When Radio Isn’t Enough

Last week, Youth Radio participated in the National Media Education Conference, sponsored by the Alliance for a Media Literate America, in St. Louis. Ayesha Walker and I presented a listening session called, When Radio Isn’t Enough, where we considered two ways that young people reach beyond audio airwaves to spread their most urgent stories:

1. by connecting their radio features to concrete social justice efforts, aiming not only to describe but also to dislodge inequalities.

2. by leveraging digital and social media’s proliferating platforms, integrating sound, image, live performance, and conversation to share information and inspire feeling and action.

Ayesha played her commentary, From Blacksburg to Bay Area, where she reflects on violence in her own city…Richmond, California. She says while the mass shooting shocked the nation, no one is shocked when young people die from gun violence in her neighborhood.

“The heartbreaking incident at Virginia Tech makes me think of the ongoing devastation in my own city…. A lot of people were horrified by the number killed at Virginia Tech—33–in the span of a few hours. Here we see that number killed in slow motion—shot to death on inner city streets each month…”

After producing the story, Ayesha worked with Dawn Williams to develop an online curriculum resource for Teach Youth Radio, where we offer lesson ideas and additional research and resources designed to encourage educators to use youth media content and methods in their classrooms. It was a chance to expand on her commentary’s themes and for Ayesha to draw other young people into her process and the questions it raised–e.g., the decision to go ahead with the broadcast just days after the Virginia Tech shooting even though some outside editors thought it was too soon to focus on anyone but the victims of that specific tragedy.

In addition to Ayesha’s work, we played other stories from Youth Radio’s archive that students had produced for local and national radio (commercial and public), iTunes, MySpace, our own website, and live community events–sometimes repurposing/remixing/reframing a single narrative to suit those various outlets and reach mass and niche audiences.

The work we presented at NMEC really drove home the positioning of the youth media movement at the very epicenter (battleground???) of what Henry Jenkins calls, “Convergence Culture”–where “old and new media collide.”

To be continued…

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