TeenGo Web Site and On the Verge, Portland, ME 1999
The Portland Press Herald
After the shootings at Columbine High School, the newspaper invited teenagers from around Maine to write about what high school life is like today. In April of 1999, 20 essays were published in the newspaper and more than 150 were posted on the "teengo" page of the Press Herald's Web site. The page also launched an interactive forum so teens from all over Maine could chat online and created 20below.com, a Web site for teens. The site attracted visits from about half the teenagers in the state.
In September, the paper distributed 60 disposable cameras to teenagers who came to a pizza night and asked them to chronicle their own lives so it could use the pictures to illustrate teenage life, as part of a series of newspaper stories, and on the Web site.
The essays and photos helped the paper select four communities where teenagers worked together to create their own Web site, using KOZ software, which eliminated the need to learn HTML.
Online Community Organizer
50 Monument Square
Portland, ME 04101
Phone: (207) 822-4072
Kids & Character 2000, Elmira, NY 1999
The Sabre Radio Group
The Star-Gazette's focus on teaching values to children turned out to be eerily prescient. Just weeks after its series on the subject ran, two teenagers opened fire on classmates and teachers at Columbine High School in Colorado. The event gave the Star-Gazette's project an added intensity, prompting more area school districts, chambers of commerce and non-profit agencies to pick up the call for character education.
The project began with two Pew-supported surveys - one of 1,000 Elmira-area junior and senior high school students; the other of 450 area adults - asking what values they felt were most important to the community. Responsibility, honesty, respect and tolerance were among the most highly valued traits. The survey results were reported in a front page story Sunday, March 14, 1999. Follow-up installments ran March 21 and 28-30.
The series was timed to coincide with local workshops given by character education specialist Louis Martinez. More than 200 people attended, many saying the newspaper series had persuaded them to go.
When Martinez returned in October, the Star-Gazette sponsored a community forum with parents, teachers, principals, counselors, police and judges on how to instill these traits in area youth.
Jane E. Sutter (former Star-Gazette editor)
Democrat and Chronicle
55 Exchange Blvd.
Rochester, NY 14614
Phone: (585) 258-2301
Dropping Out: Why students leave Decatur schools, Decatur, IL 2001
Herald & Review
"Dropping Out: Why students leave Decatur schools" was a civic journalism project that involved citizens, including those who'd never finished high school, in developing ideas to help keep students in school through graduation.
In November 2001, the partners commissioned a survey of 102 adults who had dropped out of Decatur public schools in the previous 40 years. For many of the respondents, it was the first time they had ever been asked why they'd left. Their answers pointed to some concrete steps for retention programs. One-third said additional help from a teacher or administrator might have kept them in school. Another third said more interesting classes would have helped.
The Herald & Review reported the results in a three-part series that kicked off on Jan. 27, 2002. Radio reports began on WILL-AM on Jan. 28. The reporting project coincided with the creation of the Decatur Joint Dropout Task Force, a community coalition focused on providing at-risk youth with support to stay in school. Task force members were invited to participate, along with school officials, in a March 21 town meeting on the drop-out problem, co-sponsored by the paper and the local NAACP chapter. Nearly 200 people attended and so many lined up to ask questions the scheduled 90-minute meeting lasted for more than two hours. The paper also identified community members to take part in a live call-in show broadcast April 17 from WILL-TV's studio in Urbana.
The partners chartered a bus to take the participants, citizens and school officials from Decatur to Urbana on the night of the broadcast. The ride itself proved to be an important part of the project, as it became a brainstorming session for possible solutions.
One element of the project that turned out to be less successful than hoped was a program to open banks of computers on weekends for drop-outs to fill out a brief survey and be connected with community resources for job training and GED classes. The partners publicized the program through the paper and fliers delivered to several social service agencies. The program operated for only two weekends and was abandoned when, after four days, only nine people had participated. Overall, though, the partners considered the project a success, with school officials and the Task Force developing innovative ideas to tackle the drop-out problem with input from the survey, town hall and live broadcast.
Herald & Review
601 E. Williams Street
Decatur, IL 62525
Phone: (217) 421-6973
Key Moments, Spokane, WA 1999
A team of reporters and editors used (and helped refine) civic journalism "mapping" tools to chart the key moments in the lives of children that can make the difference between success and failure in adulthood. Building on its "City of Second Chances" project, which told the story of Spokane's expanding ex-felon population and how prisons were not solving the problem of troubled people who are incarcerated, the newspaper wanted to answer the question: What would it take to change the lives of people who end up in prison?
The paper held four roundtable discussions with educators, police, religious leaders, counselors and others. That helped editors develop a list of 10 moments in life that are critical in affecting whether kids stray or stay on track. They include five chronological moments: conception to birth, birth to age 3 and the bonding process, age 10, the first day of 7th grade, and adolescent rites of passage such as driving, drinking and sex. There are also five developmental moments: making friends, major moves, times of loss, first failure and first success, and values development.
The Spokesman-Review then surveyed more than 70 teenagers, asking them to evaluate their own experiences in these key moments and where they found help getting through them. Reporter Jeanette White mined the community for children and young adults who exemplified these transitions.
The 10-part series "Key Moments," published in the summer of 2000, included an overview of each key moment, intimate personal stories that put a human face on each one and boxes with tips and lists or resources - all drawn from this innovative use of mapping, focus groups and surveys. After the series ran, the paper held two community forums on the series that helped parents connect with specialists in the community for help during key moments.
Chris Peck, (former Spokesman-Review editor)
The Commercial Appeal
P.O. Box 364
Memphis, TN 38101
Phone: (901) 529-2322
999 W. Riverside Ave.
Spokane, WA 99201
Phone: (509) 459-5496
SchoolNet, Philadelphia, PA 2001
Philadelphia Daily News, philly.com
At the height of a crisis in Philadelphia public schools, the paper launched a rich, online source of information to encourage parent involvement and public problem-solving. SchoolNet included a wide range of features. There was contact information for district offices to help parents navigate a sometimes-convoluted bureaucracy. There was a grade-by-grade breakdown of what children should be mastering in school each year and several online forums so parents could connect with each other. To ensure that any parent would have access to the site, the Daily News put detailed brochures in the free Internet access section of 55 city libraries.
Reporter Becky Batcha spent three months researching the content for what the paper dubbed a "virtual home and school association." She discovered an out-of-print school district publication detailing the curriculum for each grade and the paper purchased the database so parents could access it.
The paper also sought public input in designing the site. After launching its school reform project with a special eight-page, pull-out section, it printed a clip-and-send coupon, soliciting reader ideas for which issues should be the focus of online forums. The paper also invited concerned citizens to sign up for three public forums at the paper. The paper learned that parents of special education students had a particular need for more and better information, and it created a channel on SchoolNet page just for those parents. There was also a teacher exchange and more general channels on reform, parent involvement and "great ideas."
The launch, unfortunately, coincided with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, forcing the paper to scuttle plans for a series of public forums to call attention to the site. The paper did hold two public forums, attracting about 60 people, on charter schools and on homework. Technical difficulties prevented the paper from determining how many users the site attracted, and the site was dismantled in early 2002, when parent company Knight-Ridder changed the platform the paper's Web site had been using.
New Initiatives Editor
The Philadelphia Daily News
400 N. Broad St.
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Phone: (215) 854-5879
Teaching Tucson's Children , Tucson, AZ 2001
The Arizona Daily Star
This unusually comprehensive partnership - involving all of Tucson's major media - joined forces for "Teaching Tucson's Children," a project on improving local public schools that culminated in a town hall meeting, Aug. 24, 2001, that drew 300 people in person and thousands more to their TV screens during the six rebroadcasts of the session.
About 100 citizens participated through the summer in 10 "scoping sessions," held in libraries, auditoriums and classrooms throughout the community, to frame the issues for the August meeting. The partners also sought input from three online surveys - one for parents, one for students and one for teachers - that asked respondents to rate the importance of 14 educational issues on a scale of one to five.
The week before the town hall, each partner did a week of stories or programs. Though each reported and produced their stories independently, all used the "Teaching Tucson's Children" logo. The Daily Star and KVOA provided online and in print a pledge form for readers and viewers to send in, agreeing to get involved in improving Tucson schools. About 80 people responded. The PTA in the nearby town of Congress, AZ, picked up on the idea and asked community members there to sign a similar pledge. The Daily Star and KVOA continued to work together after the initial project. At the request of the Tucson school district, the two helped sponsor another town hall meeting for over 100 people, in March 2002, on volunteering.
Asst Managing Editor
Arizona Daily Star
PO Box 26807
Tucson, AZ 85726-6807
Phone: (520) 573-4224
The Death of Ryan Harris: A Community Responds, Chicago, IL 1999
The Chicago Reporter
The newspaper revisited the 1998 slaying of 11-year-old Ryan Harris and its aftermath, finding it a critical point in police-community relations in Chicago's crime-ridden Englewood neighborhood. Reporters reconstructed the police investigation of the crime, which led to the brief and controversial arrest of two young, neighborhood boys. (An adult was later charged with the murder.) They also analyzed nearly a decade of crime statistics and police calls in the neighborhood, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
With the help of graduate students at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, the paper conducted a phone survey of 304 residents about the Ryan Harris case, crime in general in their neighborhood and their relations with police. It also took inventory of community resources, paying special attention to the availability of mental health services.
A 16-page special report on the findings constituted the monthly's December 1999 issue. An extra 1,000 copies were printed and distributed to area churches, schools and community organizations and extra features appeared on The Reporter's Web site, www.chicagoreporter.com. The information also became the basis for a community meeting in Englewood in January, attended by about 100 residents, who praised the project. Portions of the project were picked up by The Associated Press, WBEZ-FM (NPR), WGN-TV, the Chicago Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune.
Laura S. Washington (Former Reporter Editor and Publisher)
3750 Lake Shore Dr., Apt. 8-C
Chicago, IL 60613
Phone: (773) 327-4025
Keep Us Safe: Teens Talk about Violence, Rochester, NY 1996
Rochester Democrat andChronicle
WXXI Public Television
The partners focused on young people - their experiences, their views, their voices - for "Make Us Safe: Teens Talk about Violence." First, they surveyed nearly 1,800 seventh through 12th graders in the Rochester area. They found that one-third thought their life would be shortened by violence, 18.5 percent carried a weapon for fear of violent crime and a significant number wanted their parents to set more limits. Then the partners gathered small groups of teenagers for focus group discussions.
All the media partners launched coverage on Sept. 21, 1996, the one-year anniversary of the fatal stabbing of a 13-year-old girl by a 12-year-old girl outside of their school. A week of newspaper stories chronicling the problem of youth violence included contributions from 100 students who'd been given single-use cameras to document their day. The television and radio partners broadcast teen essays on violence.
The second week of coverage focused on solutions. A two-hour roundtable discussion broadcast live on WXXI and covered by the other partners generated citizen ideas for combating youth violence. The paper printed a coupon with a "Teens Pledge of Peace," asking youth not just to sign the pledge but to offer more suggestions for curbing violence. The project shared the 1997 Batten Award.
Blair Claflin (former public affairs editor, D&C)
The Des Moines Register
715 Locust St.
Des Moines, IA 50304
Phone: (515) 284-8052
VP of Television
280 State St - PO Box 30021
Rochester, NY 14603-3021
TEL: (585) 258-0241
FAX: (585) 258-0384
Director of National Productions
280 State Street
Rochester, NY 14614
TEL: (716) 258-0349
FAX: (716) 258-0384
Children First, Detroit, MI 1995
Detroit Free Press
Children and violence was the focus of a joint project that grew out of the paper's "Children First" editorial and community campaign. The effort began with a poll of 1,600 children, aged 9 to 12, in the Detroit area. Nearly one in five said they had witnessed a shooting; almost half knew someone, other than a police officer, who carried a gun. More than 40 percent of children living in the urban core said they worried about being the victim of a crime.
The Free Press published the poll results, May 24, 1995, along with a special section profiling five local children. WXYT aired an hour-long special about fears and stress in the lives of four young people.
Over the summer, the partners sponsored focus groups with high school students about critical life choices they faced. Four issues emerged as most critical: personal safety, drugs and substance abuse, education and sexuality. The paper dealt with each issues over two days of coverage in October. WXYT broadcast a one-hour program weaving these four areas together.
Staff Writer, Children First
321 W. Lafayette Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48226
Detroit Free Press
TEL: (313) 223-4544
FAX: (313) 222-6627
WXYZ-TV Fix station
20777 West 10 Mile Run Road
Southfield, MI 48037-0789
TEL: (313) 827-7777
FAX: (313) 827-4454
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