Students in Jeffco Learn about News, School Boards, & Voting


Photo from Nicholas Garcia, Chalkbeat

Students in Jefferson County, Colorado are learning first-hand about dissent and political action.  They’re also learning, inadvertently, about how the political process of voting matters, and why the news media, too, matter.

Because voters in Jefferson County tend to be older and more conservative, a conservative school board was elected last November.  But students and their parents tend to be younger, more diverse, and more progressive – and unfortunately, less likely to vote.  This means that those most affected by the School Board are now being faced with decisions that they don’t support, and in turn, the School Board isn’t listening to the publics they serve.  Result = protests, which garner media attention, and put young people in the news.

Here’s today’s story in Chalkbeat, a news outlet dedicated to covering education issues in Colorado.

Aaron Swartz, a champion for Internet freedom

 Time mag’s review of Aaron’s suicide. 

Lessig discusses the suicide on Huffington Post

Slate’s story on the #pdftribute hashtag

Prosecutor as bully

Alex Stamos’ The Truth about Aaron’s ‘crime’

Aaron Swartz was a technology activist who believed that information should be freely available to everyone. He helped to create RSS, contributed to the creation of Creative Commons, and also helped develop Reddit.  He began the movement that led to the stopping of the Congressional bill that would have censored the Internet (SOPA).

If journalists believe that all people need access to information and expression, then it’s easy to see someone like Aaron as an important ally.  The pro-journalism organization Free Press saw him that way.


Hi. Thanks for visiting! I’m Lynn, and I’m an Associate Professor in Media, Film, and Journalism Studies. I hope this blog will generate some good conversation. Or, if you’re reading this from most to least recent, I hope you found some things of interest here and that you’ll come back to comment, question, and point me in the right direction.

This is a new blog, but it’s part of a project I’ve been working on and interested in for a long time. The question I’m interested in is this: How do young people come to be interested in news?

Now usually when I raise this question, people (especially journalists) are quick to point out that young people really aren’t all that interested in news.

But I’ve come to realize that they answer this way because of how we as a society tend think about what “news” is.

If we think of news as the thing that comes to us in the newspaper or (as it does for me) as a list of linked headlines on my google home page, then yes, most young people really aren’t that interested.

But what if we think about “news” from the perspective of young people themselves? Then, the answers might be surprising.

I know I was surprised a few years ago when I started asking high schoolers about where they got their news. “Facebook,” several replied. No, they didn’t mean that they read New York Times content on Facebook, or read the stories from news organizations that were forwarded to them. They read the status updates their friends wrote. That was the news that they needed to know. A few talked about reading the high school newspaper, or checking sports scores online. Some confessed to watching celebrity news on tv, especially when they were between activities.

But is all of that “news”?

And if it is, how does it relate to the news that we in the 40+ age group read?

Are today’s young people truly becoming less interested in that current events kind of news than were the young people of the past, as David Mindich has argued?

Or are only some young people today interested in that kind of news – and perhaps it’s always been thus? Maybe it’s the fault of the news industries as David Buckingham has argued. They don’t see teens and college students as lucrative and regular consumers, and thus “news” is not created for them in a way that speaks to their interests.

There are important related questions, of course. Will the bulk of today’s young people become consumers of the products of the professional news industry when they get older? Or do today’s new media represent a fundamental shift in a new direction?

Moreover, thanks to the Internet and the inexpensive tools of cultural production, now anyone can write and disseminate “news,” or can be called upon to serve a journalistic role in telling an important and timely story.

And, as a media historian, I wonder: what are the precedents from the past? Who among the young of 100 or more years ago were the newsmakers, the news disseminators, the opinion leaders? How did they relate to the fast-changing media landscape of the mid to late 19th century?

I’m hoping that this blog will help me to sort out the questions as well as an approach to addressing them. Feel free to write with suggestions and point me in the direction of your work or the work of others. Thanks!