the jaguar, the jungle and the anthropologist why why
youth youth voices voices matter matter and and need need to to be be heard heard in in our our increasingly increasingly digitzed digitzed world world
May 2008 Underwriting provided by: Central Indiana Community Foundation white paper + case for support Y-Press Inc. youth media
May 2008 Whitepaper Bluesky LLC
: re-thinking :
youth media | youth journalism | youth voice
What is Y-Press? A small but high-impact youth-media organization, Y-Press, Inc. was founded in Indianapolis in 1990 as a Childrenâ€™s Express youth news bureau. It is a free, after-school, youth-development program that promotes adolescent literacy and civic engagement by guiding approximately 120 Central Indiana youth, ages 10 to 18, in the creation and publication of youth media on issues that affect youth locally and globally. Through its hallmark youth-led journalistic process, Y-Press reporters exercise First Amendment rights and principles of active citizenry while experiencing unparalleled literacy, critical thinking, team work and leadership development. Generating story ideas, researching, interviewing, writing, editing and speaking, youth collaboratively produce print, radio and web features that reach diverse audiences through its website and two mainstream news outlets, The Indianapolis Star and local public radio station WFYI-FM 90.1FM. Underserved, under-heard youth become story participants, offering their perspectives with peers and exposing their voices to the public. Last year, more than 350 young people shared their stories with Y-Press journalists. Originally focused on print journalism through its unique partnership with The Indianapolis Star, Y-Press has over the past year diversified its outreach to include radio and enhanced web journalism. As it continues its effort to strategically diversify, Y-Press seeks key support to strengthen its core program, support its diversification effort and continue to provide special youth-driven opportunities that demonstrate and propel
the power of inquiry.
“For a young person, a Y-Press article or electronic piece acts as tangible proof of their stake in the community— evidence that their voice matters. When an adult reads that same article, it acts as a window to a world that can too often seem hopeless and bewildering, offering adults a chance to take seriously young people’s role in the present and future.” Ben Young, Y-Press alumnus
acknowledgements Supported by a research grant from the Central Indiana Community Foundation, Y-Press, a youthmedia organization in Indianapolis, partnered with Whitepaper Bluesky in February 2008 to identify potential funding sources outside of Indiana. Increasing awareness of Y-Press and cultivating prospective funders on the national level were also goals of the project. Due to imperative organizational changes, Y-Press had narrowly missed a multimillion dollar funding opportunity in 2004 from the Open Society Institute and knew there would be other broad-based investments in youth media. Though considered a “boutique” youth program locally, we confirmed our suspicions that such an area of interest might form a “pet” interest among family foundations outside of Indiana, as well as discovered that youth media funding proved more mainstream on the East and West coasts and larger metropolitan cities like Chicago. So the process of funding research and developing a good case for support morphed into field research and discovery about trends, challenges and strengths in youth-media programs nationwide. Y-Press director Lynn Sygiel and consultant Amy Rubin crafted a compelling case for support that identified Y-Press’s strengths and positioned it within the field of youth media, discovering that the journalistic model fostered key youth outcomes that appeared to be missing altogether in some contemporary models. The outcome was this paper, which is intended to be shared as a way of encouraging dialogue about efficacy, impact, outreach and sustainability within the field of youth media--while also raising awareness about Y-Press’s work. In addition to prospect research and a case for support, a short-term advisory group was formed for feedback from individuals with experience with national foundations. In addition to periodic review and input from Y-Press’s board of directors, Y-Press also benefited from the project’s advisory panel, which consisted of: Sam Cargile, vice president for grantmaking, Lumina Foundation for Education, Indianapolis Susan Clampitt, senior consultant, Executive Search, Campbell & Co.; wife of the late Robert Clampitt, Children’s Express, Washington, D.C. Sara Melillo, journalism program officer, McCormick Foundation, Chicago Kathy Minx, chief operating officer, BSA Life Structures; former executive with Lilly Endowment, Inc., Indianapolis Milan Patel, 2007-2008 Y-Press youth director & Y-Press alumnus, Indianapolis George Srour, founder, Building Tomorrow, Indianapolis/Kampala, Uganda & Y-Press alumnus This project was made possible by a grant from the Central Indiana Community Foundation and, in part, from a previously funded project from Lilly Endowment Inc. which served to inform the development of the case for support.
knowledge | transformation | thought leadership amy rubin
Youth Mediaâ€™s Role in Youth Communications:
who speaks for the jaguar?
The New Media Landscape: a growing, global multimedia digital-age jungle
Navigating Media as Youth and Beyond: wanted: literate, media-savvy digital anthropologists
Harnessing the strength of youth-led journalism: youth voice matters
youth media’s role in youth communications Late 20th-century theorists deconstructed cultural representations of disempowered groups such as slaves, women and children. The act of speaking for someone else, they argued, was “an act of arrogance and appropriation, whereby one person ‘names the world’ on behalf of others and thereby robs them of their right to speak.”1 Applying the argument to those without speech, postmodern critic Donna Harraway targeted the underlying issue of representation by asking: Who speaks for the jaguar? 2 Children—a minority, non-voting constituency with questionable constitutional rights3—are often stuck in the same ventriloquist-like representation, spoken for and represented without consultation, reminding us of the old dictum that children are “best seen and not heard. Yet, unlike the jaguar, youth do have voices.
“Contemporary theoretical challenges to traditional notions of representation warn us against the presumption and bad faith involved in the act of speaking for others.” Carole Fabricant, Criticism (1997)
who speaks for the jaguar?
Youth communications, or youth media, consists of user-generated media, individually created by or commercially marketed to youth (e.g. MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, etc.) and professionally organized, non-profit youth media programs that intentionally engage youth in learning through the production of literary, artistic and journalistic media. This paper focues on the latter, as an educational field of study and in the broader context of youth communications.
through its unique partnership with mainstream media, boasting regular exposure in The Indianapolis Star.
The field of youth media, a logical result of the youth movement of the 1950s and 1960s, made a stunning cultural debut in the 1970s and 1980s, when the seminal youth-news service Children’s Express made national news, scooped adult journalists, advocated for policy changes, published books on violence and poverty, and created an international youth news network with global posts in Tokyo, London, New Zealand and Australia.
Many programs now exist with the aim of developing and establishing credible platforms for youth voices. Without a healthy youth-media field in our culture, it could be argued that youth would not have a voice and would risk becoming, like the jaguar, a fixed and romanticized representation.
Y-Press, its Indianapolis bureau, retained and expanded upon this successful youth journalism model and also established its credibility and independence
Since Children’s Express’s demise in 2001, the trend in the field of youth media has branched out beyond the journalistic model to embrace increasingly specialized youth-media strategies, such as youth arts or youth advocacy, and toward organizations more targeted toward peer (youth) audiences and niche markets (urban youth, foster youth, etc.).4
Are youth-media organizations currently doing enough to assuage this risk if audiences are primarily narrow or largely consist of other youth? Not exposing youth voices to a wider public, do they run the risk of going the way of the jaguar—silent, remote, needing a ventriloquist?
Without a healthy youth-media field in our culture, it could be argued that youth would not have a voice and would risk becoming, like the jaguar, a fixed and romanticized representation. On the other end of the youth-media spectrum, user-generated media— connected primarily to youth leisure and without emphasis on quality— is quickly becoming ubiquitous in the burgeoning world of networking and multimedia Web sites, such as YouTube, Facebook and MySpace. In this context, youth voice runs the risk of becoming not like the jaguar (silent, remote, needing a ventriloquist) but like the jungle (overpopulated, indecipherable cacophony). Thus, user-generated youth media threatens to outpace and overshadow educationally-generated youth media.
Characterized by …
diversification fragmentation marginalization representation credibility youth-centeredness process vs. product
single media platform/audience parochial or specialized mission narrow or peer-only audiences uneven geographic distribution coexists with user-generated media adult-led missions/organizations process not well articulated
dependent on one technology/audience parochial or non-mainstream audience preaching to the choir; jaguar in the jungle exclusion of diverse voices conflation of youth/youth-made media less critical thinking/leadership focus less focus on inquiry/literacy development
These challenges and possible consequences further threaten to leave youth media: • • • • • • •
not responsive to changing trends and technologies excluded from larger societal dialogue unexposed to adult audiences unfairly concentrated (urban, coastal, not suburban, rural, Midwest) youth competing with lower-caliber productions less youth-centered in approach lacking in basic educational foundation (e.g. literacy, inquiry skills)
here are some of the challenges facing the field of youth media
the new media landscape Times have changed since the TV became popular in the 1950s and served as a staple of teenage leisure time in the 1960s and 1970s. The expansion of electronics and communications in the 1980s and 90s led to development of the World Wide Web, globalization and the Digital Revolution. We are living in the Information Age, where technological changes and advances in media and electronics continue to revolutionize the way we do business, communicate, express ourselves and connect. There is increasing complexity of channels and networks; informing and misinforming media, authentic and artificial news, honest and dishonest voices; a dynamic new world of education, information, entertainment and advertising—as well as all blends thereof such as edutainment and infomercial. Media—once limited with clearer boundaries between journalism, advertising and entertainment—now involves limitless outlets unfolding on a globalized stage and characterized by blurred lines of intent. It is a veritable multimedia jungle.
a growing, global, multimedia digital-age jungle “As media channels fragment and subcultures form around common interests, strong opinions will be reinforced by strong social networks – with a tendency toward more fundamentalist views of complex problems.” KnowledgeWorks Foundation, 2006-2016 Map of the Future
Currently, 87 percent of youth use the Internet, in addition to an increasing number who use cell phones, e-mail and instant messaging .5 What is clear is that youth of the future will be media users. What is less obvious is whether being a media user will equate with being media-literate, or further, mediasavvy, the ability to navigate media with sophistication of mind: that will require advanced literacy and critical thinking skills. Distinguishing and establishing vicissitudes of literacy, topics not yet widely addressed, will arguably become important criteria for educational success in the future.6 As a society, we are only beginning to gauge the benefits and limitations of these cultural shifts.
What is clear is that youth of the future will be media users. What is less obvious is whether being a media user will equate with being medialiterate, or further, mediasavvy, able to navigate media with sophistication of mind: that will require advanced literacy and critical thinking skills.
How will we educate youth in the 21st Century? Trends according to the Map of Future Forces Affecting Education7: • End to the division between cyberspace and real space • Multiple hierarchies and hybrid networks replacing hierarchical structures and systems • Empowered periphery replacing centralized control • Participatory media replacing individual computing • Collective, not proprietary, generation and management of knowledge and resources • Computer labs replaced by pervasive, media-rich learning • Shift from one-size-fits-all culture to focus on customized fit
youth navigating media as learning and life Similarities have been drawn between journalism and anthropology. One anthropologist-turned-journalist, James Lett, noted the fundamental similarities between the two professions :“As an anthropologist, I have been trained to observe, record, describe, and if possible, to explain human behavior, and that is the essence of what I do every day as a journalist.” One significant exception that he noted was journalism’s ‘lack of systematic foundation of explicit theory and method,’ which contributed to its ‘uninformed, unanalytical nature.’ In the digital jungle, where niche markets for strong opinions dominate, subscription to objectivism without an agreed-upon framework for practice could weaken one’s critical-inquiry arsenal. Media expansion brings with it the proliferation of information sources, types and sharing behavior, requiring youth to grasp innumerable complexities and navigate through the density of virtual access and agendas. Success in the 21st Century will become more competitive, demanding increased media, cultural and behavioral literacies. In short, in addition to gaining skills and literacies, being an anthropologist will offer an advantage.
In the digital jungle, where niche markets for strong opinions dominate, subscription to objectivism without an agreedupon framework for practice could weaken one’s criticalinquiry arsenal.
wanted: literate, media-savvy digital anthropologists
Unfortunately, the chances for most youth for becoming anthropologists are not good. Nearly 70 percent of youth take care of themselves outside of school, as demand for after-school programs far outweighs supply.9 In addition, with high suspension and dropout rates, youth are not staying in school. For those who do remain in school, inquiry does not play an elevated role, literacy efforts are focused on attaining third-grade-level reading,10 and censorship is institutionalized in public high schools across the nation.11 Most youth have little knowledge or opportunities to practice First and Amendment rights12 lack a daily news habit.13 Even youth lucky enough to participate in quality, educational youth-media programs—though gaining a wealth of developmental benefits and cultural experiences—may not be learning the critical inquiry strategies associated with the traditional journalistic approach14 or having their voices exposed to adult audiences. If the field of youth media is to continue to play a role in amplifying
creative and thoughtful youth voices, then issues related to its process, structure, credibility and security must be addressed. What attributes will best protect the field and keep the abovenoted challenges in check? Below is a list that covers some of the components that help create a supportive environment and program for youth voice.
“As an anthropologist, I have been trained to observe, record, describe, and if possible, to explain human behavior, and that is the essence of what I do every day as a journalist.” James Lett
Qualities of literate, mediasavvy digital anthropologists: • Literate: highly developed critical faculties • Media-literate: able to use media as a tool • Media-savvy: able to understand digital behavior • Connected: to the local and global community • Experienced: as leaders and change agents
Creating a supportive culture for youth voice • Development of basic and advanced literacy/ critical thinking skills • Inquiry-based enrichment of schoolbased curriculum • Media use and literacy through varied technologies • Education and connection to reliable news and information sources • Partnership and/or provision of diversified media outlets and training • Knowledge and relevance, but not deference, to youth culture • Amplification of youth voice to diverse audiences • Exposure and meaningful connection to adult audiences • Diverse, well-connected youth-media field advocating best practices and future planning • Funding that supports high-quality individual programs and the field as a whole
harnessing the strength of youth-led journalism Quality youth media programs in the forms of media arts or youth advocacy offer significant youth development opportunities for self-expression, self-confidence, and community engagement. Yet, nothing is quite as steeped in inquiry as the practice of in-depth journalism. By cultivating critical thinking; offering experiences, in both navigating and creating media communications; and opportunities for participating in public life—including a dedicated, ongoing ‘place at the table’—youth learn to express, expose and represent themselves, and others whose voices all too often go the way of the jaguar. When we foster and invest in advanced youth development programs and practices, we provide youth with a powerful combination:
youth voice matters
“We learned that when children are given important responsibilities, their confidence and their interest in the world around them grows rapidly. It was clear that children want a voice and that they have much to contribute.” Children’s Express Founder Robert Clampitt, after a 12-year-old reporter scooped the world press at the1976 National Democratic Convention
Documentation of Y-Press’s process reveals a practice that offers the highest order of youthdevelopment benefits. As a case study in the youth-led journalism model, Y-Press youth experience an unparalleled level of thinking, communications, decision-making and leadership skills. Media journalism at Y-Press is developed through three driving elements of its program— literacy, inquiry and youth leadership. Although important drawbacks could be noted in the use of a mainstream media outlet, one simple formula cannot be ignored:
when you add the power of inquiry (journalistic process) to the power of representation (effective and/ or broadbased media), something more than youth voice results.
as those of others whose voices all too often go the way of the jaguar.
Critical faculties develop, lifelong learning and lessons take place and self-reliance unfolds—but more importantly, the understanding that youth voice matters takes shape.
model offers a
Because giving youth not only the tools for communication and participation but ‘a place at the table,’ 15 16 youth can express, expose and represent themselves as well
critical arsenal of questioning, participating and free speech.
Y-Press: three strengths that make quality youthled journalism ready for the 21st century advanced literacy Y-Press participants build upon basic literacy skills—fluidity in reading, writing, speaking and communicating. More importantly, and somewhat overlooked in the youth development field, is the ability to exercise what the Carnegie Corporation calls advanced literacy—critical thinking, the ability to question and construct reality through information, reasoning and communication. This level of literacy includes the ability to research, investigate, source information, argue a point, reveal a perspective and tell a story. Advanced literacy at Y-Press encompasses media literacy, the ability to critically navigate and create through media; cultural literacy, experiencing knowledge and sensitivity about cultural differences through local and global stories; and civic literacy, the ability to understand how information and power structures function within the community.
youth-driven method + mission
Y-Press only produces in-depth reporting, so the model uses youthled inquiry in its team reporting process.
Youth generate story ideas, make decisions, research, interview, edit, discuss, write and mentor each other.
As a team, youth investigate topics, ask questions, research, interview, fact-check and construct and produce stories. The Y-Press process begins with Storyboard, open to all youth reporters and editors, where members present and defend potential topics and are questioned on relevance, youth angle, interview prospects, sources and resources. In 2009, Y-Press youth founded and created The Power of the Question project.
A progressive, built-in leadership structure at Y-Press allows youth to move from reporter to editor status, with continuing opportunities to serve as managing editor, then youth director. In addition to critical input from program alumnae/i, four nonvoting youth directors hold seats on Y-Press’s Board of Directors.
â€œSeveral youth-media organizations have more than a decade of experience. They have established track records, strong relationships with funders, and experience in sharing their expertise with others. Support these organizations so that they can establish their programs as models, develop curricula based on their experiences, and mentor newer groups to learn from their experience.â€? Open Society Institute, Investing inYouth Media (2006)
notes 1. Carole Fabricant, Defining Self and Others, Criticism (1997). 2. Donna Haraway, Cultural Studies Now and in the Future, conference, Urbana-Champaigne (1990). 3. When Y-Press journalists interviewed Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan on child rights in 1990, they commented: “We know that kids have very few judicial rights. Kids may be told they have a voice, but they have limited ways of exercising this right.” Brennan remarked that although children are individuals, “… their rights sometimes have to be tailored in a way that they do not mimic the rights exercised by adults.” It is also worthy noting that the United States remains one of two countries that does not formally recognize the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child. 4. Some organizations, like Y-Press, have more general or wide distribution, such as Listen Up! and Youth Communications. 5. Pew Internet and American Life Project (2005), courtesy of KnowledgeWorks Foundation. 6. See Carnegie Corporation’s Advancing Literacy Initiative (2003) on why adolescent literacy matters. 7. KnowledgeWorks Foundation & The Institute for the Future, Map of Future Forces Affecting Education (2006-2016). 8. James Lett, Communicator (1986), a journal of the Association of Electronic Journalists. 9. Indiana Afterschool Network and the Afterschool Alliance, America After 3 PM study (2004). 10. See Carnegie Corporation’s Advancing Literacy Initiative (2003) on why adolescent literacy matters. 11. Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision, gave the right of censorship to public school administrators. 12. John S. and James L. Knight Foundation report, Future of the First Amendment (2006). 13. Kennedy School of Government study Young People and the News by Thomas E. Patterson (2007). 14. A 2008 study by the Newspapers Association of America Foundation found that student journalists earn higher grade point averages, do better on the ACT and earn higher grades in their first year of college. 15. Y-Press alumna Amy Weisenbach launched atthetable.org , part of the At the Table initiative of the Innovation Center for Community and Youth Development, an effort to build a national movement for youth participation in governance and decision making since 1998. 16. Amy Weisenbach, mentioned above, is just one Y-Press alumi/ae to establish a non-profit organization. George Srour, who sat on the advisory group for this project, established the global nonprofit Building Tomorrow. Others are known but have not all been documented. The pattern that has been acknowledged at least anecdotally is that “Y-Pressers” have a tendency to become change agents.
WHITEPAPER BLUESKY facilitates innovation using knowledge-based and knowledge-building practices and products. WHITEPAPER BLUESKY serves as a change catalyst by partnering with business leaders in visioning, planning and analysis projects that create knowledge, transformation and thought leadership; identifying problems and solutions that match community need with sustainable practices; and promoting a community of critical and creative thinkers as next-generation leaders.
knowledge | transformation | thought leadership amy rubin
addendum This attachment is a copy of a Powerpoint slide that was part of a presentation to the Y-Press board in 2008. The decision to physically map out the locations of established youth media organizations in the United States confirmed what had been suspected and felt: that most attention and money in the youth media field was concentrated on the coasts, with emphasis on the major metropolitan cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C. and NYC areas. Only four exceptions were to be found in between: in Utah, Indiana, Kentucky and Georgia.
Youth-Media Organizations: Uneven geographic representation
Source: 2006 Open Society Institute Study