Combine Learning While Co-Producing News & You Get Youth Radio

30 08 2007

This post continues to explore the growing power of “peer produced” new media which ought to be studied by associations as a powerful new means to build community and conversation around association products and services.

Henry Jenkins is the Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program and the Peter de Florez Professor of Humanities. He is the author and/or editor of nine books on various aspects of media and popular culture.

His blog is “Confessions of an Aca Fan.” It is the primary source of this interesting two part interview with Youth Radio. You can read the entire post at Henry’s site.

What drew me to his article, “The Power of “Collegial Pedagogy : An Interview with Youth Radio (Part One)” was how Youth Radio was both a learning experience and content co-creation engine for producing quality news and information by kids with some adult supervision. They are applying their own brand of peer production and they are global in scope. Kids are becoming citizen producers and consumers of content in which we shall all benefit going forward.

It is also a fascinating play in new media and online community for the NetGeneration.

Here are excerpts.

What is Youth Radio?

Youth Radio is a youth development organization and independent media production company founded by Ellin O’Leary in 1992. Headquartered in Oakland, CA, with satellite bureaus and youth correspondents working across the U.S. and around the world YR produces and curates award-winning converged media content.

Youth Radio stories and shows reach massive audiences through outlets including National Public Radio (with its 27 million weekly listeners), iTunes, Radio Bilingue, YouTube, and MySpace. Youth Radio promotes young people’s intellectual, creative, and professional growth and citizenship and transforms the public discourse through media production.

Students come to Youth Radio primarily from the nations strapped, heavily tracked, re-segregating public schools. Most are low-income, digitally marginalized youths and young people of color. YRlinks deadline driven, production-based media education with programs that support personal and community health, engage active citizenship, and pave pathways to college and living wage jobs in the media and beyond.

How Does Youth Radio Produce Content?

YR refers to their process as collegial pedagogy which is a deeply interdependent learning and co-creative content production process that’s markedly different from traditional classroom learning and for that matter most radio today. Young people and adults co-create original work neither could pull off alone, and over which neither stands as final judge, because the work goes out to an audience no one–young or old–can fully predict or control.

The adult producer could not create the story without young people to identify topics worth exploring, to host and record peer-to-peer conversations, and to experiment with novel modes of expression and ways of using words, scene, and sound. At the same time, young people could not create the story without adults to provide access to resources, equipment, high- profile outlets, and institutional recognition, and to share the skills and habits developed through years of experience as media professionals.

Young people offer a key substantive contribution that the adults cannot provide — a certain kind of access, understanding, experience, or analysis directly relevant to the project at hand. They contribute insights and challenging perspectives to a mainstream media that too often ignores the experience and intelligence of youth. And yet adults do not only oversee or facilitate the learning experience surrounding a given media production experiment; they actually join in the production process itself.

Their Channel on iTunes

As digital media/online radio and podcasts began to draw increasing audiences a few years back, Youth Radio approached Apple’s iTunes as a potential outlet for our radio stories. We ended up with both a weekly podcast on iTunes and a 24-hour radio stream, found under iTunes “Public,” “Urban,” and “Eclectic” categories.

In addition to being another opportunity for our students to refine the improvisational live hosting and interviewing skills they learn in our classes, the radio stream has been an important free space for creative stories and uncensored music that might be difficult to place on our terrestrial broadcast outlets, given time constraints and FCC regulations.

The iTunes stream presented an opportunity to run 24 hours of music-driven content. This programming is akin to the live radio format that draws many young people to Youth Radio in the first place. The fact that the stream is online and carried by a significant media company vastly expands the potential audience, with listeners in various national and international locations, represented as pushpins on the world map in our iTunes studio. And like our relationship with NPR, the recognition and marketing potential of the Apple brand provides valuable leverage as we seek new digital media outlets.

Trend in Youth Consumption of News and Information from Reliable Sources

The difference between Youth Radio and MySpace or YouTube or any new site which allows a person to produce content themselves is … media literacy.

Youth Radio does what MySpace would hate us to do: Teach us why sites like MySpace work–the advertisements, the conglomerates, and how all of this relates to them getting our money. Instead of blindly posting our videos and pictures on a website owned by these owners, Youth Radio teaches us the process of broadcasting, the mechanics of production, and the influence of media created by young people with a brand you can trust.

Here are some samples of Youth Radio.

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