December • Volume 2 • Issue 6

Letter from the Editor
Welcome to YMR’s final issue of 2008: Volume 2 | Issue 6. This marks the end of a fantastic publication year featuring a total of 38 articles of youth media “on the ground” throughout the U.S. and around the globe. Next year, YMR will continue to launch every other month; however, rather than topic or issue-focused, 2009 publications will investigate youth media happening in six select cities/regions across the U.S. We will announce these cities early 2009.
We hope that you enjoy the last issue of YMR that provides an excellent diverse perspective of practitioners in the field. In this issue, read about:
• The importance of introducing young children, ages 4-8, to video and story telling
• How to partner with local stakeholders, academics, and artists to broaden the youth media festival audience and local engagement with youth media
• The Code of Best Practices, as recently launched by Media Education Lab and partners with support from the MacArthur Foundation
• Two Pace University undergraduate students examination of NYC-based youth media in the service-learning course, “Youth, Media & Democracy”
• Why it is critical that the field values and empowers young women
• How to engage young people with adult media stakeholders and gatekeepers in difficult environments, using Particaptory Radio in Ethipoia as a case study
Many thanks to our contributors:
• Kristin Eno, Digital Story Workshop & Little Creatures
• Gin Ferrara, Wide Angle Youth Media
• Renee Hobbs, Media Education Lab
• Maliha Khan & Yesenia Reinoso, Pace University
• Maggie Pouncey, Girls Write Now
• jesikah maria ross & Esther Obdam, UNICEF/RNTC Participatory Radio Project and Radio Netherlands Training Centre
We welcome you to join the conversation for each of these articles using YMR’s “comment” feature. If you are interested in posting a vod or podcast, please email
Ingrid Hu Dahl, Editor, YMR

Youth on the Trail

Katie Bolinger Jordan Denari (All photos courtesy of Y-Press)
At age 11, politics snagged Justin Byers’ attention. A Y-Press team had just returned from covering the 2004 presidential political conventions and Justin wanted some of the action. So that year, he signed up for the youth-media organization’s spring training.
Four years and many headlines later, Justin committed to a yearlong project—Y-Press’s election coverage. In the fall of 2007, What Kids Can Do, a national nonprofit that supports youth voice and action, recruited Y-Press to cover the upcoming presidential election from a youth perspective. The partnership created a dedicated “beat” for Justin and his 19 peers, steeping them in the latest election news, research and coverage. It also assured them a spot on WKCD’s Web site, which reaches a wide audience, from policy makers to youth organizers.
Dubbed “Youth on the Trail” by WKCD, the Y-Press team reports drew immediate attention, beginning in February 2008. The stories ranged from the effects of user-generated content on the campaign to voter-registration outreach to non-college bound teens.

The reports included radio reporter’s notebooks, which analyzed and responded to particular events, and profiles of politically active youth throughout the U.S. The diversity of the youth voices and views featured in Y-Press’s coverage reflected the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of the Y-Press team. Taken together, the articles, profiles, and audio commentaries would form the foundation of Y-Press’s election coverage and the content on both the WKCD and Y-Press Web sites. See: and
For WKCD, the Y-Press partnership brought coverage of the unprecedented involvement of youth in the 2008 election as close to the ground as it could get.
Given the vibrant role that young people promised to play in this presidential campaign, it was clear that the Y-Press news bureau needed to find innovative ways to cover youth involvement and share a youth perspective in mainstream media. Since the election in 2004, young people have plunged head first into new uses of technology. They are expressing their ideas using blogs, podcasts and campaigning for candidates through social networking sites. Y-Press realized it must take advantage of multiple delivery platforms.
The benefits and challenges to Y-Press reporters were substantial. A team approach ensured consistency, an in-depth knowledge base, and the foundation of Y-Press’s coverage. The chance to have such a dedicated beat stirred both the curiosity and the confidence of Y-Press journalists. “You become a resident expert in politics,” said Y-Presser Katie Bolinger “constantly exploring and seeing what else there is to know about the field.”
Radio: An Old Standby, But New Use
Early on, the team decided that radio would play a significant part of the coverage. Radio, a far different medium from the days of FDR’s fireside chats, can now be heard online and archived to listen to at any time.
And while radio provided a new audience, it accomplished something much more. Traditionally print has provided the anchor coverage. Soon after pieces began airing and podcasting on WFYI-FM, the area’s public radio station and on its Web site, listeners began responding. While print includes ages of the young journalists, the fact that it was a young person reporting could not be mistaken. Hearing a young person’s voice made it clear to the audience, and they were impressed.
The approach was simple. Young journalists covered an event and used material from their reporting and personal experiences. For example, when Sen. Obama spoke at a town hall meeting in Plainfield, Ind., a question from the audience queried him on domestic violence. That question with his response anchored the reporter’s notebook, which included her domestic shelter volunteer experiences and the questions Obama’s response got her thinking about.
Jordan Denari interviews Barack Obama.
The lengthy primary season provided Y-Press with several coups. Since 1964, Indiana’s primary has not mattered, but given the race Sens. McCain, Obama and Clinton were in Indiana multiple times, pressing the flesh to win votes. Having requested interview time with the major candidates since fall of 2007 and having no success, the three seemed unattainable. However, in the months leading up to the primary, Y-Press was able to snag all three, and their radio reporter notebooks provided listeners another perspective.
Millie Cripe interviews Hillary Clinton.
When it came time for the presidential conventions, Indiana Public Broadcasting worked with the team to make the reports available to member stations across the state, extending the audience and visibility for youth media.
In addition, the audio segments found a place on the radio station’s Web site, as well as WKCD and Y-Press’s, extending the reach and adding another mainstream delivery platform. Also, Generation PRX featured the radio commentaries in its monthly newsletter, alerting others to the audio pieces and PRX made them available to other public radio stations.
Research Using Social Networking Sites
Interviews with the candidates demanded reporting persistence. Young journalists recognize this challenge, but finding young political activists who were also not old enough to vote, proved even more difficult.
Scouring the country for teenage political activists worth profiling—Democratic, Independent, or Republican—required inventive detective work. The commitment to include a huge diversity of opinions in the activists profiled—ideally a youth in almost every state—upped the ante. The Y-Press team members soon found that they couldn’t rely on a single e-mail to locate a young activist but needed to follow up and revise their queries as needed, sometimes again and again.
Social networking sites proved to be a powerful research tool for young people under 18. In total, the team produced 39 profiles of young people from 30 states, including Molly Kawahata, 17, from Palo Alto, Calif. Shortly after Sen. Obama announced his run for president, Molly volunteered first at her high school and then at the state level to support the campaign. Soon promoted, she started training young people to emulate her success in California.
And other people and organizations took notice of the efforts of young people like Molly. The National Constitution Center actually developed a portion of its exhibit to highlight the work of these young political activists. Searching the Internet to find politically savvy youth for its national-traveling exhibit about the “Road to the White House,” the exhibit developers thought it would be easy. Coming up empty-handed, they were elated when they found Y-Press’s young activist profiles. According to Melissa Carruth, the senior exhibits manager, “(The stories of these young people) will continue to inspire everyone, especially kids, who come and visit to become more active in this and future elections.” Eight young people are featured in the Philadelphia-based center’s exhibit, which early next year will travel to presidential libraries and other locations.
Challenges in the Coverage
One obstacle that the team didn’t anticipate was lack of access at the presidential conventions—traditionally the centerpiece of Y-Press’s presidential election reporting.
Just five weeks before the convention, youth-media organizations across the country learned that requests for credentials had been turned down. Across the board, the Republicans denied media credentials to anyone under 18. The compromise the Republican credentialing office offered was limiting the team to journalists 18 and above.
This was not a viable option for Y-Press given the ages of the “beat” team. Accustomed to smooth sailing, Y-Press, like many others, had already planned the many details of its coverage plans, from sleeping accommodations to reporting assignments on the convention floor, so the decision was made to forge ahead.
With political coverage appearing in The Indianapolis Star for over 18 years, youth journalists have developed relationships and respect from state politicians over an extended period of time. A congressman and GOP chair of the state party supported the media credential request and using those alliances to advocate for and testify about the professionalism of the group was critical. While late in the game, it may support the case for youth-media four years from now.
Still the decision, according to Y-Presser Tommaso Verderame, 15, was baffling in light of the fact that both parties were trying to do more to reach out to young people to elicit their interest, involvement and—potentially—their votes.
Advice from the Field
Start early to legitimize the coverage.
In 1992, 1996 and 2004 teams began preparation early in the year, but the actual reporting began in the summer. This year, the issues were identified early in the primary season and stories produced throughout the year, informing coverage for the presidential national conventions.
David Glass, 17: “I think that it makes us feel more legitimate that we’re covering it from the beginning and not just jumping in like at the conventions. You see every other like newspaper or magazine or news organization covering that stuff from the very beginning.”
Establish an “election beat,” adding depth to coverage.
Election coverage committed the team to the subject of politics. The focus helped reporters delve deeper, sharpen their expertise and produce creative story angles.
Jake Thornburgh, 15: “You have to stay on top of it and you have to research and you have to really focus. But it also gives you the option to explore that topic and take out different pieces from that topic and explore those a little bit more. It gives you the option of a lot of different things while you still focus on one thing.”
Use creative networks to locate interviewees.
Using the Internet, social networking sites, cold calls, reporters stepped outside their comfort zones and followed every lead, figuring out new methods of contacting often hard-to-reach middle and high school students while retaining a sense of professionalism.
Jordan Denari, 17: “It is also really important to know the boundaries—how you can contact some young people versus the press secretary of one of the presidential candidates. There is kind of a line, you know, professionalism, we have to make sure we follow.”
Use multiple media outlets to effectively expand audiences.
The coverage strategy emulated the business strategies that many media companies have pursued in recent years. Besides print, radio and audio-slide shows were produced. Adding media platforms also changed the audience.
Hrishi Deshpande, 13: “I definitely think we attracted a broader audience. People who don’t necessarily go to the Internet and say, ‘I’m gonna Google Y-Press.’ But people listening on the radio (heard it and said), ‘Hey this is something cool.’”
On the team, include “veterans” with convention experience.
At the onset, five team members shared their expertise from 2004 and assumed leadership roles, brainstorming ideas to change the coverage and offer support and insight to the novices.
Tommaso Verderame, 14: “The role of the veterans is obvious—they know what it takes. An obvious framework is always helpful. From the beginning we all knew, regardless of whether it was accomplished or not, what we had to do. A framework will help us at the convention, too.”
The Consequences of Not Taking Youth Seriously
Assuming there is a true youth political movement in the country, today, it makes sense for political parties to recognize the contributions and investments young people have to offer.
Youth have been more politically active than at any time since 1972 (the year the voting age became 18). Then, 55 percent of voters under age 25 cast votes. After hitting its peak during the Vietnam War era, the youth vote declined for three decades. Now those numbers are increasing; according to CIRCLE, in the 2004 presidential election, the national youth voter turnout rate rose nine percentage points compared with 2000, reaching 49 percent.
The GOP’s decision to deny Y-Press and other youth organizations access at the recent convention raises questions about a free press and age restrictions.
Youth beats in U.S. presidential politics and civic life are critical to keeping the public informed and addressing issues that youth are passionate about and wrestling with. To ignore young people because they cannot vote, when educational institutions have as their missions to educate civic-minded citizens, is not a wise idea. A knowledgeable electorate is a key to democracy.
It’s not enough to have adult reporters speak for youth—whether the subject is politics or sexual behavior.
While the attitude of political candidates towards youth has seemingly changed, beginning with Bill Clinton who credited MTV with helping him get elected, in reality not much has. Although the Democratic National Convention had opportunities for young people to give input, such as its newly formed Youth Caucus, direct involvement at the prime-time convention was limited even at the DNC.
Age restrictions are difficult to accept in an era when young people are highly skilled at finding and sharing information. In this new media culture, youth are more than just consumers of digital content; they are also active participants and creators, developing content, debating and interacting with others, and taking action—even launching their own initiatives and organizations.
All of the candidates in the 2008 presidential campaign, to one extent or another, have said it’s vital to make young people part of a representative democracy. Long before this election, youth reporters longed to hold politicians accountable for their records on youth issues, such as education, health care and poverty. With only weeks left until the presidential election, the youth vote may be the deciding factor. This, certainly, would be a welcome change.
It is important that youth-media organizations continue to press for representation at the political conventions. Youth media could borrow a page from bloggers. This media form was in its infancy in 2004 and only a small number of bloggers received credentials. However, this year the group had an entire media tent at the Democratic Convention. Continuing the conversation about age restrictions and advocating as a group will be necessary for youth media to attain a similar growth in status. Starting now will be critical to ensure that youth media has a place at the conventions in 2012.
Katie Bolinger, 18, is a senior at Pike High School in Indianapolis who plans on studying music education in college. She has been a member of Y-Press since 2002, and she attended both the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver and the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston.
Jordan Denari, 17, has been a member of Y-Press for five years. In 2004, she reported for Y-Press from the Republican National Convention in New York, and this year covered the Democratic National Convention from Denver. Outside her volunteer time at Y-Press, Jordan plays basketball and leads a social justice club at her school.
Lynn Sygiel is the Y-Press bureau director, opening it in 1990. Located in Indianapolis, Ind., it was a Children’s Express bureau until 1999. Since 1984, she has worked with young people to cover the presidential national conventions.
Barbara Cervone coordinated Walter H. Annenberg’s $500 million “Challenge” to improve the nation’s public schools from its inception in January 1994 until June 2000. As national coordinator she directed the research, communications, and sharing and learning among the Challenge’s 18 school reform projects. Previously, Dr. Cervone served as associate director of the Rhode Island Foundation, one of the country’s ten largest community foundations. She has been a consultant in program evaluation and an investigator for several national education research projects. She also has written extensively about school reform. Early in her career, she worked in the alternative school movement, first as a researcher and later as the coordinator of a network of alternative high schools in ten states. Barbara Cervone lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

2008 Youth Media Blog-o-Thon: Interview

The 2008 Youth Media Blog-o-Thon, created by YO! Youth Outlook/New American Media and Wire Tap Magazine in San Francisco, CA has had two episodes focused on the Election. Early October, YMR interviewed Jamilah King of WireTap Magazine and Eming Piansay of YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia/New American Media to gain key insights in their vision for the Blog-o-Thon, partnership, and next steps.
About the Interviewees:
Jamilah King, 23, is the associate editor for Wiretap Magazine. Born and raised in San Francisco, her writing focuses mainly on race, arts and issues that affecting young communities of color. She’s working as a labor organizer in California and New York. Her writing has also appeared in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and Pop and Politics.
Eming Piansay, 22, is a student at San Francisco State University Journalism Department. She is a multimedia producer and blog editor for YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia and contributes to Asian Week/Beyond Borders.

YMR: What initiated the partnership between Wire Tap Magazine and Youth Outlook to start the Youth Media Blog-o-Thon?
Jamilah King: As two San Francisco-based Youth Media outlets, we felt like it was sensible and necessary partnership to make. The blog-a-thon was originally Neela Banerjee’s idea. As Managing Editor for YO!, her work focuses mostly on Bay Area youth issues. Both of our organizations put considerable effort into developing young bloggers, writers and journalists. Since WireTap has a national audience that tends to be a few years older, we felt that together we could gather a diverse collection of young writers whose issues were both local and national in scope.
[We chose] blogs [because they] have the potential to be democratic spaces. They are usually free [and] a little less intimidating than professional publications [such as] online and print. That’s not to say that problems don’t arise—bloggers of color routinely have their opinions attacked, and the internet is plagued by the same systemic barriers that exist in society. [Overall, blogs] are tremendously empowering to publish your words and stories, and have readers relate and comment on them.
YMR: You wanted to bridge youth media orgs across the field to dialogue around specific issues. Was this youth-driven? Was it successful in inserting youth voice in the national agenda?
King: The organizers of the blog-a-thon are all relatively young. Kristina Rizga and Neela Banerjee are both in the early thirties; Eming Pinsay, who was also instrumental is getting the blog-a-thon off the ground, and I are around 22-years-old. Initially, both Eming and I did a lot of outreach to our personal networks. For our first blog-a-thon, young bloggers like 24-year-old Atlanta-based organizer Kori Chen ( participated, as well as Colin Ehara, a 25-year-old grad student, activist and musician (
We’re still measuring the results. With each blog-a-thon, the number of participants grows. Most of our topics—elections, sex, money, violence—are closely aligned with the national youth agenda, which was crafted by members of GenVote (, of which WireTap is a member. The Youth Agenda asks for explicit action to issues that directly effect young people like access to healthcare and comprehensive sex education? [These] examples show that the issues we’re concerned with don’t exist in a vacuum; they are national issues that should be made national priorities.
YMR: In February 2008, you launched the Election 2008 topic. What drove the conversation and what were youth contributors saying?
King: Our first blog-a-thon began with a discussion about the presidential elections. Among the issues we discussed were the viability of candidates and the primacy of race and gender in our country. Are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton examples of how far we’ve come in addressing racial and gender barriers, or are they merely exceptions to the rule? Both Eming and I contributed, as well as 25-year-old spoken word artist Adriel Luis, who wrote an Open Letter to Hillary Clinton and Eugene from Boston Progress Radio who tackled the silence surrounding issues of immigration and detention.
For a more comprehensive look at what we discussed, please check out the following links:
Calling All Youth Media Bloggers (YO!)
Elections Blog-a-thon update (WireTap)
YMR: One YO! blogger states: “I’m standing at the peak of an election process that has been propelled forward by the young generation of voters.” It seems that the youth media field is also standing at this peak—can this blog effectively propel the opinions and youth generated media onto the radar of policy and decision makers?
King: Definitely. Youth media is part of a broader youth movement that recognizes the potential and responsibility that young folks have to shape their futures.
On a more basic level, the media landscape is changing. The internet in general, and blogs, in particular, yield a tremendous amount of power to affect people’s perspectives. They make our access to information quicker and more opinionated. Since young folks have grown up in a digital age, we tend to be more intuitive when it comes to the internet. Thanks to grassroots-led movements in hip-hop and student organizing, we’re learning how to use our internet savvy with practical political methods that effect change.
An example of this would be in San Francisco, where students at June Jordan School for Equity staged a walk-out and peace rally to protest gun violence (see more: They were able to mobilize their teachers, parents, community members and classmates and hold a tremendous rally that got lots of media attention and will hopefully have a tremendous effect on the upcoming November elections where Prop 6 (the Runner Initiative), a dangerous anti-youth ballot initiative.
YMR: Oct 22-Oct 29 you are launching another Election 2008 blog-o-thon for youth producers in and out of the field to amplify their words nationally. But this time, you specifically want to reach decision makers. How are you going about this?
Eming Piansay: With the current state of the economy, health care, the war in Iraq these issues, though they were brought to light in our February [blog-o-thon], are still very much relevant now. The youth population is about to head into four years of a new administration and these issues are the ones that are going to make or break their relationship with the incoming administration. [It] is important that young people have the opportunity to have a discussion about these issues because at some point, [young people] will [have] to deal with them.
King: Our first blog-a-thon on elections was focused more on the presidential primaries. Of course, presidential politics is a theme we’ll continue to explore this time around, but we’re also trying to focus on more local issues that have a direct and immediate impact on youth.
We have timed this blog-a-thon to happen a couple weeks before elections to infuse a youth perspective into what has become a very divisive media discussion of the candidates. We’re trying to focus more on issues—healthcare, immigration, education—as a way of putting pressure on the next president to not only use our willpower to win office, but to address our community’s needs.
It’s a process. Really, we’re building off of the momentum created by the excitement of this election. We targeted youth media makers primarily because we’re all doing very important work in our communities. WireTap is part of GenVote, which is pushing the Youth Agenda and Vote Hip Hop ( GenVote ( is a national alliance of 18 national organizations that do work around issues that effect young people, so the agenda points came from our collective experiences and common interests. We’re pushing for the next president to see our potential, see how many folks are behind us, and realize that it’s in the nation’s interests to tackle youth issues.
YMR: What role does youth media organizations & specifically, youth generated media, play on having voting and electoral power?
Eming: YO! and youth media organizations aim to educate young people on important voter issues that are not major issues discussed by the main stream media. By doing so, it is our hope to impart knowledge and enlighten young voters on issues they may not have been aware of before.
King: We can play a tremendous role. First off, if we’re old enough to vote, we can take our beliefs into the polls in November. We also have the power to influence our parents and communities. It’s also incredibly important to infuse a youth perspective before elections in order to show that we have opinions and are organized. [We] are the future, and whether it’s now or ten years from now, our experiences will shape the destiny of our country.
YMR: What role does youth media organizations & specifically, youth generated media, play in weighing in the vote/having electoral power—and to stay on the radar of decision makers so that the youth vote momentum continues post Nov 5?
Eming: Reaching out to the youth vote is a very important tool for all persons in government. By reaching out to young people/youth media decision makers would be able to get a perspective that they wouldn’t normally get. By going to schools and actually talking to young people face to face they would essentially help themselves but also give young people a better sense of who is running their government.
King: Recently, GenVote released the Youth Agenda. We’re working together, as well as with other coalitions, to map out practical plans for impacting the next administration. Obviously, a lot depends on who’s elected, but either way, we want to make sure that we have a set agenda. Young people have played a tremendous role in this election, from The League of Young Voters registering thousands of new voters, or the University of California Student Association registering over 40,000 new voters, to the 24-year-old founder of Facebook leading the Obama campaign’s online strategy. We have the technological saavy and political insight to earn the ear of the next president.
Concretely, there are several participants in this edition of the blog-a-thon who are involved in direct voter outreach. This month, we’ve included participants from Trick or Vote (, a national non-partisan costume canvass. They’ve been working to register new voters through the Bus Project ( Khmer Girls in Action (, a community organization based in Long Beach, CA is also a participant in this month’s blog-a-thon. The organization is made up mainly of young Asian Pacific Islander women, and they’ve banded together to make PSA’s in opposition to California’s proposition 8, which would require parental notification for underage abortions.
These are just our initial steps toward bridging youth media, grassroots organizing and electoral politics. You can’t have one without the other, and I think the youth movement—which includes media and organizing—has done a great job recently of coming together and forming a common vision. Whether it’s rallying around Green Collar Jobs, Tuition Relief, or more grassroots efforts, [we have] become organized enough to win concrete changes no matter who gets elected to the White House in November.
YMR: Would you say that blogging is paramount for the youth media field (both young people and practitioners) to dialogue with one another across the U.S. and around the globe?
King: I would say that blogging is one step in the fight for social change, but it can only go so far. Ideally, it has to be supplemented by on-the-ground organizing on all levels— grassroots, student and electoral-based. Your message will only travel as far as you promote it, and then it’s up to individuals and communities to take action, and fight against issues that affect them. With the recent student walk out in San Francisco, online tools—such as YouTube and Web 2.0 media—played a huge role. But at the end of the day, it was folks getting out into the streets and making their voices heard that made their actions so powerful.
Of course, technology allows us to communicate with people around the globe at the click of a button. So we can share our victories, strategies and experiences with people around the globe and build stronger movements. The battles we’re waging are situated in a global economic system, so this type of worldwide access is crucial.
[It is] crucial for youth producers and adult practitioners to help more young people gain access [and] develop the skills to [produce] media that can accompany grassroots movements. [Blogging is] a great alternative for producing news that affects us. Often in the mainstream media, young people, particularly young folks of color, are criminalized. So this kind of do-it-yourself media allows young folks to create positive images and tell stories that matter.
Of course, there are challenges. Blogging takes time and resources that very busy young folks, organizers and staff don’t have. We’re currently working to develop a new layout for the blog-a-thon’s that centralizes it in one place so it will be easier to navigate.
YMR: How might other youth media orgs learn from your partnership between YO! and Wiretap? What are the outcomes? Successes? Challenges?
Eming: Collaborations between youth media is a gold mine of information. By sharing resources, we have doubled our efforts in something that on our own might have been harder to achieve. With the success of our prior blog-a-thons we have generated a lot of healthy, interesting discussions that can be expanded into our topics for blog-a-thons. By gathering together different youth writers we have created a web of communication that we personally haven’t seen in cross/web/blogging communication.
King: We’re really grateful to have a great partnership with Youth Outlook. First, we have very open dialogue and similar missions. It also helps that we’re located blocks away from each other. There aren’t any egos and we’re very clear about our mission: YO! works primarily with Bay Area-based high school-aged youth. WireTap works primarily with folks across the country who tend to be college age and older. We both bring tremendous resources to the table—YO! brings their strong local networks, they awesome reporters and editors and their connections to local schools and community groups. I think we at WireTap bring in regional diversity and our own political networks.
The challenges: both of our organizations have limited capacity and resources. We do a great job at making the best of what we have, but it’s often challenging to do practical things, like build a stronger infrastructure for the blog-a-thon, recruit younger writers in schools and spend the time to manage the blog-a-thon on top of our daily work routine.
As for what others can learn—it’s easy! There’s no reason other youth media organizations shouldn’t be reaching out and working with one another more often. I think the first bit hurdle is to do it. We’re often busy working with our content, trying to develop our content and our writers, that we often overlook partnerships as an essential tool in strengthening our staff, membership base, content and the broader movement toward social justice. As youth organizations, we can always use more resources, and I think the partnership between WireTap and YO! is an example of how easy and useful such partnerships can be.
Last Wednesday, we kicked off the fifth youth media blog-a-thon. This months topic is elections—both on the national and local levels. So far we’ve gotten a good number of responses, ranging from Khmer Girls in Action speaking out against California’s latest attempt to make it harder for young women to get abortions, to why political geeks are back in style and how the Obama campaign has reinvigorated community organizers.
For a full list of what’s been said so far, check out the stories below. Read, comment, respond and feel free to pass them along:
Khmer Girls in Action (Video): No on Prop 4
Becoming a Man (Steven Liang, WireTap): Grappling with manhood, homophobia, and gay marriage in my parents home country.
From Cynicism to Hope (Lynne Nguyen, Washington Community Action Network): This election demonstrates the potential for grassroots community organizing.
Our Next Prez on Latin America (April Aguirre, Chi Remezcla)
Why I’m Voting for Obama (El Guante): He’s not perfect, but he’s a step in the right direction.
Political Geeks Rule (Alex Berke, The Bus Project): From doorknocking to voter registration, political nerdery is the new chic.
Obama: Not Enough to End Racism in America (April Joy Damian, Young People For)
Best of the Worst (Silvano Pontoniere, Youth Outlook)
Senate Candidate Launches Campus Tour (Sarah Burris, WireTap): Kansas Senate candidate hosts week long youth tour on college tax credit.
Politically Unplugged (Eming Piansay, Youth Outlook)

Election Year: How Can Youth Walk the Walk?

There were so many journalists on the floor of Invesco Field in Denver, where Barack Obama gave his party nomination acceptance speech, that you couldn’t turn around without bumping into someone with a camera or a microphone. Among them were Jill Petrie and Evan Wood, two youth media reporters with Children’s Press Line. They had just interviewed Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, and as he breezed by again he waved hello to the young reporters.
The moment was striking to me, a writer covering the presidential election, because it demonstrated how the divides between political power, the media, and young people are collapsing. With the Internet and affordable technology, any citizen is able to document and comment on politics, but young people seem particularly well-positioned to combine their technological skills, media savvy, and passion to be a meaningful part of the political process.
Young People as Political Voices
The 2008 election has opened several opportunities for youth media. First, it puts young people, whose voter turnout has been increasing, in the spotlight.
Although the conventional wisdom is that you can’t depend on the youth vote, said Stephanie Young, a communications associate of MTV’s Rock the Vote, the combination of young people’s overwhelming involvement in the primaries and the skyrocketing number of youth media makers is challenging stereotypes of young people.
“Pundits and the mainstream media put youth in the apathetic pigeonhole and report from that perspective,” Young said. “Young journalists are presenting a more hopeful, positive image of the youth voter.”
Jill Petrie, a high school senior from Colorado recruited by Children’s Press Line to report on the Democratic convention, echoed the sentiment. “There’s an attitude among adults that young people are ignorant or apathetic about politics,” she said. “Youth media can show them that’s not always true.”
Second, youth media election coverage—which extends from conventional, press-passed access, to citizen journalism, to creative online videos and messages—has also given the public an opportunity to hear young people’s voices on substantive issues. (For example, collates youth voices.)
In a recent survey, Rock the Vote found the four most important issues to young people were, in order, jobs and the economy; health insurance; the Iraq war; and the cost of education. Although these issues roughly correspond to the priorities of the public at large, they are particularly meaningful to young people.
Most will be graduating from school and seeking work during the next president’s administration. Many will not have health insurance; right now over 13 million young people are not covered. Young people make up the bulk of the U.S. military fighting forces, and they are overwhelming affected by tuition rates and access to student loans.
Youth media gives young people the opportunity to bring these issues to the fore. “It’s important to let kids ask adult questions,” said Petrie. “A lot of times I’ve been asked to ask politicians things like, ‘What’s your favorite sit-com?’ Instead, I want to know what they’re going to do to reform education in America.”
In short, young people are among the more vulnerable members of our society, and they are also among the least heard. Youth media in an election year gives young people the opportunity to weigh in on the very real issues and policies that affect them—providing that editors and the audience listen.
Katina Paron, the program director of Children’s Press Line, points out that mainstream media outlets, important partners in distributing youth media, are often more interested in kids’ stories than in kids’ opinions on issues. “I don’t know any youth media professional who doesn’t take kids seriously,” she said. “The question is what editors want. A lot of adults want to hear about young people’s personal experiences.”
One way to balance the competing demands for the personal and the political is to create media that grounds political opinions in personal experiences. Children’s Press Line in particular seeks to ground their stories on health insurance and immigration, for instance, in the experiences of young people themselves. This satisfies young people’s desire to grapple with substantive political issues while meeting the public’s desire to learn more about young people’s lives.
Distinct Opportunities for Youth Media
While the content of young people’s and adults’ political opinions resembles each other, the form often varies. Youth media—grounded in the language, attitudes, and culture of young people—can often break through when other political media can’t.
“Young people need to see and hear political media that isn’t intimidating,” said Young of Rock the Vote. “When you’re not in that world, you don’t necessarily understand all the language or the details. It can be overwhelming. Youth media allows politics to reach lots of different people.” The informality of blogs, for instance, which blends opinion and news, is attractive to young people, Young said, and their expectations of media may not exactly mirror adults’.
Young recommended letting young people be creative, come up with their own ways to tell stories, and use their own voices. “We have a unique way of communicating with one another,” she said. “Let us go on our own paths.”
Youth media can also create dialogue between young people. While politicians and pundits are focused on young people between 18-28, who are old enough to vote and perhaps even have some discretionary income, youth media made by and for those under-18 have an opportunity to establish a political framework for our country’s youngest citizens.
For instance, Bay Area Video Coalition broadcast the presidential debates live for the young people in their video and audio youth media class, reinforcing the message that youth are listening and prepared to respond.
Christopher Tribble, the founder of True Media Foundation and creator of BE HEARD!, believes political education starts in middle school. “That’s when young people start thinking about social values. We should be asking them, ‘Where would you like to see the country in ten years?’”
BE HEARD!, which operates out of a fully-equipped production bus, travels to public spaces to find locally-based stories. This summer, BE HEARD! set up shop at the pedestrian mall in downtown Denver, a few blocks from the convention center. Students interviewed young delegates and reported on what the adults were doing; however, they also established communication with one another. “It’s important for youth to know what other youth are thinking,” Tribble said. “The conversation can be political, but it can also assure young people that they’re not alone.”
Youth Media, Political Journalism, and Civic Engagement
The 2008 election has been historic for all sorts of reasons, the opportunities for youth media among them. For those in the youth media field, an election year increases an interest in public opinion, particularly young people’s opinions, and young people stand a greater chance of having their voices and ideas heard. In addition, the heightened political climate provides a context for young people to talk to each other about politically charged ideas, and often youth media can connect with young people in ways that adult media cannot.
From a political journalism perspective, the youth media around the 2008 election demonstrates a shift in both civic engagement and the media. Historically, the media has wielded disproportionate power in distributing political ideas and establishing the narrative of campaigns. This year, thousands more voices—including those of young people—have competed with the mainstream media to challenge the candidates, advocate for ideas, and comment on the race. Although it threatens the business model of newspapers and magazines, this plurality of voices would seem to be good for a democracy: how can our government represent us if a majority of people cannot be heard?
What’s more, young people, by virtue of their very freshness to the political scene, offer perspectives that are often overlooked. Most campaign coverage focuses on the horse race—the tactics and strategies campaigns are using to win. Without access to the information or media spin most professional journalists have, young people are in a good position to offer genuine insight or probing questions on the substance of the campaigns.
Finally, the increasing organization and impact of youth media provides an important framework for young people’s continued involvement in politics. Any of us becomes more engaged when we think we have a role to play, and when we have a chance to interact with people and ideas rather than consider them abstractly or from a distance—youth media provides creative, complex, relevant opportunities to think through and respond to the issues that will define all of our futures. When I ran into Petrie and Wood at Invesco Field, I was delighted because it meant that young people were not only in the center of the action, but recognized as belonging there.
Kelly Nuxoll, a freelance writer and advocate for civic education, has been covering the presidential election since July 2007 for the Huffington Post’s Off the Bus. In 2004, she was the Email Manager for Howard Dean’s presidential campaign.

Liberian (or Non-American) Youth Perspectives on the U.S. Presidential Elections

In March of this year, I was visiting the West African nation of Liberia to shoot a film for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children on young people in post-conflict settings. As with most places I visit, Liberia was fascinated with U.S. politics and, being from America, I was pulled into long and controversial conversations about the current state of our country and the Presidential elections. It was during this trip that an interesting question by a young student was proposed to me: “Since the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election has such an impact on people around the world, shouldn’t we all be allowed to vote?”
Although non-Americans cannot vote for the next U.S. President, their input and perspectives could hold incredible value in the current presidential debate, especially in regards to issues concerning international cooperation, an area of great interest to young voters in the 2008 race (1). According to the Harvard University’s Institute of Politics “Campus Voices” initiative (2), young Americans are driven by global issues such as poverty, climate change and the genocide in Darfur. Surveys also show that there is an underlying shift in American attitudes regarding the role and priorities of the United States. Voters believe that “America needs to be a leader in the world, but instead of being a “bully” or policeman, it is time to be a role model for democracy and a partner.”(3) Considering this interest in better diplomatic relations with the rest of the world, shouldn’t we be engaging in an international conversation about the elections?
This experience inspired a short film I pitched for the WGHB Lab and POV Open Call, which selected 10 independent producers to produce three-minute shorts on the elections. Entitled, “Liberia??? Check” my film, intended for an urban youth audience, addressed the question, “if Liberian youth had a say in the elections, what would they say?” To view a clip, go to: I proposed to mix my footage from my shoot in Liberia with animation and interviews with Liberian youth living in Park Hill, Staten Island. What transpired was quite interesting.
In order to understand their desire to participate in the elections debate, it is necessary to put the historical relationship between Liberia and the United States into context. In 1822, freed slaves from America resettled in Liberia and monopolized both the political and financial landscape while retaining diplomatic ties with the U.S. Liberia, who often refers to America as its “Big Brother”, still receives a great deal of humanitarian aid from the U.S.. After a long and bloody 14-year civil war, Liberians were welcomed as refugees and immigrants with many resettling in Park Hill, Staten Island, the largest population of Liberians living outside of Africa. Having the first female President democratically elected in Africa, (Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a former World Bank employee who is considered an “Americo-Liberian”), the country is not immune from controversies surrounding gender and race in a presidential election.
The film opened doors for me to hear from youth in Liberia who were forced to flee their country during its war and to better understand the concerns and hopes they had as non-Americans, living in America, who still care deeply for their homeland. The youth had varying degrees of support for the different candidates. Some would vote for Barack Obama because.e of his African roots and therefore perceived understanding of the challenges facing the African continent. Some would vote for John McCain because of his experience with war and from their perspective as youth living amidst conflict, they believed a strong and experienced (male) politician was needed. Others wanted Hillary Clinton because they believed a woman would do a better job at helping the community, referencing the success of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in bringing peace to the country.
When asked specifically what they would want the next President to do for Liberian youth, many commented on the housing, education and healthcare needs for Liberians living legally in the U.S. Others wanted more trade between the two countries that would create new jobs for a nation that has an incredibly high unemployment rate, particularly among youth. And more broadly, they wanted the next U.S. President to focus on creating better economic ties with the Africa continent as a whole, to give African countries more bargaining power at the global level.
The film shoot with the Liberian youth inspired me to seek out other resources where Liberians and other non-American youth gave commentary on the most pressing issue arising in this Presidential election and, unfortunately, it was quite difficult to find. Several organizations and websites had the components but not the content. For example, Generation Engage (4)—a very progressive and active organization that promotes online and face-to-face opportunities between young people and civic leaders did not have an international component. Americans for Informed Democracy, which gives resources to young people to become active in addressing international problems and has several global programming areas (Global Development, Global Environment and Global Health) does not have an online networking component. And, finally, Voices without Votes, an initiative of Global Voices with support from Reuters that congregates blogs about the U.S. election from non-Americans, does not have a focus for youth.
Given that young voters are anticipated to be a powerful force in the 2008 elections and that international cooperation is a major issue in determining their choice for the next U.S. president, community and youth media sites focused on educating and recruiting young voters would be better equipped if they opened a communication channel with non-Americans. The internet, which already has given young people more opportunities to be politically active through organizing events and rallies, recruiting volunteers and exchanging information about candidates, could help link the voices of American voters with their allies around the world.
With an event so important and historical as the 2008 elections, and as that young Liberian pointed out, so influential on so many people all over the world, its time for that dialogue to be opened.
(1) The New American Consensus on International Cooperation (
(2) CampU.S. Voices (
(3) The New American Consensus on International Cooperation (see above link)
(4) Generation Engage (
(5) Americans for Informed Democracy (
(6) Voices without Votes (
Lisa Russell is an independent documentary filmmaker who is contracted by UN/NGO communities to produce films about global health and development issues.

Youth Media, Youth Voice & Youth in Politics

At twenty-seven, I am the youngest member of the Pennsylvania State House. My age is frequently a topic of conversation among my colleagues and peers but I know I belong here. There are important lessons I’ve learned from my journey that need to be shared with young people and their allies. The lesson that resonates strongest with me is that we, youth leaders in our community, do not have to sit and wait for change. We have the ability to implement change. We must use all the tools at our disposal. And one of the most important resources is the use of the press and generating media to communicate our vision and be conduits of change. My story is an example of how essential it is for young people to be part of the political process—and the role of youth media to amplify leadership and voice.
Many have called my journey to elected office an anomaly, a freak occurrence; I, on the other hand, prefer the term democracy. In early 2005 I was working as a housing counselor and was becoming increasingly frustrated with the state of my community, the Frankford section of Philadelphia. On one hand, I was living the American dream: I had a good job, I owned my own home, and I was pursuing my college degree.
However, as my dreams were coming to fruition, the dreams of so many of my neighbors were wilting. Crime was reaching epidemic proportions, business after business was shutting down, and the schools in my community were becoming increasingly unsafe and unable to meet the basic educational needs of the children.
Every day I would get off the train, walk to my house, and see how that sense of community that I felt growing up was gone. I asked myself, “How did we let things get so bad?” Then I paused and thought, “Who let things get so bad? Where were the leaders in my community? Who were the leaders in my community?” That day, at the age of 24, I decided to become involved in the local political establishment.
I decided to take a stand and run for elected office, and within a year, I entered the race for state representative. I was told I had no chance. How could a 25-year-old kid take on the powerful political machine? I was essentially told to sit back, relax, and let the veterans handle everything. Assuming that someone from my generation would be apathetic to the critical issues of Frankford, these seasoned politicians basically told me that politics was not a young man’s game. This unfortunate response reflects a long-standing stereotype of young people, one which is hopefully in the process of fading.
The more I was told of the impossibility of my goal, the harder I worked. I was fighting against an establishment that had long ago forgotten to stand for the people, for a principle, for a vision of success for everyone, not just those who obtained power. My campaign was a campaign of new ideas, of a renewed vision for my community. This vision had many facets: quality education for all children, a dramatic reduction in gun violence, affordable healthcare for everyone, and economic development that wouldn’t drive out the fabric of the community.
I demanded to be heard. I engaged everyone who would listen to me. I knocked on thousands of doors and held press conferences. It was a struggle to get the media to pay attention to my candidacy, but I pressed on and forced the media to cover an idealistic “kid” from the neighborhood who had no chance to win. I would eventually be heard, by the people, the media, and the establishment. By passionately spreading my vision of what I wanted Frankford to look like, people realized that they agreed with me, and they ultimately responded in my favor. I went on to win a very close race in the primary election.
Of course, I didn’t get through to the people, media, and establishment all by myself. Many other “kids” participated in my campaign, which was essentially a youth-led organization. Friends of mine from the neighborhood, college students who were interested in politics and people who discovered our campaign from new media, were all key players in my campaign. These advocates for change were as frustrated with the lack of leadership in our community as I was, and they helped me in countless ways, such as writing and designing the literature distributed on my behalf, knocking on doors, and organizing press conferences. New media, such as Facebook, YouTube, and MySpace were also utilized to the best of our ability and were vital to drawing members of the younger generation to our mission.
Advocates for change take many forms. For example, adult allies and mentors are vital resources for us as we take the reins of leadership. Allies, such as youth media educators, have an important role: to inform us how to be critical viewers, because having an opinion develops an articulate worldview and perspective. Linking with technology, we can make our own media to voice the issues we see in our communities.
One of the most important steps in that education is following current events throughout the media. Knowledge of current events is essential to the character of democracy.Young people will play a key role in who will lead this nation for the next four years as commander-in-chief; it is our voices and work that will shape the future of our great country. We must get involved in politics because the decisions made by politicians at federal, state and local levels affect our lives, whether it’s Congress reducing the amount of the Pell grant or other college loans, starting a new war in Iran, or providing tax incentives for community organizations that get young people involved in their local regions. Those decisions have a direct impact on young people, just as current and new trade agreements will affect the job market for our generation.
Now more than ever, it is easier to not only follow the political process, but to become part of the process. A 15-year-old teenager from Sioux City, South Dakota can passionately articulate his feeling on the war that has sent his brother thousands of miles away. A 21-year-old college student can go onto YouTube and tell the world how proud she is, as an African American, of the nomination of Barack Obama. Young people are using tools to share their opinions on the political climate, creating their own media to emphasize and amplify their voice.
Technology has provided every young American the opportunity to follow and become involved in media. Educators that work with technology, such as youth media practitioners, need to link self-expression, leadership and civic engagement with decision making and change in the political realm. In your curriculum, add reviews of politics and how young people—some who do not yet have voting power—can make a major difference. Having youth voice and leadership in the variety of media messaging at our finger tips will not only affect the upcoming election, but the long term changes for the country as a whole.
Before Representative Tony Payton was elected to the PA House of Representatives, he educated low-income families at United Communities in South Philadelphia on how to achieve homeownership. He was also a 2005-06 fellow of the Center for Progressive Leadership, and continues to be a big brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters of southeastern Pennsylvania. In 2007, the Philadelphia Tribune honored him with a leadership award for being one of the most influential African Americans in Philadelphia. Among other things, he is currently promoting his REACH legislation that would provide scholarship money to all PA students with at least a 3.0 GPA and a 90% attendance record.

Obamania: A Reflection on New Media Tactics Drawing Youth to the Voting Booth

Thanks to Senator Barack Obama, media coverage of this year’s Presidential election has attracted millions of new young voters to the political process. Though the success of his campaign can be tied to several reasons, the most important is his use of new media tools to introduce youth and others to his brand and message.
Ask anyone what comes to mind when they hear the name Barack Obama and they say two words: Hope and Change.
Youth media practitioners have been at the forefront of identifying how to reach young people with the growing number of communication tools and online social networking sites that are accessible to us (Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, cellphones, internet, film, video, podcast, radio, and others). The Obama candidacy provides an important reference point to appreciate the impact youth practitioners have had on the development of new media and its appeal on youth.
The Obama campaign’s use of both traditional and new media tools has helped build a strong fundraising machine, register voters and increase the youth voting bloc. Yet it is equally important to note that the groundwork for the use of these tools and the continued experimentation and application continues to take place in youth media programs throughout the country with both non-voting age and voting age youth.
If you want to get youth civically engaged you can no longer simply call a protest rally. Today you send a text message; get on Myspace; send out an evite, or include artists who have a message to offer that young people want to hear. Just look at the November 2008 issue of VIBE and you’ll find artists from Jay-Z to Nas endorsing Senator Obama and asking young people to get out and vote.
Youth media practitioners understood long ago the simple fact that the messenger and medium is as important as the message itself. That is why they have worked to give youth the resources and tools to tell their stories to get more young people engaged to address issues that are dear to them: peer pressure, discrimination, poverty, education, healthcare, ending the war, and jobs.
Turning our eye to this election, it’s important to recognize Obama’s rise among youth and others was thanks to his understanding of the power and pitfalls of new media.
In the Shadow of 2004
While the voting age of 18 was set in 1972, it was only in 2004 and this current Presidential Election that we have seen a major surge in youth turnout. Anticipating the need to get young people civically engaged and in some cases make some money, a number of non-traditional voting advocates began to crawl out of the woodwork to jump on the youth vote wagon. In 2004, Sean Combs aka Puffy aka P Diddy aka Diddy led the way with his “Vote or Die” t-shirts, Russell Simmons and the Hip Hop Action Summit hosted events throughout the country drawing sold out crowds. Then we had traditional groups like Rock the Vote blasting the television airwaves with ads on MTV.
Thanks to such efforts, according to CIRCLE (Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement), nearly 4.6 million more young people cast votes in 2004 compared to 2000. Yet, despite the increase in numbers, and the fact the majority of the youth vote went for the Kerry/Edwards ticket (55% to 44% for Bush/Cheney), the Democrats failed to win back the White House.
When all the ballots were accounted for in Ohio, many of us who worked on Get Out The Vote (GOTV) initiatives documenting the campaign as bloggers or journalists were left asking the question: Where do we go from here? In the despair, there was a silver lining that came from a young junior Senator from Illinois who gave a stirring speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004—his name: Barack Obama. Another silver lining was the growth of the number of youth media organizations that used the election as a way to get young people engaged in the process so they could offer their unique perspective.
One way of measuring the growth of youth media projects during the 2004 election is the funding support that many groups received. Investment in groups like Children’s Pressline four years ago demonstrated that there an increase in support and a recognition on the power of youth media. One of the key takeaway or learned lessons from this was that youth practitioners found creative ways to incorporate the election cycle and build partnerships across the youth media field. These partnerships and approaches helped lay the groundwork for organizations to engage youth of all ages in civic action this election.
Even when they are not producing their own content, youth media organizations are providing the space for younger filmmakers to share their work. This year for example the Manhattan Neighborhood Network’s Youth Channel has hosted screenings of a film by 19 year old David D. Burstein. The film, “18 in ’08,” according to the producer “is a call for young people to overturn traditional under-representation in election campaigns and get involved.” “We wanted to show it because it’s relevant,” said Derrick Dawkins MNN Youth Channel Production Coordinator. “It’s a good tool to engage young people and open up dialogue for them to talk about how they should get involved.”
Before and after the 2004 election, it was clear that elections would become a central rallying point for youth groups to not only get groups civically engaged but to find ways to collaborate and empower youth and provide them with the training and skills to tell their stories and offer their perspective.
Media and Elections
This election season has seen unprecedented TV ratings. Senator Obama, Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin all broke record ratings for Primetime acceptance speeches during the coverage of the DNC and RNC conventions. Each respectively drew nearly 40 million viewers during their speeches, more than the number of people according to MSNBC who watched this year’s Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing, the American Idol finals, or the Academy Awards. This close attention to the election says two things: people are engaged and they want to know about the issues and the candidates.
One of the most important roles that any media can play during an election is to help educate potential voters on the issues and those running for office—and new media tools tied to building online and offline social networks are perfect to share information among young voters who otherwise might not tune in to traditional news. We know that without some sense of the issues, a person is less likely to vote. Add in other factors such as income, race, earnings, age, and education then you get a pretty clear picture of why elections have gone against the interest of those under the age of 35. People have to feel their issues or concerns will be addressed, that there is a reason for them to get involved. For a number of young people Senator Obama has offered a sense of empowerment and that somone will listen to them.
My parents, and a number of the baby boom and older voting population get up every Sunday morning and watch the news programs (Meet the Press, Sunday Morning CBS etc) and to read the papers. As a journalistic endeavor, this kind of media tries to provide fair and balanced perspectives on the issues and the candidates themselves. However, the format and issues are not always appealing to young viewers.
Youth media helps offer another perspective that is not often captured in the media. They offer another angle and insight that tells the stories of young people and how they are facing the challenges and dreaming of the future. It was this power of storytelling through various media that turned out the youth vote—appealing to popular culture and not simply to the nightly news sound bite.
Obama, Web 2.0 and Youth Supporters
New media (Facebook, YouTube, blogs, etc)—tools that youth utilize—have been a major contributing factor in building up Senator Obama’s brand and rock star esque status while simultaneously drawing more youth of legal voting age into the political process. Youth media practitioners and Obama realize the power of the internet to share stories was key to mobilize youth and others. On Facebook alone there are 18 million young people between the ages of 18-29.
In the Washington Post’s article, “Obama’s Wide Web,” Jose Antonio Vargas coins, “Triple O – Obama’s Online Operation.” Vargas writes that “[This] year’s primary season, spanning six months, proved that online buzz and activity can translate to offline, on-the-ground results. Indeed, the Web has been crucial to how Obama raises money, communicates his message and, most important, recruits, energizes and turns out his supporters.” Senator Obama’s ultimate success in gaining the Democratic nomination had a great deal to do with him knowing how to utilize the power of media, specifically new media and its appeal to youth.
The media’s coverage of Senator Obama has created a cult-like, pop icon appeal that has attracted old and young alike to a historic campaign steeped in the messages of hope and change, themes that resonate with younger voters. Youth working with community based groups using media as an organizing and educational tool have given youth the skills to engage. For example, Rock the Vote has created specific resources on how to use new media tools such as the internet, and text messaging to give youth the power to get involved and get their voices and opinions heard.
Wiretap Magazine has also developed a similar project in partnership with Rock the Vote where youth journalists are reporting from across the country and setting up online video blogs and podcasts. Some more examples of these uses of online outlets getting young people engaged in the vote, are sites like MTVthink which has assigned 50 youth bloggers representing each state in the union to blog and report back from a youth angle what’s happening on the campaign trail in their state or city. Young people are attracted to making their own media and sharing their point of view. They recommend blogs as one of the best ways to engage in the process. It’s easy to do through open source sites such as blogspot.
As a result, it was young people and practitioners/youth media educators/programs that ultimately decided the outcome of the Iowa Caucus. 57% of youth supported Senator Barack Obama to help him win against his other opponents, which set the one-term junior senator from Illinois more known for his oratorical skills and less for his ability to organize and win primaries. It has been a long journey for the youth electorate since the cold Iowa night where they came out in record numbers. But what Obama understood and what Hillary learned too late was that the news had shifted to online blogs, YouTube and other online outlets—the very outlets reaching youth. If Obama happens to win the White House, and the deciding factor happens to be a couple of million youth voters in crucial swing states, we’ll be able to point to his ability to utilize the Web 2.0 technology in harnessing youth and new voters to turn out in record numbers.
Youth Generated Media – Challenges and Opportunities
“Unlike previous youth voter initatives, the League is not looking to ‘appeal’ to young voters—it is young voters.” – The League of Independent Voters
Youth media practitioners who have been documenting and working with youth to build this movement can take some of the credit for the Obama campaign successes. For all of us who have been working in the field of youth media, the internet has become a tool that has allowed us and the youth we work with to get our voices and views heard. No longer do we have to wait to have a reporter or journalist come out to cover a protest, rally or press event. We are our own press, covering our own stories and sharing them virally on the internet.
This political season especially has provided fertile ground for youth groups but also it has presented challenges. The fact is no matter how much they try, mainstream media fails to really capture the impact that youth have had on elections. It has been youth led media that has told this story and made sure it has been at the forefront of this election year.
Wiretap Editor Tomas Palermo said that, “It’s sad, but it seems for mainstream media they’re satisfied to get a few sound bites from Ivy League colleges and that sums up the youth vote angle for them. I believe other forms of media have done a better job, in particular the CNN/YouTube presidential debates have resonated.”
In comparing Obama and McCain, Palermo also shared that, “my perception is that the Obama campaign is making better use of new media technology, including text messaging, social networks, twitter and video to engage young voters. The McCain campaign doesn’t seem to be recruiting young voters, especially low-income and youth of color voters at all, nor using new media technologies effectively.”
This year Wiretap has reported extensively on the youth vote from various perspectives through weekly features, blogs, videos and podcasts. In addition, Wiretap and the Generation Vote coalition have launched Vote Hip-Hop (, a contest for emcees, poets, graffiti artists, video performers, artists and other hip-hop artists who want to express their perspective on why this election matters to them. Artists upload their work to the Vote Hip-Hop site, and will be contesting for $500 and other prizes.
For Palermo, the learned lesson for youth media organizations is that they “should start immediately hiring youth to design the next generation of sites and media tools for youth voter engagement. Youth need to be hired, and focus grouped and educated about what they can do to get involved. Youth are a powerful block, in particular Millennials, who will be a huge force in American politics from now onward.”
Alisha Cowan-Vieira, Executive Director of Project Set and formally of Think MTV, offered these additional thoughts on what the campaigns learned from youth generated media. “I feel like both campaigns have made it very evident that they are aware of how important it is to engage with young people through social networking—this is demonstrated by their presence on sites like Facebook, Myspace and Youtube,” said Cowan-Vieira. “But I also think it’s obvious that the Obama campaign has been more effective at doing so.”
Going forward the question is what could our organizations and groups dedicated to youth media learn from this moment in terms of solidifying our growing presence as a legitimate voice and force beyond election cycles?
The clear takeaway for many of is that we are the current and future reporters, documentarians, videographers, web-designers, and photographers that will capture the history of elections, and the story will not end with Obama reaching the White House. While this is a historic moment, the stories of young people—those who can or can’t vote—go beyond the ballot box. After the elections we still have stories to tell about our neighborhoods, our schools, our city governments, the stories that often go unnoticed in the mainstream media.
These moments are a reflection to know that we have the resources, skills and talent to create the media even when the media fails to hear our voices. At least for once, it seems a candidate like Obama, gets it.
Rashid is a Senior Account Executive with FENTON Communications. He sits on the board of Wiretap Magazine, Youth Media Reporter and Project Set.

Position: Youth Development Program Coordinator Assistant

Job Posting
Caribbean Cultural Center/African Diaspora Institute
Job Title: Youth Development Program Coordinator Assistant
Part-Time 25 hours/week, $15/hr.
Competitive salary commensurate with experience.
Description of Organization:
The Caribbean Cultural Center/African Diaspora Institute connects and promotes the cultures and traditions of Africans brought to the Americas from the 15th to 19th centuries.
The Division of Education provides transformative learning experiences for youth and adults through cultural arts workshops, teaching artist residencies, professional developments, concerts, lectures, and other learning opportunities. Our programs are meant to instill historical context, affirm identity and pride in African heritage, assuring knowledge of self, and opportunities to learn about and share culture for community uplifting and stability.
The Next Gen Leadership Program seeks to grow a passionate and talented cadre of youth leaders of African descent hailing from the 84th Assembly district under Assembly woman Carmen Arroyo. This program will provide youth with the career, personal, and political skills they need to address the most pressing issues facing their communities, preparing to be America’s next generation of founders, executive directors, business owners, and artists. Based in the South Bronx and a partnership between
The Caribbean Cultural Center/African Diaspora Institute and United Bronx Parents, Inc., the program will provide 25 youth ages 14-18 with:
v A mentor in the non-profit arts, community, and non-profit industry that they will shadow once a week.
v Political education and personal development sessions on leadership and communities of color featuring New York’s most inspiring and influential leaders of African descent working in the diverse fields of community, government, business, not-for-profit, and cultural arts industries.
v Cultural arts education, life-planning skills, team-building activities, and trips exploring New York City’s cultural arts, political, and community locations city-wide.
v An opportunity to design and implement a youth-led community transformation project from start to finish.
v A stipend and an opportunity to be employed by New York City’s leading non-profit organizations serving communities of the African Diaspora.
The Program Coordinator Assistant reports to the Program Coordinator, the Director of Education and the President at CCCADI and designs all programs with the support of the above mentioned.
The Program coordinator Assistant is responsible for supporting the Coordinator in all aspects of design and implementation of the program, including:
v Designing & implementing a curriculum that meets the above-mentioned goals.
v Outreach and application process for youth and internship sites/mentors.
v Scheduling a calendar for youth, adult mentors, teaching artists, and guest speakers.
v Helping youth successfully design and implement their community transformation final projects.
v Orienting parents, youth, schools, and internship sites on expected roles and responsibilities and managing successful partnerships with community groups.
v Marketing & Publicity, evaluation, and fundraising (with support from CCCADI) around the project.
v Managing the budget.
The successful candidate possesses the following qualities:v Willing to embody the leadership they seek to impart to youth. Has developed and lives by a holistic definition of leadership that incorporates the personal, academic, social, and spiritual self.
v Driven, committed, great sense of humor, collaborative, works fantastically well under pressure, independent self-starter and manager, creative, dynamic, reliable, honest, humble, caring, with a strong work ethic.
v Talented Curriculum planner & educator.
v Believer and practitioner of cultural arts.
v A people person who knows how to deal with diverse personalities and draw out youth and adult potential.
v Possesses and builds strong relationships with youth and executive directors, presidents, and leaders of South Bronx and African Diaspora communities.
v A detail-oriented person who knows how to deliver results.
v Familiar with the history of community-led social justice movements including the Young Lords, Black Panthers, Affordable Housing, Education, Parents Organizing, Cultural Arts, Civil Rights, other social justice movements.
v Comfortable and familiar with African-based spiritual traditions.
v 2+ years experience designing and implementing education, cultural arts, youth development, leadership or community organizing programs for youth of color.
To apply, please send a 1-page cover letter, a resume with 2 references, and any other material that represents your ability to work on this program to:
Manuela Arciniegas
Director of Education
408 West 58 Streets
New York, NY 10019
Re: UBP Job Search
Or via email: Put UBP Job Search in the subject line.