Letter from the Guest Editor

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

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

Youth Media Reporter is managed by the Academy for Educational Development

Letter from the Guest Editor: Dean Miller

Letter from the Guest Editor | Youth Media Reporter (Volume 4: Issue 3)
You don’t have a movement until you have joiners. 2010 may well be remembered as the year news literacy’s joiners began to rapidly outnumber—and outrank—its founders.
As one would expect, a movement dedicated to free inquiry and free expression is itself defined by its diversity. So, while the Stony Brook Model has provided root stock for university news literacy programs across the country, what this issue of Youth Media Reporter seeks to explore is the wide variety of forms that news literacy has already taken, just five years after its birth in a classroom on the North Shore of Long Island.
In this issue, we asked writers from a variety of backgrounds—high school teachers, radio journalists, youth media practitioners, university professors and instructors and NGOs—to try to define what news literacy is—and is not—even as we take time to explore what it is becoming.
What comes through is this: news literacy is not a new name for media literacy, the useful scrutiny of the impacts of all things written, seen and heard. What also became clear is that news literacy is not merely a new name for civics, despite the importance of news literacy in students’ preparation for their civic lives.
News literacy teaches students how to use critical thinking in their search for reliable information, usually through journalism, but increasingly, youth media programs. What’s exciting is preliminary data that show news literacy education has powerful effects on youth development, increasing civic engagement and attention to news about the world outside schools.
As the guest editor of this issue of YMR, my aim is to showcase the way educators and other professionals have harnessed skills developed as journalists and as organizers of youth media programs to teach students how to flex the information muscles they need as citizens in a democracy.
News Literacy at Stony Brook: A Historical Reflection
The godfather of the movement was a newspaper editor. Howard Schneider left Newsday after leading the young paper to multiple Pulitzer Prizes. Restless, he began a new career teaching at Stony Brook University on Long Island and building its new journalism school. What struck him immediately was that one large group of students was lost in the digital flood of information, willing to believe whatever they happened upon, and another large cohort had adopted a defensive cynicism, unwilling to trust that information could be anything other than spin.
By late 2005, Schneider had built the first stand-alone course in news literacy. Seeing connections, he collaborated with hard science, social science and humanities experts at Stony Brook to build a course that helps students understand the importance of reliable information to their inherited role as stewards of a democracy.
This Humanities approach helps students understand how human nature, cognitive blind spots and powerful societal forces make it hard work to find reliable information: you can not be passive about this. The course that emerged is the foundation of this new discipline dedicated to the very post-modern task of sifting the Web for the trustworthy information essential to the ancient endeavor of self-rule.
Schneider was certainly not alone in finding students adrift in the flood of information and, by 2006-2007, several of America’s largest private foundations looking to solve the same problems selected the Stony Brook model for replication and promulgation. Some highlights:
• The Knight Foundation funded the nation’s first Center for news literacy to test, revise and spread the course, teaching 10,000 undergraduates at Stony Brook University;
• The Ford Foundation funded the first national conference on news literacy and the creation of the Summer Institute for News Literacy to train new teachers; and,
• The McCormick Foundation has funded the Center for News Literacy’s conference web report, and then follow-up news literacy national conferences, including workshops where government and media leaders meet with academicians to share best practices. McCormick’s latest grant funds a partnership with the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which supplies fresh ripped-from-the-news examples for news literacy classrooms.
From University Campus to High School Classrooms
The campus news literacy movement spun a creative counterpart in secondary schools. About the same time Stony Brook’s News Literacy program launched, another Pulitzer Prize winner, Los Angeles Times investigative reporter Alan Miller, began talking to sixth graders at his daughter’s middle school in Bethesda and discovered a connection. Though newspapers were in decline, students awash in media were receptive to learning about the values of journalism.
English teacher Sandra Gallagher wrote to Miller: “All of the information you shared was interesting to [my students] and pertinent to our curriculum. You brought to life the idea of `newspaper’ and opened a new perspective of thinking.”
Miller had found a new way to make a difference and began work on a program to connect journalists like himself to other classrooms like his daughter’s. After a brief visit to Stony Brook, Miller assembled a team of secondary school curriculum experts and built an age-appropriate curriculum that would be taught by journalists like himself in partnership with teachers in schools across the nation.
By 2008, he had sufficient funding to launch formal pilot projects in the 2009-2010 school year. What became the News Literacy Project worked with 17 English, history and government teachers in seven middle schools and high schools in New York City, Bethesda and Chicago, reaching nearly 1,200 students. More than 75 journalists spoke to students and worked with them on projects. The McCormick Foundation became the project’s third major funder.
But a great deal of work lies ahead. While it makes sense to teach news literacy in public schools, curriculum adoption is a barrier to nigh-impenetrable thicket to the academic outsiders who comprise News Literacy’s leadership.
At the same time of this YMR issue launch, a coalition led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors has begun to crusade for the inclusion of news literacy education in the Common Core Standards proposed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Preliminary data collected at Stony Brook show that in addition to measurable increases in news literacy students’ ability to detect opinion-tainted writing and flawed reporting, they are more likely to register to vote than their peers in a control group. Such data may be useful in the slog toward winning formal adoption into public school curricula.
President Obama and Friends of News Literacy
Lately, the news literacy effort has attracted interesting friends. For example, the National Endowment for Humanities Chairman Jim Leach, a Republican who represented Iowa in the U.S. House for 30 years has embarked on a “civility tour” of the nation, in which he sounds many of the key themes of news literacy, most notably the importance of reading a wide range of news sources and engaging with those of contrary minds.
At the University of Michigan’s commencement on May 1, President Obama devoted the last third of his remarks to those ideas that focus news literacy, distinguishing it as the core information competency of citizens:
“…If we choose only to expose ourselves to opinions and viewpoints that are in line with our own,” he said from the bully pulpit, “[we risk becoming] more polarized, more set in our ways. That will only reinforce and even deepen the political divides in this country.
But if we choose to actively seek out information that challenges our assumptions and our beliefs, perhaps we can begin to understand where the people who disagree with us are coming from.
Now, this requires us to agree on a certain set of facts to debate from. That’s why we need a vibrant and thriving news business that is separate from opinion makers and talking heads. That’s why we need an educated citizenry that values hard evidence and not just assertion. As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously once said, “Everybody is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
Still, if you’re somebody who only reads the editorial page of The New York Times, try glancing at the page of The Wall Street Journal once in a while. If you’re a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship. It is essential for our democracy.”
“Here’s the point. When we don’t pay close attention to the decisions made by our leaders, when we fail to educate ourselves about the major issues of the day, when we choose not to make our voices and opinions heard, that’s when democracy breaks down. That’s when power is abused. That’s when the most extreme voices in our society fill the void that we leave. That’s when powerful interests and their lobbyists are most able to buy access and influence in the corridors of power—because none of us are there to speak up and stop them.”

Reviewing President Obama’s speech also speaks directly to the youth media field.
Practitioners must guide students to think about the information they use in their media and to look at examples of opposing views. Youth media, in teaching media literacy and story-telling skills, is a tool to influence and have acess to power—creating a stronger democracy. News literacy, as a movement that is growing, is a resource and skill set that is useful to the youth media field and a potential arena to build collaboration and partnerships.
Alongside YMR editors Ingrid Hu Dahl and Christine Newkirk, I hope this edition of Youth Media Reporter sparks the kind of dialogue that can move both fields forward.
Special thanks to all eight contributors (written and podcast), YMR’s Peer Review Board, Lynn Sygiel, and to the Journalism Program at the McCormick Foundation.
Dean Miller
Director, Center for News Literacy
Stony Brook University
Photo credit: Kristi Sheriff Photography

Youth Media Reporter is managed by the Academy for Educational Development