taught this in school, perhaps as a part of their civics class.” Leela and Newsy Jaccuzi’s young news correspondents are already learning this.
Some of these children might go on to become journalists. But Leela, as of now, has other plans. “I want to be a space scientist for NASA.” It is perhaps a good idea to get away from the mounting problems in the world and head to outer space. “Sometimes I get scared of what’s gonna happen, reading about the glaciers melting and all that.”
The future might not seem optimistic. But as Lyndee says, “There is no running away from bad news. We need to understand the problems first if we are to get anywhere near solving them.”