Then and now
Adults always want to know how to reach youth. But, too often, adults fail to ask young people about their world.
They hold workshops and conferences and panel discussions, and the very people they are trying to reach are not invited.
That’s why Our Generation’s role is so crucial to the community. It’s a role that will be missed as the teen page goes on hiatus while it’s re-examined over the summer.
Since its inception, the teen page always has been a section that is produced for teens, by teens.
I should know. I was there.
I was one of the students on the inaugural teen advisory council in 1990 that produced the first issues of the teen page. I can tell you firsthand what kind of impact Our Generation has on young people.
In middle school, I was one of those problem kids. I was expelled in eighth grade. Teachers told me they didn’t expect me to get through my freshman year of high school. And I was on a mean streak to prove them right — until a friend, mentor and Our Generation’s co-founding editor, Jennifer Roseman, pulled me aside one day and asked me if I wanted to see my name in the newspaper.
That moment changed my life.
Through the teen page, I became involved in all sorts of community organizations and went from being labeled a loser to a leader. I even received a Chase Youth Award for leadership. And when I went to college, I did so with the goal in mind of becoming a journalist.
Nearly 15 years later, more than half of my life, I’m proud to be the pop music writer for the newspaper that helped launch my career in journalism.
We know through research that teens value this section. Earlier this year, I was a part of a newspaper team that conducted an unscientific sampling of what teens at various high schools think about the section. Nearly 60 percent of more than 900 students surveyed said they read Our Generation. In 2002, only 48 percent of adults in Spokane County read the daily paper, according to a Belden market study.
The teen page made great strides highlighting the positive contributions young people make to the community. It gave its members a chance to make bonds with students at other schools that otherwise might not ever have formed.
The newspaper’s editors have said The Spokesman-Review will renew its commitment to young readers, writers, photographers and illustrators. In doing so, I hope the same ideals Roseman had when she pioneered Our Generation are kept intact.
Consider words Roseman shared in a recent e-mail:
“The original idea was to let teens have their say on the page, with no topics off limits. So some weeks the lead stories were about dating, prom fashions and skateboarding, and some weeks they were about conflicts in foreign countries, gay and lesbian parents, rap music, minor in possession (of alcohol) laws and sexually transmitted diseases,” Roseman said. “The old folks learned that the young have plenty to say; they just need to be asked.”