Even Without Technology Youth Media Thrives

In May of 2006, while presenting at a conference hosted by what some consider the top university (Harvard) in the country, the question that makes the list of “most dreaded in youth media” was asked to virtual audience of mostly graduate students and young people.
“Why would youth media organizations be necessary in this age of technology? Young people now have access to the means of production at home—doesn’t this make youth media organizations redundant?”
It was not the last time the question has been asked about the relationship between youth media and developing technologies. To begin to address this question as a field, we must first examine the precise concept of what youth media is. In the growing pantheon of youth media scholarship fine distinctions exist, but at its core, youth media is a process of engaging young people in an artistic enterprise that is based in young people’s experience and exploration of the world. Young people endeavor to carve a space for real participation in the public sphere, and forge more balanced meaningful relationships with the larger community—skills necessary for successful participation in civil society.
No young person exists in isolation. Regardless of the means of transmission, youth media practitioners create an infrastructure of support, bringing layered expertise and insight to the practice of educating youth media producers.
Youth, Media & Technology
While the past decade has nurtured an exciting growth in youth media, it reflects only part of the rich youth media history, these golden years should not simply be defined within the context of rapidly evolving technologies. Field builders Steve Goodman and Diana Coryat maintain, “young people have been making media for almost forty years—since the mid-1960s, when portable, lightweight video and film cameras became available in the U.S. and in other parts of the world.” (Coryat & Goodman, 2004) These scholars provide greater context, asserting, “in addition to the anti-systemic struggles of the 1960s, other influences include public access and community television, the media arts field, popular education in the U.S. and Latin America, media education, cultural studies, community organizing and the youth development field.” Indeed, the thunderous force of social change created a perfect Petri dish for the emergence of youth media. Even as we witness the evolution from analog to digital, there are greater forces still at work that inspire a community, a culture, a collectivism to take root; technology is one our most powerful tools, yet the motivation that drives the field runs deeper. Young people, as with all historically disenfranchised groups, clamor to be part of something bigger. Again, according to Booker, collective resistance to established system, in the short run at least, connects youth to something greater and more meaningful than individual paths from school to work.
Looking at youth media in this multi faceted context, we begin to see that when executed with the essential ingredients of authentic youth participation and a strong intergenerational dynamic, while youth media may be outside the mainstream (if even such a thing exists anymore), it is not amateur practice. What separates more than thirty years of practice in the field from youth who experiment and examine the function and facility of technology in the family computer room is this: Youth media values the equitable balance of power between adults and the young people we serve, coupled with an inquiry led approach, with youth voice as a guide.
Technology as Resource
The technology boom accompanying youth media into the 21st Century brought with it a perceived leveling of access and engagement, courtesy of the “digital revolution.” “Affordable” personal computers were shipped with free or inexpensive editing software. Digital Video (DV) cameras entered retail chains. DV features screened in mainstream movie theaters. And yet during this radical transformation of media technology, youth media drew steadily from its foundations—community media, democratic free expression, and radical education reform—evolving and expanding techniques and concepts from before the revolution proved digital. Revised lesson models swapped Hi8 with mDV, iMovie/Final Cut Pro succeeded analog editing decks and Media100, DVDr eliminated VHS tape, but the field was not, as assumed by those noticing youth-authored video for the first time, born in this century.
We run the risk of deifying the technology we use through the language to describe it to those outside our field, risking the focus on the critical processes defining youth media practice. We could say: “We are in a ‘process of engaging young people in an artistic enterprise that is based in young people’s experience and exploration of the world’.” Instead we say: “We help youth create digital video” or, “We teach them to edit video using nonlinear editing software,” or, “We share our work online,” or, “We enter film festivals.” These statements aren’t untrue, but they run counter to our self-definition as a ‘youth media’ field, and risk subordinating the institution of “youth media” under the rubric of “digital media” and “DIY” —its youngest, noisiest nieces.
In her unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Dr. Angela Booker defines technology, in part, as a human-designed tool that organizes the activity of the user into a particular structure of use and meaning. While the tool is essential, it is not elemental, as the equipment is rendered useless in the absence of the craftsman. As humans evolve, so do our tools, becoming more ideally suited to their purpose. But it is always the motivation of the user, which ultimately uncovers more precise mechanisms for negotiating the world. As it relates to youth media, Booker asserts that “social technologies extend the means by which we can engage audiences and producers in the practices of shaping and interpreting ideas, but the process is not automatic. Technology tool and practice must meet for the social communication to take off.”
The resources of our field include more than the products of media technology: records of practice, process and production in multimedia learning, media history, media literacy, media arts, and more. And unlike the subsection of youth-generated, DIY video outside of our field, we share these collective resources with other organizations, political affiliations, and nations. As global youth media practitioners, we have the opportunity to review, support and present media made by young people all around the world. And with the videos we share, organizations and networks we introduce to each other, workshops we host, film festivals we support and promote, Listen Up! participates in disseminating these far richer assets liberally and agnostically while providing and curating “content.”
The Global View
At Listen Up!, we have been working to connect youth media makers, practitioners and allies with support, funding and training since 1998. As part of that work, we have provided training to young people inside and outside the borders of the United States. For example, the Listen Up! youth media network has archived and curated youth media for the past decade, streaming media online and live in communities from Espanola, New Mexico to Bangalore, India. While technology enables access for all independent artists, our network focuses on building and maintaining dynamic learning, process and communication in the field of youth media.
The rate of technological change that has transformed media and communication structures globally has meant that product life cycles are continually decreasing, while the value of bringing products to market (especially young people) is continually increasing. Youth media’s ongoing investments between MAC & PC are less an expression of brand loyalty than the greater cultural economics of youth access.
Technological convergence specifically taps into the movement of telecommunications, print, broadcast and computing, creating products that accelerate new forms of communication and information storage. Young people today are eager to decide for themselves what is credible or worthwhile and what is not. They will have plenty of help. Sometimes they rely on peer editors of their choosing; at other times they rely on collective intelligence in the form of new social technologies. Dr. Booker aptly distinguishes the dynamics of participation and institutional access for young people:
Participation rights are often hard fought rather than being marked by invitations and openness. The people in a society who do not hold the political or economic power face an uphill climb in attempting to participate in civic life. Youth in our communities represent such a group. In addition to the racial, ethnic, class and gender stratification that permeates our social structures, young people are also restricted by age and public perceptions of their lack of “readiness” to participate in powerful ways. They are very much on the sideline in terms of institutions that structure their civic lives.
Distinguishing access as a participatory practice creates a global framework for how youth engage in civic life at large. The importance of technology in youth media also strikes the global citizen as particularly US-centric. While it may be true that the falling costs of the means of production creates greater access at home, young people who are outside our borders have not been as fortunate.
Case Study: Bangalore
In Fall 2006, our team traveled to India under the auspices of Adobe Youth Voices to train young people to create media and to help establish communities of practice abroad. Our goal was to create media in a school where the electricity was not guaranteed for the entirety of the school day and where the booming of a nearby quarry interrupted the sleep of napping pre-scholars at 2 pm every day. Students eagerly, though shyly awaited instruction, many vaguely expressing that they hoped this training would help prepare them for jobs as computer programmers when they grew up. We showed up with our colleagues from Animaction (Awareness through Animation) youth media program, with thousands of sheets of onion paper and multiple sets of coloring pencils in every shade imaginable. This was to be the foundation of our media instruction? This was the reason we had about 100 years collective training experience in a dim, hot room on the outskirts of Bangalore?
Well, Yes.
Over the course of several days, young people created stories about their lives by defining themselves and what they wanted to tell the world. What were the most pressing things they wanted to communicate? How would they make their stories appealing to young people and adults outside of their hometown, their country? These teenagers, not all sharing a common language, worked collaboratively in groups of ten to decide which story among the scores of selections would be chosen.
They assigned roles—since this was animation, it needed to be decided who would draw, color in, write scripts and edit. They worked with instructors to learn the simple mechanics of 2D animation and watched examples of other work, including pieces recently created by their teachers in their own trainings. The project’s youth-led inquiry and critical decision-making exemplifies promising practices of youth media; technology is simply a tool used in their multi-tiered process.
A small group of youth wanted to experiment with the video cameras we brought along to be left at their school. They spent four days with our intrepid Creative Director Austin Haeberle, who spent the majority of time pushing young people to ask the same basic questions about themselves and their community while instructing on the finer points of storytelling. The camera was to be seen as a useful appendage, but not central to the art of powerful storytelling. These ambitious young people stopped talking about future careers in computer programming and began to talk about themselves and their environment; about school, what life at home, the dowry system still entrenched in their community and the decimation of local trees. They began to engage as creators and leaders of their world, not just as eager recipients of adult held knowledge.
At the end of our stay, young people had produced several pieces of animation and one five-minute documentary and expressed wonder at learning in this new way. The creative process enthralled them. It was no easy task hand-drawing thousands of scenes on onion skinned paper, but each expressed great pleasure at being able to draw on their own expertise—about life as a young person in Bangalore, a desire to communicate with youth from around the world, and using media as a tool. A few months later, with the help of local teachers, these young people produced four more brilliant animations, each one-minute in length. Their short documentary has been screened all over the world, and some of the producers of that short, “Rakshita’s Story,” traveled to Naples Italy, presenting at Kids for Kids International Film Festival.
Next Steps
Interactive media, unlike mass media, features abundant bandwidth, diverse programming, and increased control by users worldwide. These attributes of new media increasingly debunk past rationales of the commercial content restrictions that have dominated 20th century mass media. 21st century media requires alternative means-often relying on technology rather than content and perspective to accomplish public ends. Youth media has provided a brilliant interactive media model through collaborative leadership, inquiry based learning and self-sustaining growth, in spite of technology’s treadmill sprint.
When asked to justify our existence, “Why would youth media organizations be necessary in this age of technology?” we can simply and confidently reply, “Well, Yes.” Youth leading peers through the multi-leveled process of creating media—from premise to post production and ultimately exhibition and distribution—integrates each aspect of interactive modeling. Youth media processes extend far beyond the technology tool itself—determining the need for youth media organizations to preserve and facilitate these cultural practices. Indeed, technology is not the end goal, but rather the means of greater expression for young people defining next decade of collective learning.
Rhea Mokund is the director and co-founder of Listen Up!, a global youth media organizations, whose mission is to help youth be heard in the mass media and to encourage a culture of free speech and social responsibility. As Listen Up!’s Director, she focuses on securing access for young people to speak out while ensuring a place in the mainstream media for authentic youth representation. Rhea also serves on the Board of Directors for Manhattan Neighborhood Network, the country’s largest Public Access Station.
Sharese Bullock is the strategic partnerships and marketing manager at Listen Up!. She leverages over 10 years of creative management experience in brand building, production, sponsorship marketing and community organizing to pioneer partnerships. Sharese serves on the board of directors for the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture (NAMAC).

Adobe Youth Voices is a global philanthropic initiative that empowers youth worldwide to comment on their world using multimedia and digital tools to communicate and share their ideas, demonstrate their potential, and take action in their communities.
Booker, Angela. (2007) “Learning to get participation right(s): An analysis of youth participation in authentic civic practice.” Unpublished PhD dissertation, Stanford University, 2007.
Coryat, Diana and Steven Goodman (2004). “Developing the Youth Media Field: Perspectives from Two Practitioners.” A White Paper distributed at the OSI/Surdna youth media convening, New York City, March 2004.
Goldman, S., Booker, A, and McDermott, M. (2007). “Mixing the Digital, Social, and Cultural: Learning, Identity, and Agency in Youth Participation.” In David Buckingham (Ed.) Youth, Identity, and Digital Media. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge: The MIT Press, pp. 185-206.

Avoiding Exploitation

When I was 17 years old, I was a passionate writer and enrolled in an alternative high school for at risk teens where I gained a mentor who encouraged me to explore different forms of media. Thus, my media experience began. I welcomed working with a mentor to develop as a writer and gain a sense of sustainability outside of school in the “real world.” But as time progressed, I realized I didn’t feel capable of navigating the writing field on my own. My mentor invested a lot of time and effort but I didn’t know how to communicate what I needed from the experience. As a teen, I valued creative and technical instruction and mentoring. But this was difficult for me to define. As a result, the media products I produced seemed more valued and on display than the process and development I experienced creating media.
Youth media programs have the power to bridge the gap between adult-run media and stereotypes of teenagers perpetuated in the mainstream. But that power is not always successful. Typically, youth media professionals aim to teach in non-directive, collaborative learning environments, where students address issues and concerns that are important to, and affect, them. But when adults in youth media value the end product over the process, our presence can be disruptive and ultimately outweigh—and even exploit—youth voice.
Where Good Intentions become Exploitive
For some youth media organizations, the demands of funders and the overall pressure to create work comparable to professionally produced media can lead instructors to overstep the line of student work. These pressures can dilute student voice and reiterate mainstream media’s focus on adult representations of the world.
For example, some educators want young people to create professional work, choosing pieces that are “relevant” or “compelling” enough for an adult audience. This creates a competitive environment for young people and can negatively affect less media savvy students. If no one is consciously supporting and enabling youth to cast their voices, there is very little difference between youth media and the media industry that speaks for them. Educators need to be conscious that their work always supports youth voice and creative expression—no matter what the skill level.
Beyond external pressures and expectations, in the classroom, educators need to be aware of power dynamics between student and instructor and be careful that this does not mirror the institutions that dominate most young peoples’ lives. Because educators are in the position of “teacher,” it is important to be conscious that ego and desire to maintain a professional reputation not affect the way in which we teach and influence the production of our students’ work. We cannot get lost in our own ideas, concepts and expectations of what the best, most polished expression of media is (whether these ideas were self-discovered or passed to us through formal education). If educators begin to view a student’s piece as insufficient, this is a big sign that preconceived notions about young people’s work are exploiting the end product and ignoring the process.
Often, a student comes to the table with little to no technical knowledge of the media in which s/he begins to work, but with ideas, perspectives, and experiences to express. Young people are very perceptive and can sense pressure or expectations, which can intimidate rather than inspire them to produce well crafted media. Educators need to learn how to share power and emphasize this practice with young media makers, who seek support and guidance from adult allies.
Leading Solutions: Sharing Power and Prioritizing Youth Voice
Because inherently, the young person has to place trust in the instructor she’s working with and use media as a gateway to be heard and gain power, educators must share power and provide the resources, credibility, access, experience, information, and the technical understanding of media to their students. If we begin to view a student’s piece as insufficient, this is a sign of disconnect between supporting the experiences of youth and our perceptions of what is meaningful (i.e. as represented in the end product).
Check your expectations and what pressure or end product you want a young person to create. Many young people entering youth media have never used media equipment before and should feel encouraged rather than intimidated (or worse, silenced) by your vision, experience, skill, or capability. If we are not fully aware of the purpose and identity of youth media expression, the demands of the adult-run sector begin to remove youth voice and fall back to the same adult-run media we are accustomed to.
The process should be valued—in the classroom and in negotiation with funders and media outlets—over the end product. There is a delicate line between wanting a student’s work to become what it holds the potential to be and clouding the work with the instructor’s influence—making edits, changes, post-production clean up and guiding students to topics and ideas—which adults in the media field (be it the audience or those running the media outlets) might find compelling.
The end product should be an outcome of a young person’s process using youth media. Educators must be cautious that they strike the right balance in guiding and supporting young people as they produce media. Young people need to feel that their perspectives and ability to create media are supported, respected, taken seriously, and recognized—since they hold the integrity of the field. Adults must advocate for the process this work takes rather than solely emphasizing the end product.
Be an advocate for youth voice and have clear communication of the process of youth media in conversation with funders, media outlets, colleagues and young media makers. At every level of the organization and with media partners involved there must be clear, working communication—understanding the form and identity of youth media, not overlooking the purpose of supporting youth voice, and adequately provide students with information to produce media on their own.
Be aware of power dynamics with young people and prioritize youth voice. At every learning setting with teens, in place are power dynamics which often favors youth obedience rather than youth perspective. Instructors need to be aware and reactive to the needs of young people, learn from their students, and gain trust so that media can become a viable gateway to be heard.
One of the most important tasks for educators is to develop a sense of balance in maintaining the integrity of youth media and expression in an adult-run spectrum. Because youth media presents a rare opportunity outside everyday life, it is crucial that instructors are aware of the signs indicating when we are too heavily “present” in young peoples’ media work and personal development. Ultimately, youth media is about youth voice, providing space and autonomy for their ideas to develop, and where they can create and polish their work in their own terms.
Educators need to take a step back and consider the influences that can hamper a young person’s voice when process and product are imbalanced. Through my experience with youth media, as a young media maker myself and now as an instructor, I have come to learn the unyielding element is process—growing and learning an understanding of how to express oneself though media. The process of communication to a broader audience in meaningful, lasting ways is empowering not only in the stages of learning, but throughout one’s entire experience in media. It is our job as instructors to support, enable and promote the process and integrity of youth media, and only hold young people accountable to expectations that they define and create.
Liz Coleman is the youth radio instructor and outreach coordinator at Spy Hop Productions, a non-profit youth media arts and education organization in Salt Lake City, Utah. Since 2004, Liz has been volunteering in community radio—writing, producing, and teaching after being drawn by radio’s ability to reach diverse communities, promote ideas and communica-tion, and its availability and accessibility.

Youth journalism: Reporting the News for Global Citizenship

In school newspapers and magazines, youth centers and after-school clubs, youth today are engaged in producing quality journalism that has become vital to communities worldwide. At a time when the population of young people is at its highest, youth journalism is a window on the issues and ideas that will shape the next century. For media educators, this not only points to the need to continue supporting young journalists to report stories that interest them but it also highlights an opportunity to use youth-produced news to generate dialogue and awareness among young people from diverse cultures.
News media organizations are rapidly increasing their use of online technology to make journalism more interactive and participatory for their audiences. Many school newspapers and magazines have already expanded to Web-based versions, reaching out to a larger, global audiences. Using online technology, media educators can create opportunities for young journalists to go beyond reporting the news to interacting and discussing their stories with their peers in different corners of the world.
By including cross-cultural interactions and discussions as an integral component of youth journalism programs, whether at the local, national or global levels, media educators can make the news more relevant for youth today and better prepare them for the next century of global citizenship. Youth media educators need to continue supporting young journalists to report their views and to spread youth-produced news among young people from diverse cultures and corners of the world.
Online Technology for International Youth News Reporting
In 2004, PEARL World Youth News was launched as a Web-based youth news service—a youth journalism project developed to further this goal of cross-cultural dialogue and global citizenship among young people through good journalism.
Secondary school students from around the world managed PEARL, determining what they wanted to report and providing unique youth perspectives. Stories published on the PEARL Web site were made available to student publications across the world so they could add international youth news to their local coverage.
Today, the initiative has connected student reporters and editors from 13 countries, including Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Cameroon, the United Kingdom, Dominican Republic, Pakistan, and the United States. For these youth journalists, the project presents an opportunity to see their names in a school magazine thousands of miles away and to interact with young readers in a very different socio-cultural setting. PEARL journalists have reported on breaking news stories like the Pakistan emergency and Cyclone Gonu hitting Oman to features on straightedge music, sex education, and choosing the right college.
PEARL World Youth News, which is dedicated to Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was gruesomely murdered by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002, is a partnership between the International Education and Resource Network (iEARN) and the Daniel Pearl Foundation. Dr. Judea Pearl, Daniel’s father and president of the foundation, says: “Danny championed the search for truth, integrity in reporting, and the love of humanity. PEARL World Youth News provides a forum for the next generation of journalists to continue this important work.”
PEARL reporters and editors use shared online platforms at every stage of the journalistic process to ensure collaboration and discussion to the maximum extent possible. Since the project is founded on the goal of inculcating good journalistic principles and practices among young people, the first step for any high school student who wants to join the project as a PEARL reporter is to successfully complete its online training and certification course.
Using open-source software (Moodle), this course takes students through reading materials on the basics of journalism and requires three assignments that are read and reviewed by graduate journalism students in the United States. Students submit their assignments online and receive electronic feedback from their evaluators.
Once students are certified as PEARL reporters, they use a variety of online interactive tools to collaboratively decide topics to report and what resources are available, and then submit their stories. A group of these reporters, typically from one school and working under the supervision of a teacher and a journalist, edits the stories and publishes them on the PEARL Web site. At any given time, student reporters in four to five different locations work with student editors in a fifth location to determine the site’s monthly content.
PEARL World Youth News is based on a completely online, interactive template. Youth radio, TV, print or new media organizations can similarly use online technology to bring a global component to their work. Media educators can encourage youth reporters to engage in discussions with their peers based on the issues and events covered in their news stories, find sources from their peers in different countries and form full-fledged collaborative partnerships among youth news projects in different countries.
Making cross-cultural interactions a part of youth news projects can spur discussions and awareness among young people on issues that make a difference—making both local and international events more authentic for them as they engage in global issues that impact their lives.
As Sultan Mehmood, a PEARL reporter from Pakistan who was in the United States as an exchange student, states: “This [project] has made me aware of many things happening around the world…that I didn’t think twice about before. It has enabled me to learn what teenagers in others parts of the globe are thinking about. [Journalism] keeps us aware of what our governments are doing and what the needs of the people are. It keeps us aware of what is happening in the world.”
Youth News in the 21st Century
A report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on “Children, youth and media around the world” states:
One of the largest problems regarding media rights for youth is simply lack of coverage of children and young people in the news. What little coverage there is too often portrays youth in the context of sensationalist issues, e.g., child abuse, exploitation and violence, with little respect for the dignity and privacy of the children and scant opportunity for young people to speak for themselves. Young people around the world feel excluded from or dis-served by the media when they are portrayed simplistically as superficial, apathetic, poverty stricken or delinquent.
The report adds: “Youth say they believe only young journalists can really understand their problems.”
Educators and media practitioners can play a vital role in filling this gap by creating links between young journalists and youth audiences in different communities so that youth perspectives get represented within mainstream news media. When young people can report on what is relevant to them and find out that their peers in another city or country are concerned about the same—or a very different—issue, this will raise their sense of being part of an interconnected world in which their voices are being heard. And, amid the various sources of information available today, their exchange will be based on factual, accurate, balanced, fair, and objective news stories on issues of importance to them.
Youth journalism is fundamental to create an appreciation for freedom of speech and expression among young people. As Eric Newton, vice president of the Journalism Program at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, explains, “If we teach young people about the First Amendment, they’ll learn it. If we let them practice the First Amendment, through student media, they’ll grow up to understand it and live it—and they’ll also be better students.”
Inherent in the journalistic process are skills critical to the 21st century: global awareness, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, media literacy, cross-cultural awareness, and leadership.
Nancy Kaplan, who teaches a journalism course and facilitates a journalism after-school club at the College of Staten Island High School for International Studies in New York, states:
PEARL World Youth News develops the writing process while introducing my students, literally, to the world of news. My goal as a teacher is to provide opportunities for global interaction and involvement for my students. PEARL is international, and students are immediately able to interact with other student reporters around the world. Projects like this are truly necessary in the 21st century world of learning.
With the increasing demand of online social networking among young people, interactive youth journalism presents a way to shape these discussions within an authentic, meaningful, and secure environment. Moreover, the use of information and communication technology (ICT) tools in classrooms, after-school clubs, and community centers across countries today has made it easier for media educators to develop interactive connections among youth journalists. Organizations like iEARN, for instance, have used ICT tools for the past 20 years to connect educators and students in purposeful curriculum-based online projects like PEARL World Youth News. These projects demonstrate how authentic collaborative activities are likely to lead young people toward greater interest and participation in civic affairs.
Studies have shown that young people are curious about global events. In a survey titled “Youth media DNA: Decoding youth as news and information insiders,” the World Association of Newspapers studied newspaper habits of young people from 10 countries (the United States, the United Kingdom, Serbia, Sweden, Spain, Lebanon, South Africa, Colombia, the Philippines, and Japan). The study found that young people want to learn more about the links between local and global issues, particularly when it comes to security and the environment. One young participant from Serbia who was interviewed for the survey stated: “In order to be well-informed you need to read newspapers, watch TV, all media, but [to] also have contact with other people, talk with people.”
Youth journalism and youth media can help answer this curiosity by creating accessible online forums for discussion across borders based on youth-produced news stories on issues that matter to young people. By developing these connections—and partnerships—among young people, and by sustaining collaborative models of youth journalism, educators and youth media practitioners can help strengthen youth-produced news and can establish a firm global youth perspective in the socio-political debates leading to the next century.
Anindita Dutta Roy is the director of membership and youth media programs at PEARL World Youth News. She served on the first Youth Media Reporter Peer Review Board in 2007.

The Benefit of Short One-Time Projects

Youth media projects do not always need to be long-term, ongoing programs to have impact. Many youth media professionals question whether it is worth doing a project if it can only bring a one time opportunity to young participants. Thus, waiting to launch a lasting, more continuous youth media initiative is often seen as more productive.
Yet, any opportunity for young people to creatively express themselves using and constructing media is effective. Because of its ability to be replicated quickly and less-expensively, short, one time youth media projects may be just as effective as long term youth media projects.
For example, theoneminutesjr. project—initiated in 2002 by the European Cultural Foundation, the One Minutes Foundation and UNICEF—offers 5-day workshops where experienced video artists train people ages 12-20 on basic camera skills, story development, directing, and production skills. At the end of the workshop, each young participant has made his or her own one minute film. All three organizations that helped launch this project have numerous other initiatives, but the oneminutesjr project is a model that has provided opportunities to bring out young people’s voices without having to commit to major long term planning or funding.
Short Projects, Easy to Fund
As funding is a pressing issue for most youth media projects, one of the benefits of short-term media projects is that the price tag is lower, which makes a project more accessible. If an organization wants to develop a long-term youth-empowerment-through-media program, it must invest a lot of time and money. Sometimes, the initial investment becomes so prohibitive that the project has to be cancelled. With a short-term, less expensive project, young people have a better chance of getting access to the project in the first place. And if it succeeds, there is also a better chance of the organization getting more funding to continue similar projects.
theoneminutesjr. began focusing projects mainly in the European regions, but recently expanded to a global initiative. In 2007, UNICEF planned the first pan-African oneminutesjr. workshop in South Africa, inviting young people from South Africa, Burundi, The Gambia, Sierra Leone and DRCongo to participate in the process. The films produced—all on the theme of the Rights of the Child—were so popular that UNICEF was able to fund three more workshops in the Philippines, Jordan and India.
Planting the Seed
Even though long-term programs typically provide more in-depth experiences, an organization’s time, energy and money is often devoted to only one place. Short-term media projects allow organizations to visit numerous communities and bring opportunities to a wider range of young people. UNICEF and its partners are able to share the oneminutesjr. experience with at least 20 countries a year. In 2007, UNICEF sponsored workshops in South Africa, DRCongo (2), Russia (2), Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey, India (2), the Philippines, Jordan, Ukraine, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates. As a result, over 250 kids in 14 countries had the chance to make their own one minute films.
Short term projects plant the seeds and open opportunities for this work to spread—especially projects that publicly present the final product. If you bring a small-scale media project to a community where young people can get excited and adults see the power of youth media as an experience, there is more of a chance of engendering on-the-ground support for future work.
For example, in a workshop in Amman, Jordan, 16 young people ages 12-19—half of who spoke English and the other half Arabic—inspired facilitators by their fresh ideas and ability to translate for one another. Their final 16 one-minute films were high in quality and screened to a packed house, which included family, friends and even Princess Reem. After the screening, representatives from the Royal Film Commission, which had generously given the space for the workshop, were so impressed with the process and the product that they started discussing the possibilities of continuing the project on their own.
Connecting Young People Around the World
Short term projects offer opportunities for young people around the world to express themselves. Seeing the affect of youth media in one city is powerful; but to see this experience reach multiple cities around the world is expansive. Whereas long term projects are often limited due to resources to working within one country or community, short term projects offer opportunities for cross-cultural connections and inter-dialogue because of quicker results and diverse locations.
A 5-day workshop is a way to link young media makers all over the globe. For example, in theoneminutesjr. initiative, each workshop starts off by showcasing work from around the world, which typically expresses both the personal views of young people and the cultural perspectives that naturally arise from the setting, locale, language, and traditions in each film. The participants get to watch and discuss what kind of thoughts and perspectives other young people have. Knowing young people produced such great films inspires youth to believe they can create similar work. To effectively link young media makers together, all finished films are uploaded onto theoneminutesjr. website and young filmmakers become part of its’ worldwide network—enabling youth to view work and comment on-line.
Young people in countries around the world have creative potential but the opportunities are not there for them to explore it. Developing a high-quality, long-term program is certainly desirable, but often takes time and significant expense to implement. With short-term projects, young people are introduced to what it means to have their voices heard. They learn what it’s like to be given responsibility to think for themselves and be listened to and respected by adults. Even five days of media empowerment can embolden young people to seek the next step and feel more confident to express their dreams.
Karen Cirillo is the executive producer of Children’s Broadcasting Initiatives at UNICEF. She manages the International Children’s Day of Broadcasting and the ICDB Award and coordinates UNICEF’s global oneminutesjr. project.

Interview: Salome Chasnoff | Beyondmedia

Beyondmedia Education is a Chicago-based 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to collaborate with under-served and under-represented women, youth and communities to tell their stories, connect their stories to the world around us, and organize for social justice through the creation and distribution of media arts.
Recently, Chicago Public Television station WTTW’s Image Union refused to air Beyondmedia Education’s award-winning documentary Turning a Corner, claiming that the content is inappropriate. As part of the award, Turning a Corner was to be screened on WTTW’s Image Union program. Created in a media activism workshop with members of Prostitution Alternatives Round Table (PART)—15 women who had been street-level sex workers in Chicago—the film recounts their battles with homelessness, violence and discrimination and provides insight into Chicago’s sex industry. Beyondmedia Education recently won the Chicago Reporter’s John A. McDermott Documentary (short) Film Competition for Turning a Corner. WTTW’s refusal to air the program cites the sensitive subject matter—sex workers in Chicago—as the reason for their decision.
In response, and due to other recent events that have challenged access to free press in Chicago (including Loyola’s takeover of WLUW and the buyout of the Chicago Reader and the firing of key writers) on January 17th Beyondmedia Education organized a meeting at Columbia College for community and independent media makers to come together to build a media justice plan for action addressing issues of censorship, inequality in media access, and the increasing corporate control of media in Chicago.
In January, YMR interviewed Salome Chasnoff, Executive Director of Beyondmedia.
YMR: In your own words, please discuss the important issue of community access to public media as it relates to the youth media field.
Chasnoff: It’s to recognize the reality that young people are part of our world. We are all in this together. We all need to communicate in the same space. Adults are very quick to complain that young people don’t communicate with them—that there is an invisible divide between the generations both in the public and private spheres. For example, “I don’t understand their music, dress, etc.” Media—public communication—is a way for these divides to be bridged and the public forum to be rebuilt.
In some ways, media reflects what is happening on the ground and in some ways it constructs what is happening. We can see the public and private as co-creative. Through media making we can repair the social fabric. Youth media is key to that enterprise. Technology is the means but the end result is larger. Youth are going to run the world and they are the vibrant voice of today. That has to be reflected in everything—including public access—and adults need to be accountable to young people. The only way to do that is to hear them. But young people also need to take responsibility for speaking and participating—and fight for the space in which to do it. If youth have something to say in the public space and that access is blocked—that is censorship.
YMR: About 30 people attended the media justice meeting you organized at Columbia College. What was the overall outcome?
Chasnoff: There were all kinds of groups that attended the meeting. Beyondmedia works with many different cohorts. Attendees included policy makers, media makers, academics, and youth media. Unless we are trying to develop an initiative, it is normally difficult to get these groups together. Everyone is so busy. People need to have a particular, shared objective.
In the break-out groups, there was a concern for university accountability (journalism/media programs). Students are being trained for jobs that do not exist—therefore, universities must share resources and be transparent in their programs.
People want to continue meeting and bring in more groups and definitely more young people (for youth voice). We are developing a listserv and the next meeting will be at Southwest Youth Collaborative in order to change the context of each meeting to reflect the diversity of voices. We are committed to win-able battles.
At the meeting, we talked about a live weekly forum where people could express their views on a particular issue (a hot issue) that could be broadcast locally. This would work well for young people and all different marginalized groups. Parents are complaining that they do not know what their teens are thinking. Youth can speak through media and adults can learn a lot from that.
YMR: How can educators, media justice organizers, community members and young people collaborate and support each other in doing this type of work?
Chasnoff: An important thing is to remember that we are all involved in the same project. What we do is about all of us. We don’t have to actively collaborate to keep each other’s best interests in mind. If what we are creating is for everyone, than we are collaborating. We have to remember to keep our blinders off and always expand our vision so it includes more and more issues, people, and audiences. If we are acting out of a social justice model, than ultimately, what we do will serve the greatest good.
YMR: What role can independent and community media play in accessing young people within public media?
Chasnoff: This is already happening. I’ve been a media maker for twenty years and I have seen youth media grow from something non-existent to a viable field. Part of that is the way technology has grown—young people have more access to media tools and knowledge. Public media must create a space of access for marginalized voices.
For example, independent/community media must have opportunities for young people to become involved and expand their frame as a result of talking to young people. Youth must learn how to engage media with solving issues or problems that concerns them.
YMR: One specific question at the meeting was “what kind of a job is Chicago public media doing in representing the public interest”? How does this relate to youth media?
Chasnoff: I think people would find youth media (and marginalized voice/media) interesting in Chicago. The Chicago public likes to be challenged and entertained. Many want to be active, critical viewers. The work we make here in Beyondmedia is not entertainment based and yet we get a lot of positive responses from a diverse array of people.
Rarely has my breath been taken away by mainstream media. But when someone is taking public space for the first time after making their story their entire lives, it is totally unique, fresh and surprising. It has the capacity to capture people’s imaginations and they can learn from that. It is not a story that is made to sell a product. It is a story that is expressing lived experience and, therefore, something most people can relate to, recognizing the truth in storytelling. The problem with a lot of university filmmaking programs is that state-of-the-art equipment is available to learn on but you might as well watch the products on mute—they are boring. The focus is warped in my opinion. Young people that really want to grab the power of these tools in their hands and use them to express their unique vision and get something that would make their world better—that is exciting.
YMR: What strategies can youth media educators use to access public media more effectively and consistently?
Chasnoff: Develop relationships with gatekeepers of public media and educate them to what youth media could bring to them and their audiences. Try to work creatively together. Develop programming that would allow youth to “see” behind the scenes how public media is made (and even develop roles for them such as internships and/or career paths). Work with public media such as NPR, PBS and even universities to develop resources. If taxpayers support and “own” these outlets, then they should reflect our vision. Young people and adults must fight to own public voice. We can’t take our ownership for granted—we have to fight for it on a daily basis. The relationship between public media and free speech/democracy is indivisible because you can’t have one without the other.
For example, as a result of the response from our colleagues and peers, Beyondmedia did win a battle. It’s not official yet but, despite the set back with WTTW’s Image Union, it looks like our full documentary will be aired on WTTW’s regular programming in the spring in an even better time slot and not just the initial short version proposed to air. This proves that there are win-able battles out there when you mobilize your troops in the field and beyond.

Calling All Youth/Youth Media Bloggers: Elections and the Youth Vote

YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia and WireTap are proud to announce the first ever Youth Media Blog-a-Thon to be held on Wednesday February 20th.
We are calling all young bloggers (between the ages of 14-26) – along with any bloggers dedicated to writing about youth issues and youth media – to blog on Feb. 20th about:
Elections and the Youth Vote
Give us your opinion on:
• Why is the youth vote garnering so much attention this year?
• Data shows the youth vote increased in almost all states, is this something you noticed in your own state? What did it look like?
• What are the most important issues facing young people: Is it the war, the economy, immigration, education, health care?
• What youth voter education group is doing the best work?
• Is voting relevant? Do you feel disenfranchised?
• Much of the debate around the primary election focused on race v. gender – what was your opinion on this?
• Do you think a new leader will make a difference?
If you are interested in being a part of the Youth Media Blog-a-Thon, please email Neelanjana Banerjee at nbanerjee@newamericamedia.org.
About: This is the first of a series of monthly Youth Media Blog-a-Thons that aims to virtually connect the youth media community by asking them to respond to one topic and to engage with each other. We hope that these monthly events will foster more dialogue between youth media leading to connectivity as media makers and as activists.
Confirmed Bloggers So Far:
YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia (http://www.youthoutlook.org)
WireTap Mag (http://www.wiretapmag.org)
Drop That Knowledge (http://dropthatknowledge.wordpress.com/)
Confirmed Bloggers Continued:
Grits and Eggs (http://jaysplayground.blogspot.com/)
Ill-literacy (http://www.ill-literacy.com/blog/
The Cheddar Box (http://thecheddarbox.wordpress.com/)
Youth Ministry Exchange (http://www.ymexchange.com)
Vanessa Van Petten (http://vanessavanpetten.com/)
Sponsoring Organizations:
For over 15 years, YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia has been a leader in youth-produced content in the Bay Area. Through our active website (http://www.youthoutlook.org), YO!TV – a weekly 30-minute television show on local KBCW, and our weekly YO!Radio segments aired on KALW 91.7 Information Radio and 106.1 KMEL, YO! gives young people a voice on the issues they most care about. YO! content is also regularly syndicated in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oakland Tribune and more. The YO! blog has been active for over a year.
WireTap is a national news and culture magazine by and for socially conscious youth. Our online community promotes social justice, inspires action and gives young people a voice in the media. Wiretap provides free, daily content to over 60,000 monthly visitors and 14,000 weekly newsletter subscribers. Our award-winning journalism and youth commentary is syndicated every week on the Nation.com, AlterNet.org and Chicago Sun Times, college papers, and hundreds of our stories get linked to in widely read blogs and websites from Mother Jones blog to Fear of a Brown Blogger to social networking site MyBloc.net.

Immediate opening for full-time TV Producer/Editor

Democracy Now!, a Manhattan based daily independent TV/Radio/Internet news hour, seeks TV Producer/Editor. This position is responsible for the production of all visual elements of our live daily broadcast.
Duties include editing B-roll packages, SOTs and VOs, monitoring news feeds, LIVE on-air playback, some field production, remote studio booking, and stringer coordination. This position requires familiarity with DN and good journalistic judgment. Other qualifications: 3-5 years TV news experience, ability to execute very competent and fast Final Cut Pro edits under pressure, proficiency in Photoshop, familiarity with media servers, ability to send and receive video through an FTP client, excellent camera, communication, and computer skills.
This is a full-time evening position with benefits and salary based on experience. Please email your resume, cover letter and reel to job@democracynow.org with TV Producer as subject. No phone calls please.

Call for Research: Youth Media

Next month IssueLab will be focusing on Youth Media and Research. Mindy Faber, a leading practitioner in the field will be serving as their very first guest editorialist – culling the nonprofit sector for research and analysis on this vibrant yet somewhat under-studied topic.
Over the last few decades, the proliferation of low cost digital media production tools has given rise to an expanding number of after-school programs that use digital media to engage young people in art, organizing, journalism, citizenship and leadership development. The explosion of this new media is redefining how youth learn, create, and participate in the public sphere.
Although the issue of youth and their relation to the media is taking on a new sense of urgency among educators (from IssueLab’s point of view), policy-makers and social researchers, research on the topic is still difficult to find. This is why we asked Mindy to serve as a guest editorialist for Issuelab’s March edition of the CloseUp.
If you are a noprofit and are doing work in the field of youth media and the new digital networked public, please register at IssueLab today: http://www.issuelab.org/call_for_research
IssueLab’s Youth Media CloseUp will include research on the following topics:
Copyright and intellectual property in a digital age
Global and youth development through media
Digital learning and education, formal and informal approaches
Communication rights of youth
Media literacy and citizenship
The role of youth media in social justice movements
Expose Your Work to a Broader Audience in 3 Easy Steps
1. IssueLab is a free service to all participating nonprofits. The process for listing your research takes about five minutes. Register your nonprofit with IssueLab through our simple web-based form. You will receive an email asking that you verify your registration. Once this is done, you are ready to list research.
2. Log into your account and add as many publications as you would like. Once we have approved a publication your listing will be “live” and available to the public.
3. Edit, hide, delete or add as many listings as you wish. (You can also track the number of users downloading your work and visiting your organizational profile by simply logging into your IssueLab account.)
Adding your research to IssueLab’s CloseUp means that it will get featured in next month’s eNews, regular RSS feeds and any outreach we do to blogs, journalists and digital librarians.
Got Questions?
If you have any concerns or questions contact Gabriela Fitz at gabi@issuelab.org.