the media literacy project (mlp) issue of the jackson free press (jfp) went to press this week (or whatever the phrase is that implies that the thing is on newsstands right now). i'll do very little explaining here, as the mlp members do a better job explaining themselves (which is, of course, the point). bottom line:
The Media Literacy Project-- a collaboration between the Jackson Free Press, the Jim Hill Civil Rights/Civil Liberties (CRCL) club, and the Winter Institute-- is a youth-led agenda to analyze the pathways through which Jackson Metro youth get into local media.2.the thing itself:
3. fixing a hole in CRCL:
- the cover
- "eyes on the machine: jackson teens cover the media": bryan doyle (former winter institute intern, current jfp music editor, and coordinator of mlp) discusses mlp's methodology, observations, and suggestions to local media.
- "editors speak up": editors from local media outlets observed by the mlp respond to mlp's conclusions/suggestions
- "screw friendship bracelets": hope owens-wilson (murrah h.s.) reflects on the project's genesis and development
- "yes we can": ambrose tabb (jim hill h.s.) discusses the history (and future) of the jim hill civil rights/civil liberties club
- "the mouth of babes" : sarah rutland (murrah h.s.) responds to the rhetoric of local elected officials toward youth
- "intentional bias": spencer bowley (formerly murrah h.s., currently princenton) analyzes media responses to two local youth-related tragedies
- "now what?": general suggestions from the mlp on how local newsmedia can better serve the community in their portrayal of youth
- "lessons learned": bryan doyle reflects on his experience coordinating the project
at some point this past february i was at the willie morris library in jackson for the third jackson-area consensus gathering meeting for the then very preliminary stages of exploring the possibility of a statewide truth commission in mississippi (we're now at a slightly less preliminary but still very exploratory and consensus gathering/dialogue initiating stage). sitting next to me was donna ladd--editor-in-chief of the jackson free press (jackson's free alternative newsweekly)--whom i'm always happy to run into and with whom i'm always happy to chat/dream about youth activism in jackson. it goes like this: i admit (as i often do/did) that perhaps the single biggest failure of jake & my handling of crcl was that we could never pull off substantial summer opportunities for the members; both years we'd get a student or two into the fannie lou hamer institute summer program or set up a handful of internships with the ACLU, but by and large couldn't scrap together anything that would pass as a sufficient bridge between the ending of one year/version of crcl in the spring and the beginning of another in the fall. then, donna mentions that while writing for the villiage voice she covered a media literacy project done by students in the bronx who looked at the portrayal of youth in the new york times, and that she'd always wanted to do a similar project in jackson. fully aware of the fact that the ratio of getting-excited-about to actually-happening is rather low when it comes to interesting projects/confluences like this, i let the idea stew around for a the rest of the spring semester.
then, a couple of things converged, moving a jackson media literacy project from the wouldn't-it-be-nice column to the make-it-happen column: (1) i finally pulled together a weekend retreat for the crcl members in which we could spend significant time reflecting on the group's history and planning for its future; (2) it became clear that this retreat would be a great venue to bring donna in as a speaker, where she could talk about internship opportunities at the jackson free press, her idea for a jackson metro high school journalism association, and float the idea of the media literacy project; (3) a graduating winter institute intern, bryan doyle, got hired by donna to be the music editor of the jfp, and--as the free press job alone wouldn't pay the bills--was wondering if there were winter institute projects he could help with over the summer to help him transition to life in jackson, (4) when donna spoke at the crcl retreat--with the media literacy project now the major focus--jim hill students provided a personal and tragic reflection on the portrayal of youth in local media: the clinical/dehumanizing depiction of alfred hawkins, a jim hill student fatally shot earlier that year, put in contrast to the humane/sympathetic depiction of three madison county teens who died in a car crash around the same time.
so, we arranged for bryan to work half-time for the winter institute for the summer, and donna graciously provided space, flexibility with bryan's time, and a handful of jfp interns/staff who would assist in the project. then, bryan and i spent a few weeks envisioning/revisioning an approach to the project that would provide for significant ownership by the participants and also ensured enough structure for macro/micro analysis of newsmedia; writing, editing, structuring articles; conducting interviews; research and data analysis; and critical engagement in local issues and local media. then, on june 7, bryan, lara law, rob bland and i sat down with some crcl members and area high school students and put the vision and the process in their hands.
now, four months later, the results of the media literacy project have been printed as an issue of the jackson free press. the cover story, the editor's comments, columns and articles--all filled with the products of youth engagement and critical dialogue. in her article, "mouth of babes" sarah rutland notes "it should not be a surprise to discover that there are youth just itching to discuss the direction of their peers and the city, and adults who find themselves wanting to listen." while reading that i can't help but be filled with a saccharine tingling in my arms and a quickening burn in my eyes. though it was long ago that i stopped being surprised by discovering or rediscovering the willingness and capacity of youth, i think i will never stop being impressed, never stop being inspired, never stop being compelled to put the world in their hands.
4. some of us are visual learners