Letter from the Editor

Letter from the Editor | Youth Media Reporter (Volume 4: Issue 5)

Welcome to YMR’s fifth issue of Volume 4 with a focus on “Investing in Youth Media.” As many of our readers know, YMR has been documenting the best practices and high points of the youth media field for over four years.
During this time, we have found that the most common challenge facing youth media programs in the U.S. today is identifying foundations to sustain investments of youth media programs. This sentiment has been echoed in national youth media surveys (see Kathleen Tyner/NAMAC), key reports, several articles published in YMR, in conversations at the 2009 Youth Media Summit (hosted by The McCormick Foundation and AED/YMR), as well as the “State of the Youth Media Field” white paper. (See also “Ten Nonprofit Funding Models,” Stanford Social Innovation review, Spring 2009).
With this in mind, in 2009 YMR staff reached out to approximately 40 funders to get a sense of the value they place on youth media. YMR asked funders to speak specifically to the six priority issue areas identified by key stakeholders in the field: Youth and Adult Leadership, Developing Strategic Partners, Research and Evaluation, Distribution, Curriculum, and Professional Development and Networks. At the time, with support from the McCormick Foundation, YMR staff were developing a Youth Media Investment Prospectus—a project that was later halted in response to the economic downturn and consequent shifts in foundation priorities.
For this issue of YMR, we re-approached funders to contribute a special issue that provides readers with a range of perspectives and insights in the youth media field, including: funders (The Stuart Foundation and The Stone Foundation); intermediaries (GFEM and NAMAC); and practitioners (Wide Angle Youth Media). Many thanks to our eight contributors:
Clark Bell, Mark Hallett and Janet Liao, The McCormick Foundation
Lin Ishihara, The W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation
Susan Hayman Malone, Wide Angle Youth Media
Alyce Myatt, Grantmakers for Film and Electronic Media
Rhonnel Sotelo, The Stuart Foundation
Jack Walsh, National Alliance for Media Arts & Culture
This issue’s return to the issue of youth media funding and sustainability reflects the increasing relevance of youth media practice in education and youth development. Without a doubt, youth media practice resonates with a variety of funding organizations.
Many funders agree that youth media programs are valuable because they engage youth as actors and creators, encourage youth interaction with their communities, engender a sense of social responsibility among youth, provide hard and soft skills that scaffold success in school, the work place, and in life, and contribute to a future heavily reliant upon media skills and social innovation. As Frank Baiocchi from the Polk Brothers (Chicago, IL) explains, “Media is a vehicle for young people to find their place within their community and get a better sense of their world. Through youth media, youth voices are heard on a variety of issues—including health, gender, LGBT, immigration—in order to debunk myths and fill in the gaps.”
Moreover, young people today require multiple forms of literacy—including media and visual literacy. Integrating youth media literacy in youth programs across issue areas would greatly change the social climate that young people operate within. As Alyce Myatt explains, we are in a “state of emergency.” Though these times produce rich soil for innovation, investments in youth media—despite its acute success in youth development and youth engagement—have suffered.
My personal suggestion to practitioners and investment stakeholders in the field is to visibility communicate on a broad scale the power of youth media as a strategic tool that unites and leverages multiple—if not all—issue areas. Youth media can make a major contribution to areas of health, education, environment, the economy, poverty/incarceration and inequity, and workforce readiness, to name a few. Funders who are serious about these issues must consistently make long-term investments in youth media rather than falling privy to funding “the next big thing,” an all too often short term gratification.
Youth media is a critical mechanism for defining culture, identity and representation in the 21st century. Foundations, schools, business and the Government can make a major difference in the future by focusing on scaling youth media for the long term. It is my hope that this issue of YMR informs and ignites a dialogue to propel the youth media movement forward, as amplified as our collective intended aim for youth voice.
We look forward to your comments regarding this issue. Our next and final issue in 2010 will focus on the successes of youth media alums and how youth media kick started their own movements.
Ingrid Hu Dahl
Editor-in-Chief, Youth Media Reporter
Youth Media Reporter is managed by the Academy for Educational Development

This issue of Youth Media Reporter is supported by: