Youth in Media


root - Posted on 06 August 2007

Youth voices are hardly ever heard in the mainstream media today.

by Mari Villaluna

While I was in middle school I fell in love with writing, and at the same time I fell in love with teenage girl magazines. I would read Seventeen, Sweet Sixteen, and Teen. I kept a magazine collection and for hours would gaze at all the clothes, makeup, shoes, and models. I never once saw anyone who looked like me or any articles written by girls like me. The same girls, who bought these magazines were not even shown in the pictures and many of the models were well over seventeen. Looking back many years later, I realized that most magazines that portray teens hardly ever publish teens. I dreamed that one day my writing would be published in one of these magazines.

I spoke with Emmanuel Anguiano, a Cal State Eastbay student, about the role of youth in the media industry and he stated, "Even magazines that are catered to youth, like Seventeen are run by adults. Why doesn’t the corporate media let youth write the articles?" Anguiano went on about the role of student media, "Many youth participate in their student newspapers, and anytime they speak from their truth they get censored."

The media industry not only censors youth, but takes it a step further by portraying youth of color as criminals. In fact, out of 13.3 million youth, 59.3%, volunteer an average of 3.5 hours per week, versus 49% of the adult population volunteering an average of 4.2 hours. (Independent Sector/Gallup, 1996)

Youth place a priority in being there for their communities, even though many adults see them as non-contributing members of society. In 1997, Public Agenda Survey for the Ad Council and Ronald McDonald House Charities ran a survey that showed 61% of American adults are convinced that today's youth face a crisis in their values and morals, look at teenagers with misgiving, and view them as undisciplined, disrespectful, and unfriendly. Youth see this truth and feel this perception of them. Only 20% of young people perceive that adults in the community value youth. (Search Institute Survey of Youth 6th to 12th Graders, 1997)

When it comes to changing society, youth have stepped up to the plate and died for what they believed in. Youth are the ones who see truth and speak up about systemic injustices. Youth have always brought hope and vision to society and have founded and led many major social justice movements. Until we as an organizing community value youth of color as media journalists, we will continue to lose vision and truth in our movements.

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