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How Do We Get Youth
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Kendra Hurley, Editor, Youth Media, Reporter, Ymreporter.com
‘Teens really want news that similar to citizen journalism. They don’t want it coming from a God-like source, they don’t want it sounding like the Gospel, they want it form a peer, they want it with opinion, they want it with analysis, and they want it to somehow be able to link it to who they are personally.’- —Kendra Hurley
Peggy Kuhr: I’d like to look at niche in another way now, and move to so-called “youth media.” Now, there are many who would say that young people are not a niche. Indeed, they are our future, and if you look at their numbers, particularly the numbers in . . . Generation Y, which is 9 or 10 years old up to 26 or 27. . . their numbers in a few short years are going to be larger than those of us in the aging Baby Boomer category—we are not going to rule any longer.
But you can say that youth is in the minority when it comes to audience and content of mainstream news media. So we know about all of the reports. . . the declining newspaper readership, the declining network viewership, the Internet growing and growing, and the questions that are being asked about whether young people are using it for news or for a lot of other activities. . .
So I’d like to have Kendra talk to us about young people and whether they really care about the news. What’s going on here?
Kendra Hurley: Yes, young people do care about the news. A Carnegie study found that young people aged 18 to 29 read blogs often, and 44 percent of young adults surveyed visited a web news portal every day.
And so, though I can’t speak for all young people...I worked for seven years at a publisher who publishes two magazines written by teenagers. The one I worked on was called “Represent,” written by teenagers in foster care, and the other one is “Youth Connections,” which has a circulation of 200,000 and goes to New York City high schools, written by teens in New York City.
The kids at those organizations were definitely interested in what was going on but didn’t really see themselves represented in the media, so they weren’t interested in adult reporters interpreting their life for them. And also—teens are very rarely quoted in the stories about them, and most stories about teens are negative. They’re about crime or gangs or teens getting involved in drugs.
So all of that is quite off-putting and similar to what people were talking about with ethnic media. For teens, they’re almost like a community in themselves, and a lot of the media that they read really isn’t culturally relevant.
So, what studies have found, and what I saw as well, was that teens really want news that’s similar to citizen journalism. They don’t want it coming from a God-like source, they don’t want it sounding like the Gospel, they want it from a peer, they want it with opinion, they want it with analysis, and they want it to somehow be able to link to who they are personally.
That’s what youth media is all about. There are numerous organizations across the country where journalists are working closely with young people in radio, online journalism, video, print publications like the ones I just held up, to create media where the teens bring their stories to the table and the journalists, who are the adult working professionals, help them tell those stories in a way that’s compelling.
And so, when I was working at “Represent,” it could take up to eight months to work on a story with a writer, but the stories we got were really amazing. We ran an issue where a bunch of our writers wrote about being labeled ‘crack babies,’ and that—it was for the 20-year anniversary for crack. These were kids, who had been told basically by the media, that they weren’t going to amount to anything, kind of talking back and saying, here’s how that affected us, here’s how we overcame the stigma.
And that got a huge amount of national attention, it was on NPR, the AP wrote a story about it, Columbia Journalism Review wrote about it. And so the impact youth media can have is huge, but I think radio’s really embraced youth media, online journalism has embraced it as well, AlterNet has a youth media site, Wiretap, which is part of it. A lot of radio stations like NPR will play youth-produced spots.
But print, especially newspapers, are shy about working with youth media organizations.
Peggy Kuhr: I would mention that a couple of years ago, just as the war in Iraq was starting, MTV did a documentary and the whole point of their documentary was to talk to young people over in Iraq, both soldiers, nurses who were stationed over there, and young Iraqis. What you realize when you watch something like that or hear something like this is, it is a war fought by young people, and we do not hear from them, and we do not see them through that perspective in the mainstream media.
Kendra Hurley: You really need to have an operation that’s set up to work closely with the kids, because all sorts of emotional stuff comes up. Teens are writing about very personal things and you get very involved in their lives, so. . .