Letter from the Editor

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

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

This issue of Youth Media Reporter is supported by:

Five Trends in Youth Media

The McCormick Foundation’s investment in youth journalism and news literacy programs helps students become more knowledgeable news consumers, perform better in school and develop into better-informed citizens. At the core of the youth media programs we support is journalistic inquiry—the craft of interviewing, fact-finding, fact checking. These initiatives focus on the importance of news to young people, the importance of the First Amendment in our democratic society and ways to discern reliable information.
One vivid example is Michael Mahaffy, a graduate of Hyde Park Academy on the South Side of Chicago. Born into a low-income family, dealing with a father battling drug addiction, Michael struggled in school, ended up falling into a rough crowd and got arrested. Fortunately, he found True Star, a program that provides Chicago youth the opportunity to learn media production, from magazine publishing to radio broadcast.
“I stumbled into a classroom one day after school and True Star people were in there. Honest to God, I was supposed to go pick up drugs to sell that day at 4 o’clock, but I never made it. I heard Ms. Deanna McLeary [executive director] say True Star pays students to learn. That’s all I needed to hear. To me, that sounded like all reward, plus the bonus of no risks involved,” Michael says. It turned out to be a life-changing decision.
Traditionally, the Foundation’s grant-making activities have been shaped by the life cycle of a journalist from mid-career training programs to senior news management leadership initiatives. After completing an intensive strategic planning process, we have embarked on a strategy of allocating resources to educating news audiences, with a primary focus in Chicago and selective efforts nationwide. We are seeing exciting and innovative models take root—from networks of youth media organizations to news literacy programs in after-school and in-school environments.
In this article, we will reflect on five promising trends that we are seeing in the youth media field and offer a look into the innovative, exciting projects that are helping to build the field.
Networks of Youth Media Organizations
In early 2007, the McCormick Journalism Program began convening 11 Chicago-based youth media grantees for intensive professional development and training. Led by hired consultants, youth media leaders convened and ultimately formed the Chicago Youth Voices Network (CYVN). Today, CYVN collectively trains more than 6,000 youth per year in intensive, sustained programming. With professional supervision, youth produce media on issues ranging from education to the environment, youth violence to community health. The collective audience for in-person showings of youth-produced work is in the tens of thousands; the online, radio and television audiences approach a million.
CYVN partners with more than 60 public high schools and scores of other nonprofit groups. More than 3,000 Chicago public school teachers and nonprofit staff benefit each year from resources provided by these groups or attend trainings that range from half-day workshops to journalism fellowships.
Parlaying CYVN’s success, McCormick provided seed funding in 2010 to launch the Youth Media Los Angeles Collaborative (YMLAC), a consortium of advocates for young journalists, connecting youth media producers to a vibrant web of mentors. The group recently launched a Web site that seeks to aggregate youth media resources and content from students, educators, professional journalists, non-profit agency trainers and members of advocacy and literacy organizations. The fledgling YMLAC, led by Cal State University Northridge professor Linda Bowen, has proven an invaluable coordinator for the thousands of youth in Los Angeles.
Content Production Collaborations
McCormick’s stewardship of the Chicago Youth Voices Network was elevated by grants of $60,000 from the Chicago Community Trust and $35,000 from the Rappaport Foundation to carry out a citywide project, NUF SAID, to survey, evaluate and report on the challenges faced by Chicago teens.
The project, which kicked off in January 2010, convened youth from eight CYVN youth organizations and provided training on creating polls, using social media to disseminate surveys and group reporting. More than 850 local youth responded to online polls on issues such as crime and violence, health, education, employment and the environment. Working together toward specific goals has further galvanized CYVN leadership and the benefits of this collaboration, said NUF SAID project coordinator Tom Bailey. “NUF SAID created space and time for cross-pollination among program staff and youth, to a degree that was not really possible before.” For instance, NUF SAID has brought together a group of about 75 CYVN youth and their adult coordinators four times during the first six months of the project. During each convening, youth and adults from various organizations worked together to help plan, shape and complete the project objectives. “This kind of collective authorship has brought the entire sector closer together,” Bailey said.
Partnering with Local Universities
Colleges and universities play a key role in convening journalism advisers, providing resources (technology and meeting space) and connecting with students on media production opportunities.
In Chicago, the journalism, media and communications programs at Northwestern, Loyola, DePaul and Roosevelt universities and Columbia College expanded their rich training programs to include teens in the communities they serve. Roosevelt University, in collaboration with the Scholastic Press Association of Chicago, organizes an annual High School Media Awards, which includes multimedia workshops for students and an adviser track for journalism students. More than 300 students and dozens of teachers participate each year in the spring event.
In Los Angeles, where McCormick has made selective investments in pilot youth journalism projects, the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California and the California State University school system are key players in convening and seeding needed journalistic collaborations among educators, community media organizations and mainstream media to ensure that scholastic journalism continues to have a place in public education in face of budget cuts. USC began offering a course in Teaching Journalism to High School Students, building off of a successful college journalism students/high school student mentorship modeled after its Intersections: The South L.A. Reporting Project.
Several of our YMLC partners are also working with the City Colleges of Los Angeles to expand training and resource networks. “We can all shortcut our time and efforts by reinforcing each other’s programs,” says Steve O’Donoghue, director of the California Scholastic Journalism Initiative. The Los Angeles-based initiative provides journalism training and resources to high school journalism advisers by partnering with local journalism and media organizations and involving local college and universities in creating much-needed networks of support.
Contributing to News Literacy
The sheer overpowering and overwhelming 24/7 news cycle leaves a growing sector of the U.S. population unprepared to fully distinguish or appreciate the difference of approaches among professional journalists, information spinners and citizen voices. In addition, the fragmentation of available news sources and digital advances in disseminating information serve to further exacerbate this situation. Schools are challenged to keep up with this onslaught of information in an environment where young people primarily consume their news online. Journalism and news literacy programs can provide:
• A frame of reference to distinguish fact from fiction, opinion or propaganda.
• An understanding of the First Amendment, the role of a free, independent media and the importance of journalistic values.
• A curiosity to seek information and better understand communities, country and international affairs.
The Urban Media Foundation (UMF) is one example of an after-school program that is taking news literacy education head-on by infusing multimedia journalism courses with practical modules that emphasize important financial and life skills.
Located in South Los Angeles, the youth program is housed at the offices of Our Weekly—a weekly paper covering the communities of South Los Angeles. In addition to multimedia reporting and writing courses, youth have the opportunity to take classes such as “Financial Literacy: Making Money Work for You” and “Green Reporter,” which emphasize using media skills to research and communicate project findings.
Measuring and Evaluating Success
It is crucial to have a framework for evaluating the impact of youth media programs. At McCormick, we are taking steps to build a learning community of grantees, other funders and experts in the field to share best practices.
Groups such as the News Literacy Project (NLP) and Stony Brook University (SUNY)—both featured in YMR’s News Literacy issue in June 2010—are creating benchmarks for evaluating the effectiveness of news literacy curriculum and sharing successful frameworks with others in the field.
The News Literacy Project has developed comprehensive pre-and post-testing, student and teacher surveys customizable for middle school and high school levels. Teachers can adapt the quiz for the specific grade level and ability of their students. The concluding performance task is intended to assess both the lessons learned and students’ understanding of the material.
In addition, NLP local staff attends presentations by journalists as well as NLP classes led by teachers. The goal is to help NLP participants improve their performance, according to NLP Executive Director Alan Miller.
Stony Brook is also in the process of designing and testing a new assessment tool for news literacy courses at the collegiate level. The pilot test was administered to Stony Brook students in 2008 and 2009. According to Marcy McGinnis, associate dean of the School of Journalism, preliminary results suggest that News Literacy education has three effects: increased voter registration, short-term increase in news consumption and increased ability to identify flaws in news reports.
Next Steps
Since 2005, the McCormick Foundation Journalism Program has invested more than $7.5 million in youth media. Our projects grapple not only with journalistic standards, critical thinking and free expression, but also ethic issues, information quality and digital citizenship.
Our key priority is to give people, especially youth, the tools to appreciate the value of quality news coverage and to encourage them to consume and create credible information across all media and platforms. We will continue down the path of building an informed citizenry by investing in quality news content, protecting journalistic rights and educating people to better appreciated the importance of news literacy.

Spotlight on Youth Voice
Youth media festivals are golden opportunities to showcase the work of youth and engage local media and train teachers on the importance of journalism and youth voice.
Check out the exciting youth media showcases and conferences happening in:
Young Chicago Authors
2010 Youth Media Conference: Whose Body is it?
Dec 11, 2010
New York
Baruch College
High School News Literacy Summit
November 12, 2010
Los Angeles
Youth Media Los Angeles Collaborative/USC
Youth Media Showcase
December 4, 2010

Clark Bell is the McCormick Foundation’s Journalism Program Director. Clark, who joined the foundation in October 2005, oversees journalism grantmaking initiatives and shapes the program’s focus on critical issues facing the news media. Clark is a veteran reporter, columnist, editor, publisher and communications consultant. Prior to joining the McCormick Foundation, he was a managing director for American Healthcare Solutions, where he developed communications strategies for hospitals, medical foundations and technology firms.
Mark Hallett is a senior program officer in the journalism program of the McCormick Foundation. Mark joined the foundation in May 1995, and coordinates grantmaking in a number of areas, including youth journalism, free press, diversity in journalism, and First Amendment initiatives. He also has worked on conference and event planning, development of special initiatives, solicitation and review of proposals, project evaluation and foundation communications efforts. Prior to coming to McCormick, he was an editor at Safety + Health magazine, where he launched an international edition and researched, assigned and wrote stories on workplace safety and environmental issues. Mark has led workshops on nonprofit communications, internet-based research and Web site development, and has worked with several nonprofits to create their Web sites. He is an avid photographer and speaks fluent Spanish and Portuguese. He has traveled extensively and has lived in Mexico, Norway and Spain.
Janet Liao is a program officer in the journalism program of the McCormick Foundation. Janet, who joined the Foundation in May 2009, assists existing grantees with implementing and monitoring their projects and helps solicit and evaluate new journalism grant proposals. She guides grantmaking in a number of areas, including youth media, new media and journalism training, and works on conference development, program evaluation and developing new strategic initiatives. She joined the Foundation from Imagination Publishing, where she served as editor and project manager of customized media projects, including magazines, newsletters, advertorials, webcasts and online videos for Fortune 500 companies and associations.

About The McCormick Foundation Journalism Program
The McCormick Foundation believes there is nothing more critical to the vitality of a democracy than free, vigorous and diverse news media that provide citizens with information they need to make reasoned decisions. The Foundation’s Journalism Program invests in projects that enhance content, build news audiences and protect press freedoms. The McCormick Foundation, which honors the legacy of Robert R. McCormick, is one of the nation’s largest charities, with more than$1 billion in assets. Since 2005, the Foundation has invested more than $7.5 million in youth media programs since 2005.

Interview: Lin Ishihara, The W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation

About The W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation
The W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation concentrates its grantmaking in three program areas: early childhood development, education and youth development. It has an asset base of approximately $100 million and distributes $3.7 million in grants each year in Chicago, Boston, New York and the San Francisco Bay Area. The Foundation continues Mr. W. Clement Stone’s vision to change the world and make it a better place for this and future generations.
About Lin Ishihara
Lin Ishihara has been the Senior Program Officer at the Stone Foundation for four years. Prior to joining the Foundation, Lin worked in school settings and held leadership positions at several youth-focused organizations, including the Richmond District Neighborhood Center and San Francisco School Volunteers. She has served on numerous Boards and Advisory Councils including San Francisco Afterschool for All, Japanese Community Youth Council, San Francisco Beacon Initiative, and Northern California Grantmakers Family Philanthropy Exchange.
YMR: What has your experience been at The W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation with investing in youth media/youth development programs?
Lin Ishihara: Youth voice and broader social impact are the twin pillars of our youth development grantmaking. With this frame, we fund a number of youth organizing, youth-led social change and youth media programs. Stone is a small foundation; grants to fund direct services for youth would not go far. Youth media programs are a strategic investment because they build youth skills and have a larger impact.
Grantees like Youth Communication, Educational Video Center and Youth Radio exemplify how to work with youth to develop deeply resonant stories that influence public perspectives and policy maker decisions about issues important to young people. The Foundation also supports programs that build capacity within the field. Youth development organizations are mostly small, independent entities with thin infrastructure and small budgets; the work of groups like Community Network for Youth Development—which strengthens capacity around effective staff practices and program quality—is vital.
YMR: From your point of view, what does the funding landscape look like? What are investors interested in and what overall trends do you see?
Ishihara: There are two big issues. First, the funding pot has not grown since the shrinkage of 2008 and 2009. Many funders (Stone included) are making smaller grants and many are not considering new grantees. Every nonprofit requires a few new funders each year just to stay afloat. For most foundations, the overall budget picture for 2011 is not yet clear. It is likely to continue to be a precarious time for grant seekers.
Second, in this time of scarce resources, organizations must be able to show and convincingly talk about results. Youth media and youth development organizations are doing a better job of collecting data on the impact of their programs; for example, increased engagement, technical skills development, and improved communication skills.

There is growing pressure for all groups working with youth to demonstrate impact on student achievement. Despite this pressure, youth media and youth development organizations need to be careful not to get sucked into claiming academic outcomes if they are not providing services that directly address academics.

YMR: From your point of view, why aren’t funders interested in investing dollars in youth media?
Ishihara: There is a continuing mis-perception that youth media is simply putting a camera or microphone in young people’s hands and sending them off to capture a story. It may seem loose rather than rigorous. Funders may not understand the high level of skill building involved in youth media—technical, critical literacy, research and analysis. There is also a need for more funder education about youth media’s multiplier effect—that the impact of a youth’s work ripples out to peers, educators, parents and community.
YMR: Can you share some highlights from your 2006 meeting of Youth Development grantees that resulted in the report: Learning From The Field?
Ishihara: We believe it is important to listen to our grantees, to learn from their experiences so we are smarter about how to better support their work in ways beyond the grant. In 2006, we gathered our youth development grantees from across the country for a one-day session in San Francisco. Grantees talked about what they were struggling with, what they were learning, and what was next on their agenda. It was a terrific gathering of leaders doing exceptional work with young people.
The need for more support around capacity building was unquestionably the big issue of the day. Grantees said they wanted help with planning, marketing and infrastructure needs that never get funded. We also noted a real hunger for more opportunities to connect with and learn from peers.
As a result of the convening—and our trustees’ responsiveness to what grantees said they needed—in two short months we launched a new grants program, which we implemented for two years. Grantees could apply for up to $20K for capacity building—a small amount that made a big difference. These grants supported strategic planning, website development, fundraising, and documentation of curriculum that was largely on scraps of flip chart paper.
In 2009, we had to put these capacity building grants on pause because of the decrease in our budget and the decision to focus on general operating and program grants. We hope to re-start these grants when more funding is available.
YMR: What recommendations do you have for practitioners in the field who seek new investors and new stakeholders, outside those that already support youth development/youth media?
Ishihara: First, ask your current funders to open doors to other funders. Your current funders know your work and believe in it. They are terrific credibility builders with peers in philanthropy. Be specific about the kind of assistance you want; for example, you might ask: “Would you be wiling to email XYZ Foundation and introduce our organization?” Or, “Would you look over our prospectus and advise us how to strengthen it for a foundation audience?”
Second, look at funders that are supporting similar organizations. This provides a more concrete window into grantmaker priorities. Grant funding is about the intersection between the priorities of the funder and goals and activities of the grantseeker. If your program and the foundation priorities are not a close fit, I do not recommend wasting time on a proposal.
Third, there are few foundations that have youth media as an explicit funding category. Therefore, you need to widen the lens of your funder research to funders that support youth leadership, youth development, civic engagement, and the arts—areas that intersect with youth media.
Fourth, it is odd to say this to youth media organizations, but be ready to tell your story—your strategy, implementation and results—in a clear, compelling and concise manner. Attention is fleeting so you need to communicate with confidence, passion and command the facts. It is a plus if you can talk about what you are learning, revealing the questions you are asking, your level of analysis and how you are making adjustments to the program.

Interview: Susan Hayman Malone, Wide Angle Youth Media

About Wide Angle Youth Media
Wide Angle Youth Media is a nonprofit that provides Baltimore youth with media education to tell their own stories and become engaged in their communities. Through after school programs, community events, an annual Youth Media Festival, and youth-run television show, Wide Angle strives to make media make a difference. In 2009-2010 Wide Angle trained more than 500 youth in critical thinking, public speaking, and media production, sharing their stories and messages with more than 20,000 people in the Baltimore Metro area. Wide Angle works with youth ages 11-15 through their Baltimore Speaks Out! Program and youth ages 15-20 through their Mentoring Video Project and Youth Festival Committee Programs.
About Susan Hayman Malone
Susan is the executive director of Wide Angle Youth Media. Embarking on the agency’s second decade of groundbreaking youth media programming in Baltimore with a re-invigorated focus on youth voice, Malone intends to build new avenues for Wide Angle’s program and media distribution to regional and national audiences. Susan has been with Wide Angle since 2003; first, as the program manager, where she developed effective youth programming, assembled new financial funding networks, and managed the dynamic day-to-day activities of the growing organization. Malone graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art with a BFA in photography and has been working in the Baltimore art community for the past 13 years. Susan’s experience includes a mix of both private and public creative experience at organizations such as Mission Media, Photoworks, and the Baltimore Museum of Art. susan@wideanglemedia.org.
YMR: What new innovations has Wide Angle begun to increase investment in programs?
Susan Hayman Malone: Fee-for-service programming now accounts for 30% of our budget and 50% of those dollars support our core programs. Donor and corporate relationships are very important to us, and we work directly with individuals to invite them into our organization, to build a network of relationships between their friends, families, Wide Angle staff, and one another.
Building ongoing strong partnerships with public, private and other community stakeholders has also been instrumental to our program support. Over the year, we have built strong ties to our local government agencies including the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute, and Baltimore City Public Schools. Thanks to these unique relationships we are able to leverage dollars and program exposure to larger audiences.
YMR: What current, unique funding streams does Wide Angle have?
Malone: We have an individual donor that has been supporting Wide Angle Youth Media’s Mentoring Video Project (MVP), an advanced media production internship and youth development program for Baltimore City youth that takes place over the course of an academic year with off-site video production and field trips taking place throughout the city.
This particular donor has been an advocate and supporter of media reform. We first met with the donor at a round table to review opportunities for media distribution in Baltimore, which was funded in part by the Betty Lee & Dudley P. Diggs Memorial Fund of the Baltimore Community Foundation. Afterwards, we continued animated conversations about the role of media in the lives of young people, and brought the donor into our family to experience our work first hand. Since attending our screenings, visiting the workshops, speaking with our youth, this passionate donor made a five-year commitment to support a specific program MVP. As most organizations experience, multi-year funding is rare these days. Thanks to this type of support we were able to leverage funds from additional sources, providing a system for ongoing programmatic support.
YMR: What has your experience been in fund development for Wide Angle in the last year? What trends are you seeing?
Malone: We are seeing a trend where foundations are supporting nonprofits who engage in social enterprise efforts to bring dollars into the agency. To align our mission with this trend we have partnered with the school system to provide additional in-school and out-of- school programming as a fee–based program that we facilitate.
City funding for after-school programming is being reframed into out-of-school time, thus encouraging nonprofits to develop year-round programming to include summer opportunities and jobs for youth. This means that nonprofits must offer additional programming to maintain city-funding sources.
Lastly, we are seeing a slow movement where city agencies or foundations are supporting organizations that provide workforce development opportunities for young people, especially those who are associated with the Department of Juvenile Justice or in foster care services.
YMR: How might you convey to new funders that investing in youth media is a major return in investment?
Malone: As a youth media organization we are inherently enthusiastic about our work, but my job is to channel that passion into tangible opportunities for our donor(s) to connect with the young people we serve. By cultivating long-term relationships with funders they meet and discover the unique individuals you serve and together you will build a network of. The multi-year commitment is not for everyone, this type of relationship takes time, energy and commitment from both parties. But if you build this type of relationship you, the donor, and the youth, will experience a different type of philanthropy, a real return on everyone’s investment. In the end, the funder will see programs strengthen, they will witness stories that change communities, and they will observe students achieve life long success.
The key to youth media investment is the word “long-term.” For example, at Wide Angle young people join our Baltimore Speaks Out! Program at 11 years of age, and many stay with us through high school and beyond. When funders make multi-year commitments, they are able to witness individual growth, and see the impact their funding has on each unique participant.
The students in programs like ours do not just gain technical media skills. They grow into interesting, expressive and successful young people who emerge from the shadows of shyness and walk out onto a stage, confident in front of audiences in everyday life. They build workforce skills to prepare them for jobs and college; and, they grow into creative thinkers, encouraging their friends to contribute to raising youth voice in Baltimore. Such outcomes come from the overall health and wellbeing of our organization, the youth we serve, and from caring funders who make long-term commitments.
YMR: How do you pitch Wide Angle to a variety of different and new funders?
Malone: Understanding the priorities and goals of any new potential funding source is the most important first step, before determining if an income stream is right for you and your programming.

Maintaining diverse funding streams involves staying focused on our mission while exploring how new funding opportunities can support our overall goals and successfully build a sustainable funding base.

At Wide Angle Youth Media, first, we research development options to make sure a foundations’ goals align with our mission. Then, we build our case around the language in their focus/strategic area. For example, many funders in Baltimore prefer to focus on youth development or leadership skill building—key elements to our work.
Academic perspectives from our University partners are helpful when we prepare grant proposals for Humanities Based Funding, and business insights from local business leaders are helpful when pursuing corporation sponsorships or foundation support from a business. The ebb and flow of language is quite different if a donor prefers amplifying youth voice or advocating for a specific movement.
YMR: What are some next steps for Wide Angle?
Malone: As we embark on the next decade of youth media programming in Baltimore we will continue to focus on amplifying youth voice locally and nationally. We will accomplish this by building integrated youth media curricula for in and out of school time programs, and supporting young people as they build workforce skills so they can discover life long success.
Our charge is to find sustainable sources of income, develop business models for the social entrepreneurial work we offer, while staying true to our mission. Our biggest challenge is to grow and build a budget that both supports our staff in a comprehensive way so that our team can focus on the programs they operate, and, find equipment and software dollars to continue to bring new technologies to all the youth we serve.

Interview: Alyce Myatt, GFEM

About Grantmakers in Film + Electronic Media (GFEM)
GFEM is an association of grantmakers committed to advancing the field of media arts and public interest media funding. GFEM serves as a resource for grantmakers who fund media content, infrastructure, and policy, those who employ media to further their program goals as well as a collaborative network for funders who wish to learn more about media.
GFEM seeks to increase the amount and effectiveness of media funding by foundations and other funders and the use of media in grantmakers’ and grantees’ work. GFEM intends to raise the broader foundation community’s understanding of current media policy and trends, affecting funders’ work in the larger grantmaking community. Recently, GFEM created a database where youth media grantseekers can upload their projects and where funders interested in supporting projects can find initiatives to meet their funding criteria. Check out: www.media.gfem.org.
GFEM’s aim is to deepen the field of media funding by providing programs and services for colleague grantmakers. GFEM facilitates collaboration and idea sharing among media grantmakers and leaders in the field and works to increase the amount and quality of data available on trends in media funding. For more see: www.gfem.org/about and www.gfem.org/media_issues.
About Alyce Myatt
Alyce Myatt has served as executive director of GFEM since 2006. Prior to GFEM, she was a multimedia consultant providing analysis and strategic planning services for independent media organizations and the philanthropic community. In that capacity she has had a client base that included the Council on Foundations, the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture (NAMAC), the Women Donors Network, the Center for Digital Democracy, Free Speech TV, MediaWorks, OneWorld TV, Emerson College, TVE Brasil, the Heinz Endowments, and the Annie E. Casey and Skillman Foundations. Prior to her return to consulting, she was Vice President of Programming for the Public Broadcasting Service overseeing independent film, PBS Kids, and the Ready To Learn initiative. Alyce has been a program officer for media at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and president of her own consulting firm that provided program development services, strategic planning, and brand management to a variety of clients in television, radio, and for the Internet. Her production credits include the Smithsonian Institution, Nickelodeon, and the ABC News magazine “20/20.”
YMR: What is the Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media’s vantage point on the current funding landscape?
Alyce Myatt: We live in a media saturated environment. Media has the ability to influence. At GFEM, we believe that the philanthropic sector has a role to play in policy making. Because media is not being perceived by most of the sector as a primary issue of concern it is often not funded to the degree of other issue areas like health and human services and education. However, Funders can be more effective in solving the issues they prioritize by supporting and using media as a key strategy.
YMR: From your point of view, what does the funding landscape look like? What are investors interested in and what overall trends do you see?
Myatt: Recently, GFEM did a presentation with Joi Ito, head of Creative Commons, asking where he thought the most strategic areas to invest were. He said he thought there should be greater investment in young people, particularly in areas of conflict as an activity to move them away from more dangerous activities. Technology can be used for good or ill. If foundations more actively engaged youth in conflict areas (domestic or international) they would have an opportunity to spark innovation in young people.
For example, Ushahidi, a crowdsourcing web site that identified locations of conflict in Kenya, connected concerned individuals around the world. Within three years, the application has expanded and evolved to identify not only places of conflict, but where food, water and medical supplies were located during the Haiti devastation, areas where the oil spill was washing up on shore in the Gulf, and many other examples across Europe and Africa. This project/application began as a volunteer effort and is now supported by funders and governments investments.
The political climate, coupled with innovations in the media sector, has increased funders’ awareness of media; as a result, they are actively learning how to use and support it. Media runs the gamut—it includes everything from social issue documentaries and narrative films, to investing in new media/social media tools (such as applications for mobile phones).
YMR: Why or why aren’t funders interested in investing dollars in media?
Myatt: Some of the reasons that I hear from funders who are not funding media are primarily based on myths and assumptions—for example, it costs too much money to fund (“hundreds of thousands of dollars”), which is not true. Small investments are equally important. We recently spoke to a documentary filmmaker and her first investment was $500. That was enough to get her started.
It is important to note that even though anyone can go out to a BestBuy, purchase a Flip video camera and install Final Cut Pro on a laptop—that is not what we are talking about. Not everyone can tell a well-crafted story.

Media making is littered with failure. But to support those who are making an important, well-crafted story—one that can make significant change—is a critical opportunity for investors.

Funders cannot simply leave media to “other” funders to support, just because your area of focus is poverty or health. Media is a component that greatly adds to and advances the solutions to all issue areas.
Media is also extremely important when we try to address issues of marginalized communities such as women and communities of color. Workforce, pay and health disparities are just some issues that place these communities at a disadvantage.
Because of its power, the absence of women and people of color in the media is actually perpetuating stereotypes. Similarly, smart and engaged youth are absent in the media, which increases the social assumption that youth do not care or, even worse, that they are a threat. Commercial media picks up on these stereotypes, which permeate and causes tremendous damage. Gangsters, bitches and hos—these stereotypical and constructed images in the mainstream are frightening. Consequently, because of their perceived threatening power, they encourage disaffected youth to aspire to these archetypes.
YMR: What does the funding landscape look like, specific to Youth Media?
Myatt: A single major investor in the field—as we have had in the past—does not exist now. When I was a program officer at MacArthur back in 1999, we had a specific youth media initiative through our community-based media arts center. When MacArthur phased-out funding in this area, Open Society Institute picked up the mantel until 2005/2006.
Now, family foundations are supporting youth media in their localities. The NEA and local governments do what they can to support youth media. Many youth media organizations are partnering with one another for group funding. Collaborative efforts such as these are extremely useful while allowing each organization to maintain its’ individuality.
YMR: What are some key takeaways in the recent GFEM report “Funding Media, Strengthening Democracy: Grantmaking for the 21st Century”?
Myatt: We can make a substantive impact in the sector if we address three issues.
First, there is no way to calculate how many philanthropic dollars are going into media (or anything else, for that matter). All information needs to be readable by machines. Therefore, grants and grant reports should be in an open system and calculated in real time. We need to know how much money is going into media and how much is going into youth media in order to effectively identify gaps, overlaps and new opportunities.
Second, regardless of what one is funding, eventually, media is always involved. Media is a strategy and an important tool for all strategies and critical issue areas.
Third, grant making must become more collaborative. If we are serious about significant social change, we must be open and transparent within the sector and not take a propriety stand when funding a particular area.
Referring to Patricia Zimmermann’s book entitled States of Emergency: Documentaries, Wars, Democracies, multiple sectors are currently in states of emergency; in fact, extreme states of emergency. In terms of media, philanthropy should be ahead of the curve. Too often I hear funders talking about incorporating the uses of Twitter and Facebook when instead, they need to be involved in the next iteration of social networking tools. In this regard, Philanthropy is moving too slow.
YMR: What recommendations do you have for practitioners/educators in the field who seek investors?
Myatt: While it might be obvious to talk with funders who already support media, I would also recommend meeting with funders interested in supporting education, workforce development, community development, and other areas that an effective youth media program could strengthen.
The role that youth media can play in the overall education of a young person is key. Basic literacy skills—in addition to media and visual literacy—can be an assumption of youth media if it is structured well. All of our concerns about the education of youth can be addressed through a comprehensive, well-crafted youth media program that develops cognitive and socio-emotional skill sets.
Further, media skills are 21st century skills and require a proficiency in audio and video content for multiple-media platforms. Every company, agency, service organization—even shops, stores, and restaurants—typically have web sites that require content design and consistent maintenance. Media/communications is at the heart of the 21st century industry.
Media is so pervasive and kids are so well versed in media (mobile applications, social media, etc). It is the adults who are behind the curve. Adults need to better understand how to develop media applications that enhance the skill development of young people. Youth media is an important model that starts where young people are (rather than where they are not comfortable) where they can engage with tools that are important to their future and that of the next generation.

Interview: Rhonnel Sotelo, The Stuart Foundation

About The Stuart Foundation
The Stuart Foundation, located in San Francisco, Calif., is dedicated to the protection, education and development of children and youth and works to ensure that all children grow up in caring families, learn in vibrant and effective schools, and have opportunities to become productive members of their communities. The foundation focuses its investments in California and Washington.
The Foundation partners with selected organizations that:
• develop and disseminate innovative programs and practices
• contribute to effective public policy to improve conditions for children and youth
• support and develop the potential of young people
In turn, the Stuart Foundation dedicates time, money, expertise and advocacy to each partnership. Many of their partnerships are long-term, and some have spanned over a decade of successful collaboration.
About Rhonnel Sotelo
Rhonnel Sotelo oversees implementation of grantmaking strategy, directs the management of the foundation’s grants, and oversees all of the Foundation’s daily operations. Rhonnel also continues to direct the foundation’s initiatives for community schools and youth development.
Prior to joining the Stuart Foundation, his nearly two decades of experience included directing The San Francisco Foundation’s West Oakland Initiative and Multicultural Fellowship Program, and owning and operating Urban Works in Seattle. Trained as an urban planner, Rhonnel focused the firm’s community planning and design work to assist neighborhoods, nonprofits, and small towns on livable communities in the Pacific Northwest and California.
Rhonnel holds a Master of Arts in Urban Planning and a Bachelor of Arts in English, both from the University of California, Los Angeles. He is a member of The San Francisco Foundation’s Koshland Committee for Civic Unity, sits on the Advisory Board of the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s Youth Truth Project, and has served on several committees and task forces for the National Coalition for Community Schools. He lives in Oakland, Calif. with his wife, Chris, and their two daughters, Quin and Kate.
YMR: What has your experience been at The Stuart Foundation with investing in youth media / youth development programs?
Rhonnel Sotelo: It has been powerful and extremely influential in how we have shaped the Foundation’s overall strategy. Our board and staff have had the distinct honor of experiencing firsthand the transformative power of experiential and project-based learning, which has been most exemplified by our work in youth media.
In many ways, it has taught us the importance of having the principles of youth development present in lives of children and youth in their classrooms, home life, and communities. When you look at our schools and neighborhoods throughout the country, it is very clear that the engagement of young people precedes any conversation we have about their achievement. Youth development has a role to play in public education, neighborhood revitalization, and community health. These 21 “Promise Neighborhoods” that just received grants from the United States Department of Education need to make it a central piece of their planning efforts.
YMR: From your point of view, what does the funding landscape look like? What are investors interested in and what overall trends do you see?
Sotelo: For the better part of this decade, the Stuart Foundation has provided a great deal of support for the field of youth development. Since 2003, the Foundation has made more than 180 grants totaling nearly $15 million in support of youth media, college success, and experiential-learning opportunities.
Since the adoption of our strategic plan in2008, the Foundation has gradually decreased its funding to a select few organizations in youth development. We continue to fund in the field because we believe it has a great deal of knowledge to impart on our nation’s public education systems.
Youth development funders are changing course and now funding public education—a recent pendulum shift by the greater funding community.
YMR: From your point of view, why or why aren’t funders interested in investing dollars in youth media?
Sotelo: Results—that goes both ways. The most ardent youth development funders know and value the impact of youth-media programs—strong, caring relationship with adults and peers, pathways to career and life success, power of youth voice, more positive social norms, and meeting high expectations. They are comfortable with the type of impact youth media programs create and celebrate them.
Those who are more skeptical require more outcomes. They need to understand the contribution, or more unrealistically the attribution, of program service delivery on the youth they serve. Some might want results to impact education or community development that likely are one or two degrees of separation from program purposes. The youth-media field, as a whole, needs to strategically communicate its value and power on meeting the needs of young people.

FACT: Youth media has important institutional knowledge that has implications for other fields.
ACTION: Partner to share knowledge. Public education is one area that could benefit youth media partnerships.
FACT: Youth media has value and power to meet the needs of young people.
ACTION: Communicate this widely as a field and individually.
FACT: Youth media organizations tend to be self-centered.
ACTION: Encourage funders to support conventions, capacity building, networking, and research for the field as well as communicate the value of youth media with other grantmakers.

YMR: What recommendations do you have for practitioners/educators in the field who seek new investors and new stakeholders, outside those that already support youth development/youth media?
Sotelo: Owning your outcomes and results are key. This comes in multiple forms. It could be through rigorous program evaluation. It could be through quality strategic communications. It could be through strong articulation of mission, vision, and values by an organization’s board, staff, and students.
Continuing to seek partnerships, collaborations, and influence in other fields such as public education, health, foster care, and community development are also critical for youth development and youth-media organizations. The opportunity is there today to make in-roads through efforts such as community schools, choice neighborhoods, and promise neighborhood efforts.
For example, the Youth Speak! Collective, a digital media arts and multidiscipline youth development organization in Los Angeles, is a key organization in a community schools collaborative in the City’s Pacoima neighborhood. Youth Speak! Collective not only provides outstanding services to the most disengaged youth, its Executive Director plays a central role in the leadership of the collaborative.
Similarly, Reel Grrls in Seattle has done an amazing job of building and growing their organization by partnering with other nonprofits, local schools, and county agencies. Through these partnerships, they are able to provide real-world experiences and client projects for their students.
One final word of advice—utilize your existing funders for field-focused support beyond grant. Some of the ways funders can support these efforts are sponsoring convenings, research, and/or making introduction to other funders

Investing in Futures: The Need for Youth Media Funding

In 1996, I began a job as station manager for the City of Oakland’s government access channel. When interviewing for the job, I discovered that the entire staff had learned production through the Oakland Unified School District’s educational cable access channel. As student teens they learned how to script, light, shoot, direct, and edit after school. Equipped with analog and digital video production skills, they easily moved into government access channel positions, which required increased responsibility. Many remained in their communities and were looked up to as television professionals.
I recount this memory because it points out many underlying facts that are often overlooked when describing youth media programs. First, all of these students graduated high school; in fact, it was a requirement that they maintained passing grades and attended classes to work at the station. Most of them came from poor, single-parent households. Many of them had to contend with gang violence; at the time, Oakland had one of the highest gang-related murder rates in the country.
Despite these challenges, they, and many others who worked at that high school educational access channel, went on to skilled jobs or college. The program instilled life-skills needed for the workforce—stressing attendance, attire, and commitment—and more importantly, it allowed a group of students to conceptualize, create, and evaluate their own work. It imparted skills not measured in current “standards testing” (pushed by federal legislation like No Child Left Behind), yet it prepared them for 21st century digital age jobs.
According to a recent study from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the United States ranks 15th in reading literacy, 24th in math, and 21st in science, trailing most other industrialized nations). As a nation, we are losing the knowledge base required to function in the global economy. As we already know, most digital work is transnational and dependent upon telecommunications devices, from computers to mobile devices (cell phones, iPads, etc.).
Lacking basic reading, math, and science skills, American youth will find it increasingly difficult to compete in a global economy where critical thinking will become central to the ability to earn income. As the writer and filmmaker Douglas Rushkoff simply states, “If you are not a programmer [one in control of the means of production] then you are one of the programmed [one of the consumers]” (1). We must ensure that youth are actively engaging in media production. Both formal and informal programs need to be resourced to help this next generation become engaged citizens, creators, and employees.
Twenty-five years ago, media literacy took root nationally through formal and informal educational institutions. Today, although young people have technology at their fingertips and are able to create and share media with ease, often their works re-produce archetypes, mimicking commercial media and incorporating—without question—assumptions about gender, race, class and sexuality (e.g. yet another music video glorifying consumerism and objectifying women).

Young creators need to challenge themselves to create new visual and social constructs.

Funders often ignore the importance of investing in youth media and visual literacy. They might have children who are already digital natives. They have seen what their children can do—possibly, these children set up their parents’ email, Facebook or Twitter accounts. But this does not mean that these youth are media or visual literate, which youth media programs and curricula provide. Making the case that simply knowing how to operate technology is completely different from being aware how technology works and influences. That is one of the challenges in our digital world.
Unfortunately, media education—which is so central to the current generation’s knowledge and adequate navigation in a media and consumer-driven landscape—is not a core curriculum in K-12 education. The U.S. Department of Education and private foundations are overwhelmingly reluctant to take up the charge.
As a filmmaker, arts administrator, and observer of our culture, I find myself asking: Why would anyone with knowledge of the 21st century workforce and its need for critical thinking not put media education at the forefront of educational strategy?
Having devoted the majority of my life in the service of creative production that challenged the status quo—be it in form or content (a 60’s debate)—I believe we have the responsibility as adult practitioners to carry forward alternative, independent media arts legacies so that subsequent generations gain the ability to develop their own voices, perspectives, and issues in order to engage the larger culture through media.
Here are a few ways I believe that youth media education should be expanded and supported:
Youth media must be part of core curriculum in grades K-12. This requires teaching how to make media as well as linking production with the important component of “reading” media: How do you understand the biases and assumptions of the media that you watch? This literacy is no different from the literacy of learning how to write (to become active, a producer) and learning how to read (to develop comprehension/critical thinking/evaluation skills). National standards need to be developed, adequate technology must be provided, and teacher certification requirements in the media arts need to be created at the university level.
Existing informal youth media programs, in media arts organizations, community centers, after-school programs, need to be fully funded to provide programs and services to more young people and to provide livable wages and professional development training for youth media practitioners. This latter must include reflection time for practitioners about their work. Additionally, evaluation tools based on best practices need to be developed so that practitioners working in youth media can measure student learning and outcomes. Evaluation must strive for program improvement and advance the field, not simply “track impact” for the sake of reporting to a funder.
Web-based clearing houses of information are needed to track curricula, evaluation toolkits, best practices, and social media exchanges so that practitioners, worldwide, can learn from each other. Such professional peer networks become value-research platforms for developing the needs outlined two suggestions above. This could be as simple as the Evaluation Toolkit currently available on NAMAC’s Youth Media Archive that provides information on youth media evaluators, methodologies, instruments, and final reports.
Link youth media to new models, new technology and new approaches. For example, in teacher or practitioner training, why not model the best practices of software developers, who use team approaches with short-term goals and horizons, along with continual evaluation during development? Because more complex learning modules need to be developed to respond quickly to new technologies, we must experiment—and be prepared, at times, to fail. When media literacy was the talk at the 1985 NAMAC Conference, precious few organizations had computers. Now more apps for mobile devices currently exist than could be used in a lifetime, and they continue to be created at breakneck speed. The next innovation is around the corner.

Perhaps one of the greatest services youth media programs provide is to help students/clients become content-creators, no matter what new platform emerges to carry their messages.

Let’s face it, this is not going to be cheap. It will require large sums of money for proper capitalization—long-term, cross-sector commitments from government, foundations, and corporations. It will also require innovative approaches. We need a major singular goal, similar to the Kennedy administration’s vision to go to the moon that required not just capital investment, like this one will be, but also a national rallying point with vision. It is time to think big, to be mindful, and to be driven.
Jack Walsh is executive director of the National Alliance for Media Arts + Culture (NAMAC) and a filmmaker. NAMAC’s work with youth media included a three-year initiative that developed toolkits for practitioners, invested in youth media leadership development, and created a longitudinal mapping study of the youth media landscape that surveyed youth media providers in 2003, 2005 and 2008 and is available at www.namac.org/youth-media-archive.
(1) Douglas Rushkoff’s presentation “Program or Be Programmed: 10 Commands for a Digital Age” at SXSX Interactive Conference, March 12, 2010.

Interview: danah boyd

danah boyd is a social scientist at Microsoft Research and a research associate at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. In her research, she examines everyday practices involving social media, with specific attention to youth participation. Lately, she has been focused on issues related to privacy, publicity, and visibility. She recently co-authored Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media. She is currently co-directing the Youth and Media Policy Working Group, funded by the MacArthur Foundation. She blogs at www.zephoria.org/thoughts and tweets at @zephoria.
This interview was conducted by Christine Newkirk, the Managing Editor of Youth Media Reporter at the Academy for Educational Development. Christine has worked for several years in the youth media field as a scholar, practitioner, social science researcher and evaluator in New York, Costa Rica and Brazil. She is currently completing her Master’s thesis in International Affairs at the New School University in New York City. Newkirk’s research interests include youth activism, new media technologies, and grassroots social and economic development.
YMR: Some people say that changes in technology inevitably result in changes in society, while others say that society continues as it will and new technologies are used as they make sense within existing social relations. What does your research on teens and new media technologies add to this debate?
danah boyd: As always, reality is somewhere between two extremes: “technology is radically changing and the lives of young people are turning upside down” versus “nothing is changing and the lives of teenagers continue as they always have.” I’ve found that teens are primarily engaged in practices that are common for their life stage but that technology has inflected those practices in new ways. For example, in using major social media, teens have to make sense of communicating in a persistent, searchable environment while balancing new tensions between what constitutes public and private.
YMR: Share with us some highlights from what you learned about American teen culture through your ethnographic research with teens.
boyd: The concept of ‘teenager’ is a social construction. The term was devised in the 1940s to address a marketable demographic. In contemporary American society, teens are primarily living at home and are functionally dependent. Teens make up an important part of American society, but they are also, in many ways, excluded from adult society and always have been. One prevailing attitude toward teens persists in this decade and is clearly reflected in the law: teens are perceived as vulnerable and therefore protected from interactions with adults, are perceived as dangerous and therefore kept out of the public sphere through curfew laws and penal laws. Teens are taught to be wary of adults that they don’t know. And while we want them to be politically engaged, we don’t invite them to be part of adult society in any meaningful way.
While most adults see formalized education as the ‘job’ of teenagers, most teenagers are focused on figuring out how the social world works. They want to understand how people relate to one another while making sense of social hierarchies. They’re trying to figure out their sexuality and their social standing at the same time. This sets the stage for their Internet engagement. For most teenagers, the Internet provides an opportunity for them to socialize with their peers in light of their limited mobility and access to public spaces. The Internet is to today’s teens what the mall was to my generation. It’s a place for flirting, gossiping, and hanging out.
YMR: If you found that teens are using social networking mostly to engage with people they know offline, what are the implications for youth media practitioners?
danah: The Internet used to be primarily about engaging with strangers who shared your interests. Public online spaces were “interest driven.” Today, they’re “friendship driven.” Teens turn to social network sites to engage with the people that they already know rather than meeting people online. As I explained in a talk I gave at State College in April 2009:

I use the term”social network site” instead of “social networking site.” This is intentional. While you might be off using Facebook and MySpace to network with business colleagues, high school mates, and the attractive individual that you think you might want to date, most teens are not. They’re focused on their friends. They use these sites to connect to people that they already know from school, church, activities, summer camp, etc.

Teens’ engagement with social network sites reflects all of the challenging social dynamics that exist in everyday life. This is why it’s complicated to overlay other relationships on top of the pre-existing networks. For example, many teachers want to use social network sites for classroom purposes, but kids who are working on a project together at school aren’t necessarily friends and forcing kids to collapse their social worlds and their school worlds can have serious social consequences. Educators need to identify exclusionary dynamics in the room and keep in mind that these will probably play out online.
It’s one thing to be networked personally and another to show all of your social connections to all of your friends. This may have particular implications for programs aimed at bridging young people from very different backgrounds. For example, I’ve examined strategies to bring individuals from separate and conflicting gangs together. I’ve seen that in spite of the affordances of technology, creating bonds between individuals from groups as different as these relies on the kind of time and social interaction that has always been necessary for building trust between strangers. Teenagers are particularly sensitive about what they reveal to their social world, and this is as true in digital spaces as it is in the real world.
Youth media practitioners might want to consider allowing participants to create alternate Facebook accounts help ease this tension. Once there are signs of acceptance, the two accounts might become fused into one. The key to creating thriving online communities that support youth media endeavors is allowing time and space for trust formation, and creating an audience in ways that feel natural to teens.
Some great examples include the use of social network sites to maintain connections made through extended social/academic activities, including the Model UN and summer camps and church youth groups. Social network sites function as an infrastructure for young people to continue ties with one another.
YMR: In your research, you identified discrepancies between adults’ expectations of what teens know about new media technologies and what teens actually know about these technologies. Can you talk about these findings and their implications for educators?
boyd: In order to address the gap between what “digital natives” supposedly know and what they really know, I believe that the best approach is bringing a dialogue about new media technologies into the classroom. While young people use new media technologies every day, they do not have a comprehensive understanding of how the information is negotiated, produced and reproduced.
Wikipedia is a fantastic example of a new media technology learning tool through which we can directly address some of these discrepancies. Young people know three things about Wikipedia: 1) it’s mostly accurate; 2) it’s easy to get to and covers most relevant topics; 3) it’s banned by all teachers. Given this, students use Wikipedia heavily while trying to obscure the fact that they’re using it so as to not upset their teachers. Students don’t have the critical skills to understand how to analyze Wikipedia; and, teachers all too often black and white understanding of the site does not help.
Wikipedia is a phenomenal source of information, precisely because it’s open. While all publications have their biases, Wikipedia’s are publicly exposed. As such, it’s possible to actually understand how the information was constructed, by whom, and with what biases. The particularly instructive parts of Wikipedia are not the content pages, but rather the history and discussion pages. Through looking at these pages, young people can develop a better understanding of how knowledge is produced. Bringing Wikipedia into the classroom can serve as an entrée into a conversation about the production of knowledge, the introduction of bias and control for bias, and the reproduction of information through new media technologies.
Additionally, there is space for conversation about authorship and intellectual property—a concept that has quite different meanings “on-the-ground” among young people and in law. For example, Andres Monroy-Hernandez, a PhD student at MIT Media Lab, has found that young kids often emphasize who shared content over who produced it. It’s not that young people do not recognize or value artists, but that they also value the individuals that they know who shared information with them and they want to give them credit too. This finding has broad implications for teaching not only media and news literacy, but also for bringing young people into the fold with respect to regulations around plagiarism in high schools and colleges.

Book Review: Drop That Knowledge

Youth media has been transforming the lives of young people for decades. Like an oasis among the often-oppressive urban, rural and suburban American landscapes, where privilege and power often go unquestioned and unchallenged, at youth media programs teens experience voice, value, visibility, peer and adult collaboration, integration with the local community (and on-line communities), and recognition in creating collaborative, thoughtful media (video, radio, web, print, photography to name a few).
Youth media is not just about handing young people cameras and having them post videos onto YouTube nor is it simply about getting on the airwaves to do a “youth” feature. Youth media is a strategy that uses media technology to amplify the critical analysis, expression and voice of young people. The relationship between adults and youth at these organizations model what it means to be a responsible and proactive citizen in contemporary society. In these small environments, young people are encouraged to work across difference and understand both the power of one’s ability to create while building a solid foundation and deep analysis of the media, power, and the dynamics of race, class and sex in society.
Whenever I have visited a youth media organization—there are approximately over one hundred throughout the U.S.—I always wonder what my life would have been like had I the youth media experience as a teenager. As an educator, I intend to replicate some of the core principles and methodologies I have gleaned from working in the field. But how can the world of educators who have not had the pleasure to work in the field—or who do not even know of its existence—become informed?
The recently published book Drop That Knowledge: Youth radio stories helps educators, grassroots organizers, academics and the general public learn from the insights and lessons learned by a pillar organization in the youth media field—Youth Radio in Oakland, CA.
I had the pleasure of visiting Youth Radio twice. The first time, when construction of their new head quarters was almost complete and Nishat Kurwa was kind enough to give me a tour of what has become a haven for youth in Oakland. The second was in the past year, where I experienced the thriving world of the organization’s teen radio producers and adult allies in action.
The co-authors of Drop That Knowledge, Vivian Chavez and Elisabeth Soep, are seasoned youth media educators and academics. Vivian Chavez, is featured as one of four personal stories captured in “Alumni Lives”—the final chapter in the book—which gives the reader a clear sense of youth today and how youth media responds to their needs and concerns. She explains:

Being defiant was a necessary device, an antidote to guard against the adults in charge of my education and sometimes obstacles to it… I needed an outlet. Through youth media training, I gained effective communication skills… to unlearn ideas that did not serve me… Common among alums were a desire to be heard, for community, interdependence, connection… something to belong to,…add meaning to our lives and transcend individual differences (p. 141).

Chavez is now an Associate Professor of Health Education at San Francisco State University.
Soep’s role throughout the book is clear. Her work guiding students to unbury the “lede”, interview participants and edit their pieces starts with an important questions to examine and stretch perspective: “How do you know? How do you know what you know?” Soep’s honest examination of her own role as an adult—when to step in and when to step out—helps the reader navigate and think about important parameters of space and dialogue that working with youth requires.
Lissa Soep joined Youth Radio as a PhD student conducting research at Stanford and has been working at Youth Radio ever since, teaching at Berkeley as well as San Francisco State. She is currently the Research Director and Senior Producer at Youth Radio. Both Soep & Chavez have multiple books and articles published under their belts.
Together, Soep & Chavez give the reader access to multiple case studies in their experience at Youth Radio, which is community-supported, has roots in public media, and offers training in radio, music, and video—and even provides a health component including food, martial arts, and yoga. The mandate of Youth Radio is described in an epilogue written by Youth Radio’s founder, Ellin O’Leary: “to prepare young people to maintain and reinvent journalism’s best principles, so they can deploy today’s new tools and platforms to speak truth to power, to cultivate credible sources, to tell the story no one else is telling, and to create art and report on emerging trends and cultures.” O’Leary asserts: “I believe that young people trained in youth media will continue to bring about change—by revealing both the connections and the gaps between what happens in Oakland and what happens in Washington, and places in between and beyond (p. 177).”
Drop That Knowledge adds to the growing body of research in youth media. The book begins with introducing key theoretical terms such as converged literacy and collegial pedagogy, situating youth media pedagogy in the ethos of progressive academia and higher education. The authors then introduce some solid takeaways and tips for practitioners and educators on the ground, including the phases of production, nine identified factors that promote youth engagement, interview tips, and specific elements of what they coin “the feature” and “the frame.” Engaging stories, challenges, lessons learned and activities fill up the near 200 pages of this volume. Drop That Knowledge wraps up with three key chapters: Alumni Lives, an epilogue by Youth Radio founder Ellin O’Leary, and specific training exemplars from Youth Radio curriculum. To review Lissa’s own chapter layout and overview, go to her blog here.
Drop That Knowledge emphasizes an important element to youth media and youth radio: youth-adult collaborations. Despite new technology and the assumption that young people are experts in navigating new media, Soep & Chavez show the reader that youth media projects are mediated processes that guide and mentor young people to connect their experiences to advocate for change in a manner and voice that can reach (and resonate with) a large audience—for Youth Radio, that means National Public Radio (NPR) with a listenership in the millions.
As the editor-in-chief of Youth Media Reporter, a professional multi-media journal that documents the best practices of the youth media field, the questions I ask of a chapter or book that needs to be forthcoming, is: what qualities, values or principles make a youth media educator? After meeting and publishing about three hundred educators, all of whom come from many different ethnic and educational backgrounds who enter youth media’s world all too often by happenstance, I want to know what a youth media educator is as defined by the field. What does a youth media educator look like? With the possibility of youth media exponentially growing—as it its progressive power that lays in its strategic uses of technology, mediated process, and access to large audiences is realized—providing a concise depiction of what it takes to be a youth media educator is critical to sustaining this important work. Perhaps an extension of the final chapter of “Alumni Lives,” as modeled in Drop That Knowledge could lead Soep & Chavez to collaborate once again to capture such a blueprint from the voice sof young people and their adult allies.
As an educator, I would have also liked to see more gender analysis and more discussion during sections that bring up conversations on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) issues throughout the book. Increasingly, youth media programs are providing important safe spaces for exploring gender stereotypes and identities that attract queer teens and feminist praxis. Currently, there are several girl-specific youth media organizations—TVbyGirls (Twin Cities), Reel Girls (Seattle, WA), Girls Write Now (New York, NY), Teen Voices (Boston, MA), Khmer Girls in Action (Long Beach, CA), and the 15-25 Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls to name a few—and LGBTQ youth media programs—particularly provided at Reel Girls (Reel Queer), REACH LA (Los Angeles, LA), BeyondMedia Education (Chicago, IL), and Global Action Project’s Supafriends (New York, NY)—who would benefit from such insight and pedagogy.
Drop That Knowledge is a great launching point for educators to learn more about the youth media experience, sharing perspectives and constructing opportunities while guiding the generation of powerful stories to affect social change. That youth media affords any young person with a platform to discuss oppression and experiment with crafty, media innovation is reason to learn the art of youth media, starting with Drop That Knowledge.
Ingrid Hu Dahl is the editor-in-chief of Youth Media Reporter and a program officer of youth media at the Academy for Educational Development. Dahl is an adjunct professor, currently teaching Imagery & Culture at Rutgers-Newark. She holds an M.A. in Women’s & Gender Studies from Rutgers and lectures nationally and internationally on youth media/media literacy, identity, LGBTQ issues, women’s leadership and social change. She is a founding member of the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls in Brooklyn, NY and in the band, Rad Pony.

Information Quality, Youth, and Media: A Research Update

The Internet has changed the ways in which information, knowledge, and entertainment is created, distributed, accessed, used and re-used (see Benkler, 2006). These shifts have not only led to an unprecedented amount of online information, but have also changed the information ecosystem. The limited number of standards for quality control and evaluation, the convergence of media and the shifts in context are complicating features of the new environment that make quality judgments for youth more challenging and respective evaluation skills more important (Flanagin & Metzger, 2008, pp. 12-14; Hargittai, 2008).
Within the Berkman Center for Internet & Society’s Youth and Media Policy Working Group Initiative—led by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser together with danah boyd, and generously supported by a MacArthur Foundation grant—we were inspired to find a new approach to these issues by three observations. First, while advocates of media education sometimes take for granted the ability to find information online (e.g., Buckingham, 2003, p. 77), as phrased recently in Youth Media Reporter, “without the skill to search and navigate mass information mindfully and effectively, it is increasingly difficult to locate reliable sources necessary to fulfill civic roles and life-long learning needs” (Cheney, 2010).
Second, while we as adults have not necessarily figured out ideal ways to navigate this new ecosystem either, the concepts by which we have been approaching evaluation may not be ideal to apply to youth. For example, Miriam Metzger, in her and Andrew Flanagin’s recent landmark study of Kids and Credibility (2010), found during early phases of study design that youth younger than 11 years of age were not able to grasp the concept of credibility well enough to involve in the study (Metzter, April 2010, private communication).
Third, and perhaps most interestingly, among youth there is a culture of content creation. While very few youth are creating sophisticated remix videos or writing fanfiction, even acts as simple as posting to friends’ walls on social networking sites are acts of writing and creation. Furthermore, when youth share links with one another, they are effectively identifying information as valuable in some way (interesting, useful, entertaining, etc.) and disseminating it. We hypothesize that this culture of youth content creation is likely to have an impact on the ability of youth to navigate the media ecology, and that information literacy might be able to draw on this culture. However, such possible links are rarely considered on a strategic level.
Assessing Information: A (New) Challenge for Youth
With these three observations in mind, the Youth and Media Policy Working Group Initiative has embarked on a comprehensive effort to compile background research and conduct original research as necessary, and then to use this research to develop educational programs and policy recommendations. We are nearly complete with the first stage, a comprehensive literature review examining the range of research related to credibility and information quality concerns. In addition, it explores corresponding youth practices of information seeking, consumption, application, creation, and dissemination. We have drawn on literature from the areas of library and information science, education, anthropology and ethnography, and psychology.
The main goal of the literature review is to explore the three observations introduced above. Two additional goals emerged in the process of conducting research. When we realized that there was a large difference between looking at issues through the perspective of youth and looking at issues through an adults perspective (Palfrey/Gasser, pp. 155-183), another goal became to organize such differences in perspectives. For example, when we seek to explore the challenges faced by youth, it is very different to ask, “what are young users’ goals and what challenges do they face in trying to achieve them?”, and to ask,” what objectives do we was parents, educators, etc. want youth to strive for that they currently do not, and how do we teach such objectives to them?”. It is important for us to consider both meanings, to make sure information literacy programs are relevant for youth, and do not aim only to accomplish the objectives of adults. Another goal of the literature review, also emerging from the literature, is to understand how the challenges that youth face are modulated by variables such as immersion in digital media, access (the “digital divide”), and cognitive development.
In order to achieve our goals, the literature review is not just an organization of existing literature and research, but an attempt to go beyond the terms in which the existing literature understands itself and build a new, comprehensive framework.
A New Framework: Information Quality
A major conceptual contribution of the literature review is to propose a framework of “Information Quality.” Contrary to what the term might suggest, by this we do not suggest that information (as “meaning”) has some intrinsic, objective quality we can assess (nor do we mean quality in the sense it is used in the juxtaposition of quality vs. quantity). Building upon a tradition established by Martin Eppler (2003) and others, our use of “quality” is relativistic. That is, quality is largely determined by the individual, so the exact same article or website may be “high quality” for one person but “low quality” for another, depending on user-based variables (e.g. prior knowledge about the topic area) and contextual factors (e.g. available time-frame for processing the information).
There are two central advantages of adopting such a framework. The first is that this framework of “Information Quality” shifts from a product-centered to a process-centered approach. The quality of information depends not just on the relationship of an information object to an individual, but also on how that information object is situated with respect to accessibility, convenience, speed, and relevance.
Already, credibility researchers have begun to modify the concept of credibility, for example by moving away from an “authority-based approach to credibility” to a “reliability approach” (Lankes, 2008, p. 106). But at their core, concepts such as “credibility,” “trust,” “authority,” and even “reliability” are proxies for truth, attempts to find a shorthand for assessing the truth of claims for which the media consumer has no firsthand experiential knowledge. Information Quality attempts to move away from an implicit correspondence theory of truth to a relativistic framework by defining the value (quality) of information by its contextual relationship to individuals, and not by its ability to be anchored to an external objective reality. Of course, this does not preclude analysis according to concepts such as those listed above: information that does not have consistency with experienced reality will be of lower quality. Quality is constrained by nature, but not uniquely determined by it and hence is not a stand-in for it.
The second advantage of this framework is that it has the potential to span both the descriptive and the prescriptive. An implicit tension between social science research (especially ethnography) and the field of education is that the former seeks to describe the behavior of youth in their own terms, whereas a central assumption of the latter is that youth habits and cognition need to be changed and developed.
To make this span between description and prescription more explicit, we introduce three “conceptions” of information quality: an ethnographic conception, an adult-normative conception, and a theoretical conception. The ethnographic conception is the most reflexive: quality is defined purely behaviorally, such that the highest quality information is the information chosen over other information. For a youth rushing to complete a school assignment about which she is indifferent, this may mean that quality criteria of “convenient” far outweighs what we (or even the student) might interpret as “relevant” or “consistent.”
The adult-normative conception is the application of adult criteria and standards to children. We use this conception of information quality mainly to classify hybrid literature that is partially social science in its study of youth behavior, but that interprets findings in non-ethnographic terms. Such literature employs concepts like credibility/reliability/authority, taking them to be well-defined even if student-subjects who are the topic of study do not use such concepts (e.g., see Eastin, 2008, pp. 37-38). Neither fully descriptive, nor solely prescriptive, such literature is important in measuring the behavior of youth against prescriptive constructs.
The third conception of quality, the theoretical conception, is a prescriptive formulation of information quality. This is how people ought to think about information quality. While criteria such as “convenience” and “consistency” will still be a part of overall quality, how such concepts are determined and weighed relative to one another will be different under a theoretical conception than under an ethnographic conception. Developing and instilling such refined standards of information quality, then, becomes the task of information literacy.
Opportunities from Content Creation
As discussed before, this literature review is the first step in a comprehensive process. The literature review in itself is not an educational program, or policy recommendations, and thus will not be directly useful for the day-to-day work of those engaged in teaching literacy in media, news and information. However, we can take some preliminary results and look beyond the literature review to some possible next steps.
Of particular interest to educators might be our explorations of how important learning opportunities for information literacy can come out of activities like the creation of profiles and communication with peers on social networking sites, self-expression through online journals, the sharing of media via popular platforms such as YouTube, and the writing of fanfiction. One opportunity comes through using such content creation for engagement. For example, another Berkman Center initiative has already developed a copyright curriculum that uses cases of “remixed” media as a way to introduce and begin a dialogue about issues such as copyright, ownership, source, and media control. This attempts to foster the understanding of creative rights and their limitations and link the phenomenon to the (implicit) quality criteria youth have about the media they produce.
Another example might be bringing remixing directly into classroom activities, similar to how creating collages from print media is sometimes used as a classroom activity. But unlike a collage (which most students would not do outside the classroom), the outcome would not just be to involve kids in media analysis with a “fun” activity; we would seek, with such an activity, to break down the barrier between personal and academic contexts. David Buckingham (2003, p. 112) describes “[repeatedly encountering] a high degree of cynicism about advertising among children at around this age [7 or 8]…” such that his attempts to teach kids to “see through” ads “can easily result in a situation which is all too familiar in media education: where the teacher appears to be trying to teach students things which they believe they already know.” He argues that media education must relate to students’ “own experience and identities” (p. 117). Bringing into the classroom media creation activities that youth do in their personal lives would, in addition to bringing in a range of potentially sophisticated analytical and creative skills youth already have, give a chance of breaking down contexts.
Recognizing that there is a vast range of content creation among youth (ranging from simple posts on friends’ walls, to blogging or vlogging, to full-out video remixing), and that many youth do not have the sophisticated skills we would seek to draw on for academic contexts, another opportunity the Youth and Media Policy Working Group Initiative is exploring is to establish a “Youth and Media Lab.” Such a lab could organize sessions to encourage tacit transfer of skills among youth peers—recognizing that while tacit knowledge between youth peers transfer abounds on the Internet, many youth not participating would still benefit from more organized encouragement. The environment of such a lab would also allow us to perform ethnographic studies of youth content creation to more effectively use it for classroom activities.
Next Steps
As a background to developing specific programs and proposals, we believe that it is an important task to organize social science research traditions. If we can coordinate not only sometimes disparate academic communities, but also establish a continuous dialogue between academics, education, policy, and law, we believe it will lead to better research, better education, and better policy and law.
The completed literature review will be publicly available through the MacArthur Foundation and the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) later this year. We hope that the insights we present in our literature review will help not only us but others as well to gain a more sophisticated understanding of the new information ecology, to help us as we move forward with our task of ensuring the health of our democracy by bolstering the skill set of the next generation of information consumers—and producers.
Urs Gasser is Executive Director at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. His research and teaching focus on information law and policy and the interaction between law and innovation. Current research projects—several of them in collaboration with leading research institutions in the U.S., Europe, and Asia—explore policy and educational challenges for young Internet users, the regulation of digital media and technology (with emphasis on IP law), ICT interoperability, the institutional settings for fostering entrepreneurship, and the law’s impact on innovation and risk in the ICT space. He has published and edited, respectively, seven books and has written over 60 articles in books, law reviews, and professional journals. Together with John Palfrey, he is the author of “Born Digital: Understanding the first generation of digital natives” (Basic Books, 2008). Previously, he served as the Faculty Director the Research Center for Information Law at the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland), where he was an Associate Professor of Law.
Sandra Cortesi is a Project Fellow at the Berkman Center, responsible for coordinating research and educational initiatives. In addition to work on information quality and media literacy in the Youth and Media Project, she has worked on an exploratory study entitled “Working Towards a Deeper Understanding of Digital Safety for Children and Young People in Developing Nations,” and has helped develop curricula for schools. She has also been working for the Research Center for Information Law at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. Sandra has a Masters in Psychology, with a specialization in Neuro-Psychology and Human-Computer Interaction, from the University of Basel.
Momin Malik is a research assistant for the Youth and Media Project. In addition to working on information quality and media literacy, he participates in carrying out behavioral studies. Momin has a BA from Harvard, where he studied the History of Science with a focus on mathematics.
Ashley Lee is a research assistant for the Youth and Media Project. She joined the project to pursue her research interest in online youth and social media. Ashley recently graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she focused her studies on designing and evaluating interactive networked environments and computer games for learning. Ashley also holds a BS in computer science from Stanford University and has worked in software development at Oracle and Microsoft Research.

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