The Kids (and their Phones) Are Alright


kids are alright
Photo by Hudson Hintze on Unsplash.

Like many people, I’ve spent a good deal of time consuming and avoiding news coverage about the Parkland, Florida school shooting and its political aftermath. We are all heartbroken and angry and upset. A lot of the coverage has been hard, sometimes distracting, and some of it inspiring. I’ve been grateful to journalists for their treatment of the student movement emerging from the shooting’s wake, for giving kids the air time, amplifying their voices, and taking them seriously.

I am particularly grateful for one piece of citizen journalism sent to us from a school walk-out. The video was student-produced, independent of any media outlet, and shared widely via Twitter.

Tris’s video filled me with hope. Here were young people doing something positive, maybe even transformational with their grief while I had been wallowing in mine. It felt immediate; like I was there. It helped me empathize with these students in a way that traditional news coverage could not have.

In their essential book, The Elements of Journalism, Kovach and Rosenstiel remind us that technology has given all of us the power to participate in news-making, to contribute to the “literature of civic life.” They also describe the evolving role of journalists who, in this information landscape, are called on more than ever to serve as authenticators, sense makers, witness bearers, and watchdogs.

“Journalism is the literature of civic life. When the whole world is its staff, understanding the elements of journalism is everyone’s responsibility.”

– Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect

I’d like to ask students about this. If Kovach and Rosenstiel are correct, if we all have the potential to be journalists, is Tris’s video journalism? Does it do anything that journalism is supposed to do? If he is a journalist, what are the benefits to this specific format and distribution model? What are the limits? What strengths does the video have as a peace of journalism? Weaknesses? What editorial choices did Tris make as the producer of this piece?

I also love this video for challenging the existential dread I feel when thinking about our students’ relationship to their phones. Look at what Tris did with his.

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