TEEN JOURNALISTS EXPRESS THEMSELVES

By: Karim Mostafa

Nonprofit Group Syndicates To nypost.com



For many journalists it takes years of hard work before they get to
cover their desired beat, but some get lucky with an early break.



Consider LaTasha John who was recently in Tokyo covering a conference
on children’s rights. Or Alexandra Berke, who interviewed Haiti’s First
Lady Geri Benoit-Preval, at a U.N. convention on AIDS in December. And
Elizabeth Daley is gearing up to cover the Republican and Democratic
conventions, for the second time, this spring.



But for all three women – ages 17, 15, and 16, respectively – high
school remains their top priority.


These journalists work at the New York bureau of Children’s Express
(CE), a nonprofit journalism and leadership organization that targets
kids aged eight to 18. The after-school program, founded in 1975, has
bureaus in three U.S. cities and four in the U.K., with others opening
in Tokyo, Berlin, Northern Ireland, and California.


Several afternoons a week, the kids in New York depart from their
various high schools, located throughout the five boroughs, to spend
time working on stories in the Children’s Express Flatiron District
office, right in the heart of Silicon Alley. And Web-savvy they are,
with a Children’s Express site (http://www.cenews.org) launched in 1996
at the behest of two 15-year-old editors who wanted to build a site,
and a content-sharing partnership with a local online newspaper.


In September, nypost.com, the Web site for daily tabloid the New York
Post , agreed to post stories from the bureau in a special section at
http://www.nypost.com/childrenexp/index.htm under the heading, ‘By
Children For Everybody.’



‘It’s a win-win situation,’ says Joe Robinowitz, managing editor,
production at the Post . ‘The content reaches out to our audience
which is looking for a general-interest newspaper.’



Cliff Hahn, New York bureau director at Children’s Express, says,
‘Newspapers often don’t know how to handle the content, but they’ve
given us an outlet. It’s for adults, written by kids.’



Berke and Daley most recently tackled the heavy topic of rape in an
interview with Randy Thornhill, author of ‘The Natural History of
Rape,’ the same book reviewed on Salon.com this week. The young women
conducted their interview before Salon’s story was published.



When covering a story like Thornhill’s book, CE reporters go through
three stages: briefing, interviewing, and debriefing. Briefing involves
research and setting up the interview. Interviews are tape-recorded.



The final stage, debriefing, is when the team of reporters sit and
discuss their reactions to the interview, express opinions, and include
final remarks. This portion, which is transcribed by a service, becomes
the crux of the eventual story. (Note: CE reporters were amazed at this
reporter’s use of a traditional reporter’s notebook which took ‘so-o-o-

o-o long.’)



Prior to the nypost.com partnership, which Hahn set up with Post
Editor in Chief Ken Chandler, CE reporters were filing four stories
monthly with the New York Times News Syndicate for distribution to 350
newspapers. The syndicate, which has been working with CE since 1996,
continues to carry CE stories.



Stories have covered a wide range of topics. John, who serves as a CE
editor, considered her best work to be an interview with an incest
victim who had been abused by her father and three brothers for 10
years. Daley, also a CE editor, particularly enjoys the ‘reporter’s
notebook’ format which allows for more opinionated, individual writing.


The nypost.com partnership has given CE reporters the opportunity to
file more stories and see the results more quickly. nypost.com readers
have e-mailed varying responses to CE stories, although Hahn wishes
there were more. Daley remembers the nypost.com read who wrote, ‘How
can you kids know what you’re talking about?’ She responds: ‘Because of
CE, I have the experience of having adults listening to me.’



To post CE stories online, a CE reporter loads a story into a template
provided by nypost.com and publishes the story Thursday afternoon,
without editing by nypost.com editors. Two adults at CE, who provide
mentorship and supervision, oversee the editorial process. But the
content is chosen by CE members, who have no qualms about expressing
their opinions. For example, Berke says, ‘I went to the Bradley-Gore
debate [in New York] with the Post people. Neither of [the
candidates] are very good.’



The Internet has allowed CE to expand its content-sharing deals,
particularly amongst their different bureaus. The Japanese bureau,
which is currently being set up, will post news for its Japanese site,
but will also run content produced in the U.S. and translated into
Japanese. The Japanese news will be translated into English for
distribution in the U.S. Other CE bureaus
(http://www.cenews.org/aboutce/future.htm) are also under development
around the world.



And Daley, who foresees a world where there is no paper, says ‘We’re
moving to a new world where we’re online and people have to listen to
us.’ Newspapers who want to attract young readers may want to listen as
well.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Karim Mostafa (kmostafa@editorandpublisher.com) is assistant editor for
Editor & Publisher Online.










(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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