Why would you choose to be a journalist in today’s media-hostile environment? That’s a question adult reporters are grappling with, as are the aspiring young reporters and producers here at Youth Radio. Support for a free press has become a divisive political issue, and the risks of reporting the news have increased. Journalists, regardless of their age, are being attacked, figuratively and literally; trolled online; and branded an “enemy of the people.”
In the midst of this escalating rhetoric, 2018 has been a record year for Youth Radio’s efforts collaborating with young journalists from across the country — from El Paso, Texas to Oakland, California — and all 50 states. The enthusiasm and talent of these aspiring young journalists is remarkable and truly a sign of a healthy democracy. It is our privilege to support them as they embrace the foundations of our profession: researching, including all perspectives, sticking with a story until you get it right, working with an editor, and covering the truth of what is happening in local communities and across the nation.
“Being a journalist in this political climate is very important to me. We’re living in a time where people like me are constantly discriminated against, among other things. By being a journalist, I’m able to speak for them and use my voice for change.” – Emiliano Villa, 19
“For young people, in particular, a free press is important because oftentimes our point-of-view is overshadowed and/or not taken seriously.” – Nina Roehl, 18
“What we call the right to a ‘free press,’ is really the right of any/all individuals to collect factual information, interpret it, and tell a story that puts it into context. The solution is not to demonize ‘the media’ but to further democratize it. Fund the hell out of independent, multimedia newsrooms, as well as programs that teach media literacy, writing, reading comprehension, & research skills.” – Desmond Meagley, 21
Young people do not need to become journalists to have access to an audience. And yet, rather than aspire only to social media stardom, they choose to seek out truth in the form of reporting — from the most overlooked and underresourced neighborhoods to the major conversations and stories of the day.
We’ve watched from our newsroom, glued to the screen when President Trump calls the press “enemies of the people” and “sick and disgusting.”
“Attacks on the media and free press are not just threats to journalists and newspapers, but threats also to normal people. We need reporters to keep us aware of what’s going on in the world, hold leaders and bureaucrats accountable, and draw attention to important problems that need solving. Within that landscape, there is a special place for youth reporters. With youth reporting, we draw attention to how young people are feeling about all sorts of issues, or how they’re affected by problems in the world. It’s crazy that so many adults overlook or underestimate the power of youth, when really they should be trying to listen to us, or even trying to get our support, votes, and attention.” – Sierra Fang-Horvath, 18
Just at this moment, when we see a surge of interest by a new generation of investigative journalists, culture reporters, video producers, podcast talent, and so many more, it’s disheartening to hear the president call the profession “fake.” The related atmosphere of violence is especially frightening for young people coming into journalism. The younger generations have a right to participate in the fourth estate and benefit from a free press.