Capturing New Young Readers

Convener: George Stanley

Note taker: Bobbie Jo Buel


We had a large group and I didn’t write down full names, but participants included six young people and nine editors.


* What is it going to take you get you and your peers to be readers for the rest of your lives? How do we get beyond producing teen sections? How do we get younger voices in stories and how do we write stories that matter to them?

* One editor who works with teens says newspapers have to be prepared for high turnover and be ready to constantly replenish the group. Teens are busy and drop out. They lose interest. They graduate.

* Young reader: Kids are more inclined to read stories with local perspectives. They want a story to explain how this news matters to them.

* Young reader: Newspapers need to publish more teen names and names of high schools. Kids are like adults – they want to read about people and places they know.

* Young reader: When you interview teens, remember that they say different things to adults than they do to other teens. Kids are afraid sometimes to be open to adults because they think they are being judged.

* Young reader: That doesn’t mean you should ignore anyone in your reporting. You need to interview parents, kids and school officials.  You need to talk to all of them, but kids are often left out. She suggests using instant messaging and cell phones to reach kids to get their point of view.

* Young reader: Don’t jump to the conclusion that young people think alike. At my college the students come from all over. I see a wide diversity of opinion that often depends on where they’re from.

* Young reader: I’m keeping an online diary for an English class. I went to the student union and listened to what people around me were saying about the terrorist attacks. This was literally eavesdropping to know what people were saying to friends. My teacher said my diary was powerful.

* Young reader: Consider publishing columns and letters in which teens speak to teens. Why are advice columns for teens written by adults? Offer another perspective.

* One editor asks, “What news stories do you want to read right now?”

* Young reader: A lot of my friends are worried about whether there will be a draft. I know young men who say they won’t serve. Others say they are scared but would do it out of moral obligation.

* Young reader: I know a lot of kids who think war is not the answer.

* What do kids think is the answer?

* Two young readers: They don’t know. We’ve never been faced with this situation before.

* Young reader: We’ve never lived in an America where anything went really wrong. We’ve never seen a recession or a war.

* Young reader: Kids want their news in more than a sound bite right now. They want explanations.

* Editor suggests that archived explanatory stories be kept on the web site with regular listings of links in the print edition.

* Young reader: In my government class we’re still talking about how to elect a president. The schools need to change what they are talking about. Kids want to talk about what’s happening in the world right now, but my school isn’t doing that with us.

* Young reader: Kids have access to a lot of information but they don’t understand it. They know we’re against the Taliban, but they do not know what it is.

* Editor suggests soliciting a daily question from teens and then printing the answer the next day.

* Another editor asks why kids don’t just go out on the Internet and find out what the Taliban is.

* Young reader: We don’t have time. We go to school, we work, we have homework, we have friends.

* Editor wonders whether the beginning of articles should tell readers  “Here are the questions we are going to answer for you in this story.” Maybe we don’t make it clear enough what you’ll learn if you read all the way to end of this story.

* Young reader: And you have to use more photos, headlines and graphics to draw readers in. We are a visual generation.

* Young reader: When I do homework, I don’t read the entire text. I  look for the answers. I look for keywords and boldface type in the text that guides me to the answer.

* Editors asks whether teens look for writing with an attitude.

* Young reader: What you need to do is write more stories and not so many articles. I look for stories that are interesting to read. The other stuff is information and doesn’t need to be put into a story.  Maybe put it into a list.

* An editor asks how to get papers into the hands of busy students.  Should we give papers to your history teachers to use in the classroom?

* Young reader: In elementary and middle school, current events were drilled into us as part of classwork. That doesn’t happen as much in high school.

* Young readers: Some said their teachers didn’t talk about the attacks at all on Sept. 11. Others said it was discussed all day. Why did schools handle it in different ways? How should they handle shocking news?

* An editor asks whether they perceive the newspaper as “trying to make up your mind for you.”

* Young reader: Yes, you do that in some stories where an adult is writing from an adult perspective. I finish some stories and say to myself, “That is so wrong. That’s not how I view it.” You need to write more stories from the perspective of young adults.


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