Facing History and WNYC Team Up to Produce Teen Journalists

Producing Teen Journalists

NEW YORK CITY – At the heart of many Facing History and Ourselves lessons is one thing: an individual story.

In the "Neighborhood to Neighborhood Project," a collaboration between Facing History and New York Public Radio’s Radio Rookies program, New York City public high school students get to tell their own stories and the stories of their communities – on the air, as reporters, and in their own voices. Part of the HIVE Learning Network NYC, the project is an intense, three-month journalistic exploration of identity and membership.

“We’re really trying to encourage young people to become engaged in what’s around them, in what affects their lives,” says Kaari Pitkin, senior producer at Radio Rookies, which provides teenagers with the tools and training needed to create radio stories about themselves, their communities, and their world. “We want them actively questioning their neighbors, what’s in front of them.”

As part of the project, students work with WNYC’s radio journalists and producers to build basic reporting skills, learn how to develop a story idea, use a recorder during an interview, and digitally edit audio. They speak with residents, business owners, and fellow students about the issues that matter to them. Over the course of the project, the students document their ideas and research on a shared blog, use tools like the photo sharing website Flickr, and explore the online presence of various news media outlets.

“It gave me a chance to really just say what I feel about a certain situation,” says Vincent Marrero, a Vanguard High School student who participated in 2011. “I felt like I had a voice, like what I had to say mattered. I don’t think a lot of people get a chance to do that.” Marrero’s piece focuses on stop-and-frisk policies. As a student who was once stopped and frisked by a New York City police officer, he was interested in starting a conversation on the practice.

“I wanted to know what other people think,” he says. “People were saying there had to be a better process to it...the way stop and frisk was happening was making a lot of people uncomfortable. So we really tried to get out there, to interview and hear both sides. Finding out what other people thought surprised me because not everyone felt the same way.”

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Winnie Guo, who collaborated on a piece called “A Public Housing Education.” “There’s no class in school that asks you to learn through audio.”

“By going out into New York, into neighborhoods that are not necessarily their own, these students get a perspective on community, on their peers and experiences, and how that fits into a greater New York,” says Courtney Stein, associate producer at Radio Rookies.

“Our hope is that these tools – interviewing, production, writing, reporting, editing – and these stories will be useful in the future for teachers,” says Stacy Abramson, director of operations and strategic partnerships in Facing History’s New York office. “Here you’ve got student-produced, student-voiced content that focuses on Facing History’s key themes and ideas.”

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to understand a slice of the real world – of a young person’s perspective in a city,” says Peter Nelson, director of Facing History’s New York office. “And it’s a learning opportunity for adults, who don’t have any idea how difficult it is for young people to have their voices heard.”

“I think a lot of people pay attention to this area, to media,” Marerro says. “I think what we’re doing here is actually very important.”

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