Letter from the Guest Editor

Letter from the Guest Editor | Youth Media Reporter (Volume 4: Issue 3)

I grew up in a Filipino-American household where my father never called a plumber to fix the sink. He was a “do-it-yourself” kind-of guy who did all the careful studying and planning in order to fix whatever problem arose with the car or the house. I was his understudy—I held the flashlight, emptied the oil pan underneath the car and carried wood when new construction was in order.
By the time I was 12, I was old enough to fix many things around the house on my own. I will never forget the time he caught me trying to hammer in a nail with a wrench. He took me aside and said, “Anak (son), you have to know how to choose your tools wisely. You may think it is easier to just grab anything but it will just make it more difficult for you to accomplish your goal.”
As youth media practitioners, we may not be changing the oil in the car every three months or building a new partition in the house before our relatives arrive for an extended stay, but we are constantly being challenged to develop innovative solutions to many of the problems we face in our communities through the use of technology. In this constantly evolving digital landscape, it has become crucial to identify the most appropriate tools to advance our programs while still focusing on its primary goal—to serve youth and their communities.
As the New Media Manager at the Community Media Workshop at Columbia College Chicago, I develop new media resources and tools for our organization as well as for nonprofits across the region and lecture about media, communications and social web strategies. I stress the importance of thinking strategically and acting tactically when it comes to choosing and utilizing the tools to implement our work.
By now, we have come to understand the impact of new media technology and its reach. Where it has taken television 13 years to reach a target audience of 50 million people, it has taken Facebook only three. Just last month, the online social network announced that it had surpassed the 500 millionth user mark. If it were a country, it would be the third largest in the world. It is important now more then ever to grasp the impact of new media on the world as we begin working with the first “connected” generation where media is no longer passive and static but dynamic, social and viral.
As technology has allowed more of our voices to enter the conversations within the larger social narrative, the role of youth media educators has become even more imperative to the development of the critical consciousness of the current generation—and those that follow—as we witness traditional gatekeepers of quality information become disestablished. Today, the broadcast and distribution of our media has the potential to reach even broader audiences through the Internet and in turn, create greater impact.
In this edition of Youth Media Reporter (YMR), we follow up on the theme of news literacy from the previous issue and investigate new media technology and how it is shaping not only our work in the Youth Media field but also in our world in general. This issue features eleven contributors that cover the field of journalism and new media technology—from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, the Pulitzer Center, Research Journalism Institute, Global Kids, and public schools. We hope these selections of critical approaches in the field help you navigate the new media landscape.
Contributors of this issue provide the following insights:
The social web has shifted the information ecosystem, allowing more voices to access, contribute and participate in the development of news stories. In the article, “Information Quality, Youth, and Media: A Research Update” Urs Gasser, Sandra Cortesi, Momin Malik and Ashley Lee argue that quantitative growth of information also raises concerns over the quality of content and proposes new frameworks for approaches in media literacy and youth. They explain, “As traditional news media outlets are replaced with new models of information dissemination, it will be critically important to the health of democracy for citizens to have the skills necessary to navigate these new spaces.”
Applying critical thinking skills to new media itself should be included in the curriculum, as suggested by both Henry Jenkins of MIT and danah boyd of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. “In order to address the gap between what ‘digital natives’ supposedly know and what they really know, I believe that the best approach is bringing a dialogue about new media technologies into the classroom” says boyd in an interview conducted for this edition of YMR. “While young people use new media technologies every day, they do not have a comprehensive understanding of how the information is negotiated, produced and reproduced.”
Henry Jenkins’ research on Participatory Cultures also stresses this importance when he states, “Technologies are changing at a rapid pace and we will have to continually learn new tools. But all the more important that we learn how to navigate through social networks.”
boyd’s research on teens and social media also reveals some of the complexities youth face while interacting and communicating across social networks—useful tidbits youth practitioners should be aware of when choosing popular networks such as Facebook as a platform for engagement.
In both of their interviews, Boyd and Jenkins encourage the use of participatory learning models –an inherent trait of the social web that helps facilitate collaboration, sharing and dialogue.
Choosing the appropriate tools to govern our work can be overwhelming. Many educators (both institutional and community-based) working with youth are finding it difficult to identify appropriate new media tools to help facilitate learning, production and distribution. For example in her article “A Web 2.0 Toolkit for Educators” school teacher Sara Panag offers a list of new media tools and points readers to websites such as Cool Tools for Schools and Curriculum21.com to help get them started.
New media is connecting communities across borders, beyond conflicts and even penetrating through penitentiary walls. This edition of YMR also provides thoughtful case studies of how innovative programming and integrated technology are bringing people together at a global scale in very effective and powerful ways. Today’s communications technology has allowed us to include the most marginalized of voices in conversations helping us collectively to create connections and raise our consciousness about the world around us.
“When you can’t bring your classroom into the world, bring the world into the classroom,” states Jennifer D. Klein. In her article with the same title, she discusses how the Research Journalism Initiative (RJI) “works to create a direct and personal link between U.S. students and their counterparts in Palestine, teaching them to move beyond taboos surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Tatum Taylor and Nathalie Applewhite of the Pulitzer Center share how the Global Gateway education program has been able to cover global stories while creating local impact for youth. They explain that, “by using technology to draw students into the process of producing news media, we find that they emerge with a fuller understanding of how to navigate the world of information.”
Other critical thinking models are explored through what Barry Joseph of Global Kids calls Ecology Maps. He states that, “digital media is challenging what learning looks like, when it happens, where and with whom.” Through the use of online platforms, Joseph outlines a pilot project called uCreate that linked youth detention centers with community libraries in two cities, to work specifically with incarcerated youth and new learning technologies. Ecology Maps are used as a foundation to explore their own learning—mapping out points in which information is collected in their daily routines, shared and then analyzed collectively. The project offers many lessons to Youth Media practitioners and opens a discussion to our readers by asking essential questions about new media and the education of youth, such as: “Is there something specific to new media tools, or the pedagogies they engender, that create more flexibility and openness for youth to bring in existing knowledge and practices?”
We learn best from others in the field when we think critically about their work. YMR editor-in-chief Ingrid Dahl reviews the book Drop that Knowledge written by Vivian Chavez and Elisabeth Soep exploring the work of Youth Radio in Oakland, Ca. The book offers its readers an examination into the field of youth media through case studies, analysis and practical resources. Dahl’s review is not only a synopsis of the book but also an insightful reflection about the field. She states, “Youth media is a strategy that uses media technology to amplify the critical analysis, expression and voice of young people.” It is a reminder to all of us on the importance of our work, our impact on related fields and the need for practitioners to be self-aware of the lessons we have learned.
One of the things I believe that makes the field of Youth Media unique and innovative is the common reliance on one of the most important tools we all inherit: our creativity. Creativity is a key asset we have in solving some of our basic problems that reason and technology cannot solve alone. Although technology has provided us a way to produce and deliver our media more effectively to a broader audience, the tradition of self-empowerment through storytelling is what centers our work. In the end, it transforms us internally and influences the world. The choice of tools we use to help tell our stories should always be supportive of this aim. As you read the articles in the New Media/Technology issue of YMR, we hope it will help frame your understanding of the landscape and provide a starting point to begin thinking strategically about new media—as well as begin acting tactically when choosing the tools that will strengthen our programming, refine our produced materials and in general, grow our field. As we do so we must, in my father’s words, choose our tools wisely.
We would like to thank all of our contributors for sharing their valuable time and expertise in this issue, and on behalf of the editorial team at YMR, we thank our contributors and readers for the important and inspiring work you do.
Demetrio P. Maguigad
Demetrio P. Maguigad is the New Media Manager at the Community Media Workshop, a nonprofit organization of journalists and communications experts helping nonprofit communicators connect with media. Demetrio’s focus is on developing and implementing the organization’s strategic online communications, and managing the development and production of New Media resources and tools. He is also a co-convener of NetTuesday Chicago, a monthly meet-up group bringing together web advocates, technologists, nonprofits and grassroots organizations to bridge the gap between technology and community development. Additionally, he is the on-air host and producer of the Chicago is the World radio program on WHPK 88.5 FM in Chicago, where he features and interviews local artists, musicians and community activists on its international format.

Youth Media Reporter is managed by the Academy for Educational Development