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Project Insights and Practicalities:
Outcomes Observed:
Youth Engagement: Kids involved in the newsletter projects showed increased interest in their communities, improved communication skills, and gained confidence. Their work was well-received by residents in the apartment building they used as a test bed, fostering a positive image among tenants.
Duration and Approach:
Our initial project took a couple of months to get off the ground, but subsequent editions were produced more quickly, with one completed in just two days. However, a quarterly publication is a good starting point, potentially shifting to monthly issues based on community engagement and support.
Challenges Encountered:
Content Sensitivity: We learned the importance of careful storytelling to avoid unintended negative impacts, like the story on a malfunctioning elevator that cast the building’s superintendent in a poor light. Such experiences underscored the value of balanced reporting.
Youth Leadership:
Ensuring adults provide guidance without dominating the process is crucial. Initially, adult involvement is necessary, but the goal is to transition to youth-led operations, empowering them to take ownership and represent their work.
Financial Considerations:
The project can be cost-effective. Most people have access to a camera via their smartphones, and there are numerous free web publishing options. Expenses like press badges, essential for empowering participants, are minimal and can be produced affordably at local print shops. If opting for printed newsletters, costs can be offset by including advertisements.
Engagement and Skill Development:
The project serves a dual purpose: introducing youth to journalism and enhancing essential life skills. Organizing interviews, engaging in teamwork, and navigating the storytelling process are integral components that foster personal and professional growth among participants.
Forming Teams for the Newsletter:
To start, pick a focus area—like an apartment building, a city block, or a complex. For a building with about 30 units, for example, gather a few interested youth who live there or nearby. The key is familiarity with the area so they can cover stories that matter to residents.
Community Interaction:
We’re currently exploring how newsletters can enhance community engagement, with initiatives like the one led by HarlemLIVE alum Shem Rajoon and his wife Jean in Newburgh, NY, serving as a pilot for potential replication in other areas.
Support and Collaboration:
All project participants have been volunteers, with the team structure evolving organically. I would say we haven’t quite yet started measuring impact and adapting based on community feedback, but each project is a learning opportunity.
I’m also connecting with Shem and Jean on their Newburgh newsletter project, Katina Paron, who authored “A Newshound’s Guide to Student Journalism,” and works with Lara Bergen for Press Pass NYC, and Fran Reilly from CityLimits. Including them here (CC’d) to share progress and insights going forward.
Next Steps:
I’ve included examples of content we’ve produced and can discuss templates and tools that can support your efforts. Let’s consider how we can adapt this model to fit the needs of your Youth department.