Open Letter to YR Media Community Regarding Coronavirus
Dear friends of YR Media,
We hope this message finds each of you doing well and staying safe and healthy during the coronavirus crisis. As our YR Media supporters (particularly those in states including California, Illinois and New York) know all too well, this health pandemic and subsequent shelter-in-place order have changed life dramatically. There is no denying that these social distancing measures, while necessary, will have a deep, lasting impact on businesses and nonprofits. YR Media is no exception.
In recent weeks, our executive team took the unprecedented measure of directing all staff to work from home, wrapping up the current session early ahead of an Oakland school district closure.
We paid the youth through the session as this is core to our mission, though we deeply regret not being able to provide the onsite wrap-around services they are accustomed to, such as their evening healthy meals and mental health support. Because we know how critical these offerings are to our youth, a group of diverse and dynamic individuals from under-resourced communities, we made arrangements for counseling support, via phone if needed. Our department heads are fielding any other inquiries (around housing or food instability) on a case-by-case basis.
We’re also working hard to keep the content flowing, including innovative pieces by, for, and about our young people. Our young content creators and audience members have let us know that now, more than ever, they want to hear from and engage with other young people about the unique challenges they are dealing with and the inventive ways they are surviving, thriving and advocating for change. For example, here is a poignant piece about a design student trying to grapple with losing access to both her college campus’s studio and art materials. Our video team put together a piece about a 17-year-old who devised a COVID tracker. We are also leveraging the interactive storytelling skills of our youth with this map of high school and college student voices on the crisis populated by social media posts (IG, Twitter, TikTok) from all 50 states. Our arts team is keeping spirits up with “surviBing” to help folks cope via curated playlists and features to support indie artists all over the country and topical cultural critiques.
Looking ahead: We are also moving forward, albeit virtually, with national content projects, such as, a partnership with WNYC in New York. 12 contributors within the age range of 18 to 29 years old from across the country will make their voices heard reporting on issues including housing, equitable access to education and immigration. We conducted a virtual joint Oakland-to-New York City training session after having to cancel an in-person workshop due to travel restrictions.
Across the board, we are coming up with innovative ways to keep our YR Media reporters and artists engaged and involved in content production, not taking for granted the fact that some of our youth lack equitable access to WiFi and/or laptops/tablets/computers at home.
From seeking equipment to finding remote workarounds for design and coding training sessions, we are doing everything in our power to keep our (virtual) doors open to as many young people as possible in this moment.
This is an undeniably stressful time for everyone. We have no doubt many within reach of this letter are also challenged, both personally and professionally. If you have the capacity right now, we’d deeply appreciate support for our storytellers, through actions such as sharing or liking our content across social media (at our Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook) or encouraging a friend to sign up for our newsletter.
From the Bay and beyond, we are all in this together and we deeply appreciate your attention to this message with so much information coming at us all in real time. Here’s hoping that you remain safe and healthy and that we soon return to a time we can physically, not just digitally, reconnect with friends, family and colleagues.
Chief Executive Officer, YR Media