Generation Why: CBC News’ digital digest of must-read news for young Canadians

This week's cover

If you’re a Canadian under the age of 30, odds are you’re not reading a physical newspaper every morning or sitting down each night to watch the six o’clock news — but that doesn’t mean you’re not paying attention to the world around you.

Perhaps the ways you encounter information are a little less predictable, a little more serendipitous, than the ways your parents did when they were your age.

But a lot has changed since then.

Young people today have an unprecedented amount of access to information from around the world. It comes at us constantly from a multitude of sources. In this fast-paced and ever-changing digital landscape, it’s easy to miss stories that are interesting, informative or useful.

Let’s find the best stories, together

Your peers at CBC News (self included!) are news junkies by profession, which means that we’re in a good position to keep watch for what’s new and notable. Like staff at a bookstore, we know our collection well and can help you find the best of it.

But we also know that you bring fresh perspectives to our news coverage, and may have different ideas about what should be at the top of our agenda. We really want to know which stories interest, enrage, excite or engage you.

That’s why we’ve launched Generation Why, a weekly interactive magazine curated by young Canadians for young Canadians.

Each week, readers under the age of 30 and young staffers collaborate to highlight the best content that CBC news and current affairs programming has to offer. 

Here are some example spreads:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our goal is not to talk at you, but with you.

The CBC audience is filled with sharp minds and great taste. It would be a shame not to collaborate and learn about which issues and ideas matter most to you.

How to become a contributor

To contribute follow these three steps.

Step 1: Choose one news or current affairs item from the preceding week that you think would appeal to, affect, or engage students and young adults in Canada.

Your item can be a story, a standout radio or TV interview, a documentary, a photo gallery, an interactive map, etc. As long as it’s CBC content we can link to online, it’s an option! (If it’s not online but should be, you can flag it for us, too. We’ll see what we can do.)

Step 2: Write a couple paragraphs (150 words max) about why this news item caught your attention and why you think other young Canadians might be interested, too.

Please feel free to write in your own voice and be conversational – the way you are when recommending links to your friends on Facebook, for example.

Step 3: Send us your write up and a link to your item, as well as your name, location and a photo of you. You can email your entry to community@cbc.ca with the subject line “Generation Why” or upload your submission to our member pages.

Would you like to design a cover? 

We are also interested in hearing from talented young artists and photographers who would like to have their work featured on the cover of the magazine. Please email community@cbc.ca for more information.

The deadline for written submissions is Friday at 12:00 p.m. ET every week. 

The magazine goes live Friday night, and is featured on the CBCNews.ca landing page every Saturday.

The format isn’t set in stone, either. We’ll be taking your feedback and suggestions on how to make it a reliable digest of the best CBCNews.ca has to offer from a youth perspective. This Monday, in fact, we’re having our very first open editorial meeting!

We thank you in advance for helping us build this resource.

– Fabiola Carletti and Lauren O’Neil
Members of the CBC Community team and ever-curious twenty-somethings

Advertisements

Time to pay attention to what’s happening in El Salvador

Posing by La Puerta del Diablo in El Salvador. January 2012. (Photo by Beatrice Carletti)

Posing by La Puerta del Diablo in El Salvador. January 2012. (Photo by Beatrice Carletti)

One of my resolutions this year is to learn more about my birthplace and cultural homeland: El Salvador.

I can already tell you that 2013 was the right year to commit.

This is an election year, there’s a remarkable truce happening between rival gangs, it’s been 25 years since my uncle became a national hero … and, oh yeah, my little country is locked in an extremely high-stakes legal battle with a Canadian mining company that could bankrupt the government in one not-so-unlikely scenario.

On that last point: El Salvador wants to become the only country in the world to completely forbid mining. Needless to say, Pacific Rim is not prepared to let them do that.

Listen, and learn more: Pacific Rim Mining Corp vs. the government of El Salvador

Why young journalist Kai Nagata quit his stable job

Kai Nagata in Chibougamau. Photo from his blog: kainagata.com

Kai Nagata was in a privileged position for a young journalist.

As CTV’s Quebec City Bureau Chief, he had a well-paying position, decision-making power, collegial ties, and even retirement options … all at the age of 24.

And then this:

After I finished reading Kai’s  personal essay “Why I quit my job” — an impassioned post about the state of television news in Canada — I had to do more than retweet it.

I think he’s hit a nerve. At time of writing, his original post has generated hundreds of responses and has gone viral on social networking sites. People have called him everything from radical and insane to honest and brave. Many have commented on his age, which reminded me of something Samuel G. Freedman wrote in his book, Letters to a Young Journalist (2006).

Freedman, who teaches at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, praises such critical yet optimistic attitudes in newly minted journalists. He argues that everyone should enter journalism believing it is a moral enterprise and that “your initial idealism must be a pilot light, flickering at times, but never extinguished.”

Good news: outside pressures are now forcing such conversations in journalistic circles, and this period of reflection is an opportunity. Journalism’s public nature and vulnerability is precisely what keeps it alive and changing. Perhaps by necessity, more reporters are taking the time to think about what defines their work, and why it matters.

Kai’s post has expressed why he’s getting out of television journalism, but it has also indirectly challenged other young journalists to ask themselves why they’re getting in. Even though he’s leaving us, I thank him for (re)igniting the conversation about journalism as a public good.

The battle against ignorance, intolerance and indifference is not a new one, not even when it comes to TV news.

I leave you with an excerpt from “Good Night and Good Luck,”. Here’s Edward R. Murrow (played by David Strathairn) on our journalistic duty to make television that matters:

… if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost.

This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box.

Read: Kai Nagata’s post “Why I quit my job”

Thesis hangover: a post for posterity

If you follow this blog, you know I’ve been neck-deep in another website (So, you want to be a journalist?) for several months. Short explanation: that site somehow became my thesis project.

I’m now finished with grad school — wow, it feels so good to write that! — but I’m still recovering from it. My thesis hangover was particularly brutal. It was not really the result of putting the site together, which wasn’t too bad, but more to do with writing a 60-page literature review that grounds the blog’s anecdotal advice in relevant academic texts.

Without getting into the details, here’s the breadth of what I researched and wrote about:

  • the current media landscape
  • the changing definition of journalism
  • the role of journalism education in adapting to 21st century needs
  • the professional norms, ethics and standards that guide journalists in their day-to-day practice
  • the relationship between journalism and democracy/the public sphere (ideals and critiques)
  • the role of technology (historical precedents/convergence)
  • the rise of participatory journalism
  • the reconfiguration of economic models.

Yep — that’s why I started calling my literature review “the beast.” Thing is, in order to appreciate the plethora of the changes young journalists are seeing in this field, it’s important to dabble in all of the above.

Now, I’m proud to say I’ve completed the project, presented the site my peers, and had plenty of great naps since flying back to Toronto. The word “thesis” no longer triggers heart palpitations and nausea in me.

So, I guess this means I’m finally ready to introduce the project a little more thoroughly, and then promise to start blogging about, you know, other things.

Here goes!

Screen shot of my "prezi" (interactive presentation) that walks through the main features of the site

1) What is the website, and why’d you do this to yourself?

“I can say that I have never seen a truly gifted young journalist go unrecognized. Maybe in the short run, but never over time. There just isn’t that much excellence loose in the world that news executives can afford to ignore it.”
– Samuel G. Freedman, Letters to a Young Journalist (2006, p. 149)

“So, you want to be a journalist?” is an anthology of original advice by young journalists, for young journalists. It includes 34 blog entries that range from general guidance to platform and genre-specific pointers. The site also includes a multi-platform resource section for those interested in further reading, listening, and viewing.

The project was inspired by my experiences as a teaching assistant for the UBC School of Journalism’s undergraduate new media course. Many of the students are considering a career in journalism, and have expressed interest in hearing practical advice from those who are succeeding at the entry level of the profession.

In response, I created the website and (insert elaborate explanation here) it ended up becoming my thesis project.

2) How did you chose the young journalists?

Full disclosure: I did not use a quantitative metric to gauge the potential of the participants.

We are a generation that is making its way forward during a time of immense transition in both the industry and in society at large, and I would argue that measuring potential is not a precise science. Still, I want to be transparent about this very important question.

Of the 34 young journalists featured on the site, nine were selected by me for their specialty knowledge, 24 were recommended to me by their peers, and one approached me with his qualifications after having come across the site. I have met 17 of the 32 contributors in person. They are 15 men and 19 women of various ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, but all have some form of post-secondary education.

Missing from this mural: Gerald Deo and Alexandra Posadzki (most recent contributors)

Each one of these incredible young people have demonstrated passion and proficiency, but all have done so in different ways.

Some have earned prestigious accolades early in their careers. Ex: Allison Cross and Leslie Young were part of the first team of (Canadian) students to win an Emmy award, and Jasmeet Sidhu has already been named one of Canada’s 100 most powerful women by the Globe and Mail.

Others stand out for their specialized talents in particular areas. Ex: Alejandra Hering has advanced experience in creating online portfolios, and Adam Avrashi has hosted his own morning radio show.

Still others have demonstrated incredible ambition on the ground. Ex: Jesse McLean, while still an intern at the Toronto Star, reported from Haiti after the 2009 earthquake. During Toronto’s recent G20 summit, Bethany Horne broke news that police had been granted extra powers .

Basically, my compilation is more qualitative than it is standardized, and is by no means an exhaustive list of everyone with potential. Off the top of my head, I can name several promising young reporters that I don’t have on my site. Ex: Jodie Martinson, Daniel Dale, Sunny Dhillon, Jennifer Yang, and Anna Mehler-Paperny.

3) What did you learn about your peers?

It has been eye-opening to read the perspectives of my peers — many of whom recast uncertainty as opportunity. As Samuel G. Freedman notes, “If you care about journalism and you care about excellence, you cannot help but feel despair when it or you don’t measure up”.

Without the promises of fame, fortune, or even relative stability, these young talents are choosing journalism in an unpredictable time. Many are producing quality public service journalism, and rising above the expectations of the  so-called “tuned out” generation. They are showing up with their sleeves rolled up, ready to lay the foundations of 21st century journalism.

Mark Deuze neatly summarizes the situation they now face: “The biggest challenge worldwide seems to be to find ways to educate and train tomorrow’s media professionals based on the need to retain, reconnect with, join hands with a fragmented, disengaged, and increasingly critical public in the context of contemporary democracy” (2009, p. 141).

This is our task as young journalists, and we should not take it lightly. Our generation is coming up through the system, and we have the historic opportunity to change it from within.

I’ve been inspired by the caliber of those who are embracing this challenge.

4) Okay, so what did they write about?

There are many ways to navigate the site (scrolling down and reading in reverse chronology, sorting by author, sorting by title) but I think the following categories break it down best. Enjoy! And please visit again soon.

Journalistic Mindset and Attitude

Strategies for Entering the Profession

Specific Tips and Pointers

Platform and Genre Specific Advice

Alternative Perspectives

Those darn kids and their democratic rights

My lovely "votingent" on the first day of advanced polling

“Are you all students?” said the blond woman with the clipboard, gawking at us as we waited in line.

On April 22nd, my peers and I were among the first citizens to show up outside St. Anselm’s Anglican Church, the advanced polling site for Vancouver Quadra.

“Well,” said the organizer in a huff, “this may take a while. You’re an anomaly.”
We furrowed our brows but nodded politely. The wait, the registration, the whole – uh, you know – democratic process was perfectly fine by us. We didn’t just take a wrong turn on our way to the campus pub.

The woman walked in and out of the church, reminding us a few more times that this voting thing can take a while. She shooed us away from the door so that “the voters” would be able to get in and out. (Don’t mind us obstacles!) She walked alongside us and checked our identification, making small comments that implied there might be a problem with this document or that oath.

I looked around for the hidden camera. Surely, this was some sort of joke. We were a group of young voters, not mutant octopi wearing top hats.

Although the woman eventually settled down and even smiled at us, I couldn’t help but think of Rick Mercer’s now-infamous rant.

“If you’re between the ages of 18 and 25, and you want to scare the hell out of the people who run the country, do the unexpected, take 20 minutes out of your day and do what young people all over the world are dying to do — Vote!”

Inside the church, another woman looked at me as if I was speaking in tongues when I mentioned the concept of a vote mob – a contingent of young people who get together for a non-partisan celebration of our right and intention to vote. (She pulled a bit of a John Baird on that one.)

Vote mobs have been sprouting up on campuses across Canada. Young people have unfurled banners with messages like: “surprise! we’re voting” or “apathy is too mainstream for me” or “impress us.”

Many of the vote mob videos feature students running through campus with signs that showcase their issues, which include everything from climate change and queer rights to pension plans and arts & culture funding. Oh, yeah, affordable tuition is in there too — but we’re not one trick ponies.

Other voices are joining the conversation, creating videos for just about every disposition. Raffi, a Canadian singer-songwriter many of us grew up listening to, tells us that we are “grown up Belugas” now, and we should vote for the Canada we want to see. Mr. Lahey from the Trailer Park Boys mocks us, saying us “shit weasels” and “dick weeds” will probably stay home (just a bit of reverse psychology, followed by alcoholic bribes). Leadnow.ca has an excellent website dedicated to engaging an informed and respectful electorate. In their declaration for change, they state:

It’s time to move beyond today’s political division and short-term thinking, and get to work on the shared challenges of our time.

But alongside the playful and positive encouragement, there’s also resistance and condescension.

Michael Taube, columnist and former speech writer for Harper, seems to think it’s appropriate to call us circus clowns and holy terrors. In his article “Vote Mob Mentality” he states:

Voting participation is way down in this country; in 2008, it hit a record low of 58.8 per cent. If more people, and especially more young people, were willing to vote on a more regular basis, the numbers would surely go up. But if vote mobs are ever considered to be a viable method of increasing political participation, I would much rather keep the numbers as low as they are.

Uh – what? What does Mr. Taube have against the joys of collective citizenship?

Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but: not all older folk favour the incumbent, and they’re not all well-informed and mature. There are many extremely articulate and thoughtful youth — including the diplomatic Awish Aslam who was booted out of a partisan rally for no good reason — and not all the young voters* go for “fringe parties.”

(*A note on that last link: its conclusion is based on a larger poll of 1000 Canadians, but does not indicate how many of them were young. Seems far too small a sample-within-a-sample to warrant such a bold headline.)

Anyway, despite the condescension at the polls today I had a great time with my peers.

We had respectful discussions about the kind of country we want to live in, and pass on to the “darn kids” of tomorrow.

Personally, I think everyone needs to remember that all Canadians — regardless of age, gender, income, political stripe, etc — are worth more than the sum of their votes. Our destiny as a nation is a shared one. It’s time we started acting like it.

In the meantime, all we young people are asking for is …

To view all the vote mob videos click here!

Here are some of my favourite videos:

Ah, new journalists – what do they know?

Despite what it seems like, I haven’t been slacking off. In fact, I’ve been intensely working on a blog … just not this one. This screen shot is pretty self-explanatory:

If you haven’t been following my mini-saga, here’s the short version: my first-year undergrad students want to learn about the most promising young journalists. For the past week, I’ve been collecting nominees and soliciting their advice.

Honestly, it’s been more of a time commitment than I expected, but it’s really been worth it. All the nominees were asked a very general question: “What advice would you give a first-year undergrad who’s thinking of getting into journalism?”

The responses have ranged from general encouragement to specific strategies. Many entries manage to be hopeful despite realistic assessments of the challenges we face.

What has surprised me most, though, is how humble so many of these up-and-comers are. When asked to offer their insight, some began with paragraph-long qualifiers. This would make sense if their journalism looked, sounded, and read like the work of rookies, but it really doesn’t! In fact, I’m more excited than ever about the number of smart and talented people getting into the industry right now. Despite the non-stop parade of gloomy predictions, they’re rolling up their sleeves and saying “let’s do this thing.”

To answer the question for which this post is named: new journalists know a heck of a lot, and anyone interested in the future of news should pay attention to what they’ve learned so far.

The site isn’t really live yet because my students haven’t seen it, and it won’t be “googlable” until they do. For now, here’s a sample entry if you’re wondering what to expect.

As you can see, I start by showcasing the pointers, and then tell you a bit about the author. I’m also including links to their work or embedding multimedia wherever possible. It’s a simple formula, but hopefully a useful starting point.

I’ll definitely follow up when the site is ready to be read. For now, back to marveling at my peers.