Youth Media’s New Storytellers | Making Media Connections Notes

Notes from Community Media Workshop’s 2008 Making Media Connections conference panel: Youth Media’s New Storytellers.

Read about how youth and video cameras are changing the world.

This post is one in a series of four; browse the Making Media Connections 2008 category.

Were you at the conference? Let us know about your links or leave a comment.


Moderator: Mark Hallett, McCormick Foundation, works in the journalism program there, began exploring youth media, Chicago is home to well over a dozen youth media organizations. We have a thriving sector in our own backyard. Foundation works with young people to produce projects. Mark is energized by youth energy, it’s a very exciting sector. Worked with 15 groups around the city, between all of them – the groups are now active in over half of the city’s neighborhoods. The groups have active, collaborative partnerships with almost 40 groups: HIV, public health, transit, the environment. Discussion: what are benefits of partnering with youth media organizations?

Marisol Becerr, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization

Mindy Faber, Open Youth Networks, mission to recognize the new networks, media tools, used to have to teach media to them

Salome Chasroff, Beyondmedia – partnership is the heart of our mission, partner people who’ve never had exposure to media, help them promote their social justice agenda, work with them to create tools to get their voices out, work with schools a lot as well

Denise Zaccardi, Community TV Network, 34 years old, Hard Cover: visions and voices of Chicago youth, also has a professional production company, can see show on Google Community TV Network


Model – work with one specific group and take them to the media-making process from basic media literacy and production skills, then they do an inquiry into that issue, a community develops and a process emerges, train them in public-speaking, event planning, networking; partner in distribution, become long-term relationships. Watch videos on Beyondmedia’s YouTube channel.

What are the rules for these collaborations?


We don’t come in as experts, we come in as partners. It’s not about the media and it’s not about the skills, It’s very much geared to creating an impact on the community.

To file the project Beyond Disability: The Empowered Fe Fes, made with a grant from the Department of Labor. No images of girls with disabilities, technologies not adaptive, also the girls had disabilities – some missed the senses – sight, hearing. Another challenge: girls were incredibly shy and even talking in front of the group was hard.

They made three movies together.


The groups we’ve come to know are focused on the final product, but Salome talks about the process. Tell us about your collaboration with Access Living.


When we put the cameras in the girls hands the fears fell away. The video won first prize at SuperFest Disability Film Festival in Berkely – the home of the disability rights movement. Girls becoming educators about disability inclusion within the medical community. When a nurse brought the interns to visit Access Living after watching the video, a resident commented they saw one of the girls in a movie. The nurse/professor was blown away because so many times she’s seen these young women become invisible. In Taiwan, they’re using this video to start groups like this in Taiwan. Because of the success, Access Living was able to hire another coordinator.


Tried to recruit youth who were already socially active. They would come in and for two weeks, they learned how to collaborate with the youth in Barbados.


Went into Youth Lab with a purpose, she wanted to use social media for social justice. Created a Google map.


Company had a training program for media execs, needed someone to come in to train really big media companies – they brought in 16 year olds.


Got a grant to do the video, The Cloud Factory, about toxins in Little Village, 46 people died from asthma, 5000 went to the doctor for breathing related programs, Why is the Crawford plant there? 72 jobs, mostly white men from the suburbs. Ecological sacrifice zones, 9 out of 10 Latinos are breathing air that does not meet EPA standards. Kids started a youth group; they used technology – made videos and used media as an organizing tool. Idea: make a map to show how many children were breathing bad air every single day. Google map showed all the toxins in Little Village. Asked other youth environmental groups across the country to add to the map.

Question: Youth transition group video project by blind youth – how to?


Video camera opened another world for one of her partially-sighted students.


One blind student chose to do audio and got so much satisfaction. People taking different roles is a good thing.


Affordable housing group in Humboldt Park, their young people came every week for 10 months, for youth the youth voice is very compelling, they kind of draw people into the story. Kids who lived in public housing

Visions of Humboldt – affordable housing

Young people are also learning about the issues in their neighborhood, organization made copies as a promotion for their organization. Gave them the skills they need to make video, but knowing more about their issues and how people are creating affordable housing. Many of the younger people continue to come.

Secret of collaboration is the written agreement: find out what people want to get out of it. Training the young people as part of the organization is so powerful.


They do a lot of services, always use a contract, been a learning curve, find that their voices can get squashed.


Married to a lawyer, so yes they use contracts. How does that differ from a strategic partnership, collaboration implies that you’re going into uncharted territory. It really is about listening and know that you couldn’t do it without the other person, respect, relationship building and trust.

How long did it take to put the videos together?


December to April


Varies, the one shown was a year


10 months

Chain of Change is a very different model, do work with groups – it’s like 2 intensive days

Did you know the people a long time before?


People who know what we specialize in, seek us out. One documentary got three bills passed into law in Springfield.


Video on national TV, distributed to all black churches in Chicago, but it took a couple of years to make. We didn’t even know if it was going to have an ending. Depends on the the story you’re trying to tell.


Google map – our map of environmental justice


This is a very different model from documentary film experts come in, we’re not just making pieces about other people, when you go into the process, you have no idea where it will lead.

How did you get permission to use the music you used in the video?

We didn’t.

What funding sources did you find useful?


Sometimes it’s organizing, sometimes it’s about the issue


Youth Media Chicago Network 

Map of Chicago organizations working with youth media.


I signed up for this session not knowing what to expect. Because we have a sixteen-year-old who will begin his film studies this fall and a 20something nephew in London working on a major screenplay, kids making movies intrigues me. As a communications practitioner, I know the power of video. But, it’s not just about the media. The presenter’s comments on the process, not the product tell you that the story you see on YouTube is only the trailer for what happened in real life. After the presentation, I asked Marisol about the Crawford plant. I suggested she talk to the conference keynote, Renee Ferguson – an investigative reporter for Channel 5 News. Maybe the missing link to finding out what goes on at The Cloud Factory is only a phone call away.

How do you use video in your communications?

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