Life During Wartime
“War is decided by older people and carried out by young people,” said Claire Holman, director of Blunt Radio, a Maine-based youth media organization. Iraq is no exception, said Holman, which is why young people at organizations like Blunt Radio are creating radio spots, videos, articles, and other media documenting their perspectives on the war. Some projects aim to help educate other teens, like Paper Tiger’s video “Military Myths,” which compares the reality of war to military ad campaigns and comes equipped with lesson plans for teachers and organizers. Others, like Chat the Planet’s MTV-broadcast series of young Americans talking live via webcam with young Iraqis, have helped personalize war coverage.
The following organizations have received special recognition for their coverage of Iraq.
“Reflections on Return”
Since the U.S. invaded Iraq, teen producers at Blunt Radio have made several spots about young people’s experiences of the war, including an interview with a young Iraq war veteran who returned to the United States after suffering a devastating throat injury. The soldier would not speak to adult reporters, but responded to teen producer Spencer Scott because he felt a peer could understand him. The interview became part of “Reflections on Return,” a radio series produced primarily by Bay Area-based Youth Radio and featuring voices of young soldiers returning from Iraq, struggling to re-enter their civilian lives. Much of “Reflections on Return” aired on National Public Radio and the series won an Edward R. Murrow Award of the Radio Television News Directors Association (RTNDA), arguably the most prestigous electronic journalism award in the country, said RTNDA chairman Dan Shelley.
Judges chose this entry, which competed against radio networks including ABC, CBC, and CNN, said Shelley, “because it provided a perspective on the Iraq war consequences that had largely been unreported in the other media, and that was youth voices. It is a critical perspective that people need to be aware of.”
“All That I Can Be”
In their video “All That I Can Be,” teens at the Educational Video Center (EVC) documented an EVC alum’s decision to join the army not out of patriotism, idealism, or a sense of duty, but because he needed money and saw the army as his only option to get ahead. It “is an exceptional example of how sophisticated youth-produced media can be,” said Shira Golding of Arts Engine, Inc., which featured the video in its Media That Matters Film Festival, where it received the Economic Justice Award. “Rather than conveying a heavy-handed and simplistic ‘military recruitment is bad’ message,” says Golding, the video “puts the issue in context. The young man grappling with whether or not to enlist wants to make something out of his life, and he has been made to feel that joining the army is his only real option. ‘All That I Can Be’ captures his choice from an intimate angle.”
“The Hard Sell”
Teen writer Cara Brumfield at Youth Communication went undercover. She approached military recruiters, pretending she was interested in joining the army. One recruiter told her about the vacation-like postcards he received from friends stationed in Iraq. The more questions Brumfield asked, the seemingly pushier the recruiters became. When she said she needed to consult her mother about joining the military, a recruiter treated her as though she was wasting their time. Her article “The Hard Sell,” published in Youth Communication’s New Youth Connections, won second place for investigative reporting for New York City’s Independent Press Awards. “The writer showed impressive determination in reporting the story—in using her personal experience to reveal the hardball tactics and deceit military recruiters use to get young people to sign up for service,” said City Limits editor Alyssa Katz, a judge for the awards. “She bravely put herself in the fray to get the story, and persisted even when she had opportunities and reasons to back out. And her writing moved us—as readers, we could feel what she was going through and understand what it’s like to be a vulnerable young person in the sights of military recruiters.”
New Youth Connections editor Hope Vanderberg hopes the story brought home something even more personal for the many teens who read it—“the fact that the war is not just something that is happening far away but something that they themselves might be involved in someday. They could easily become the ones fighting in it, so they need to figure out what they believe in.”
Above left: Will Solomon in EVC’s “All That I Can Be” prepares for Army life.
Young Americans create award-winning radio, video, and articles about the war in Iraq.