The Mississippi Youth Media Project, Mississippi Public Broadcasting's partner in dropout prevention, recently finished its summer intensive training program with 29 students ages 14 to 18 from 12 schools in central Mississippi. The project taught job development skills using using rigorous multimedia journalism to report on other young people, their communities, the causes of global issues, and potential equity-based solutions.
During the course of the summer, YMP students split into assigned groups determined by individual strengths and interest in specific technological disciplines such as photography, videography, writing, podcasting, music production and web design. Each group met for a brainstorming session with a mentor before choosing a specific topic, event or global issue relevant to their communities to cover throughout the summer. Students then worked for the next nine weeks to source, record, interview, report, photograph and score all work with original content and a narrative or anecdotal lede.
The news packages include a lengthy feature story with accompanying photographs, a mini-documentary, and a podcast. On the final day of the summer program, student groups presented finished news packages to a private audience of around 50 people over lunch at the Capital Club in the Capital Towers building in downtown Jackson.
Students explored digital storytelling through their mini-documentary work, learning tools and resources for production and building video literacy. Trainers introduced video to students through compelling mini-documentaries that spurred critical thinking, challenged stereotypes and presented big ideas. Students used PBS viewing guides to dissect the interviews, storytelling techniques and information sources in a series of documentaries. After watching and reflecting, students met in groups to storyboard their own documentaries. Each group filmed interviews and b-roll in downtown Jackson, wrote and recorded narration, created graphics, produced original music, and edited film projects in Adobe Premiere Pro.
Below are highlights from student work this summer. All student work can be seen and shared on jxnpulse.com.
“Digging Deeper: Confronting Youth Crime’s Causes and Solutions” analyzes youth crime in the city of Jackson. Students interviewed an extensive number of notable people, including those affected by crime, experts in juvenile offenses, elected officials, professionals in law enforcement, legal counsel, and educators. These students are continuing their project now, planning a series of public, youth-led forums in every ward in Jackson culminating in a youth crime summit in spring 2018.
“From Woolworth’s to #BlackLivesMatter: Protesting for Life, Freedom and Dignity” covers the 1963 Woolworth Sit-In, a monumental event in Civil Rights history, and its present-day implications, including national the controversial national movement.
“Supporting Black Dollars and Businesses in Jackson, Miss.” interviews business owners in the Farish Street Historical District, Mississippi's largest and only primarily residential district in Jackson on the National Register of Historic Places and reflects on a time when the area was rapidly growing. The area is currently under extensive renovation.
Students this summer reported on global issues using ethical, solutions-focused journalism, held civil discussions with peers and adults and thoughtfully responded to misperceptions of youth, which is why programmatic interventions like the Mississippi Youth Media Project are necessary to expand opportunities for students in technology and innovation, an industry in which Mississippi ranks last.
An emphasis on workforce development and technological innovation while learning self-confidence and receiving feedback is critical. Computing jobs are the highest source of wages in America, which makes a career and educational pathway in technology and innovation especially pertinent for young Mississippians who will soon enter an evolving 21st-century workplace.
MPB's executive director, Ronnie Agnew, visited YMP students this summer to share about his work in digital technology. He had this to say about his time at YMP:
"When I entered the room and witnessed the attentiveness of the students, I found it hard to believe they were high school students. Their behavior, their desire to absorb all that was taught, suggested that I was meeting with students further along in their studies. ... For people who believe media is in crisis, I have bad news for them: While it is definitely being redefined, news and information and the demand for it, aren't going anywhere. That makes what the kids are learning this summer extremely important."