Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Project helps rural teens in Mo. news deserts, who feel ignored by news media, learn more about journalism

Sarah Gallagher heads the Katy Bridge Coalition, the subject
of the prizewinning story in the project. (Photo by Lily Terrell)
"There is a heightened interest in what goes on in the heads and hearts of modern teenagers — dubbed 'Generation Z' (Gen Z) — particularly by legacy media. But teenagers from rural communities, especially in the Midwest, are not often factored into mainstream Gen Z coverage. This can be attributed to a number of factors, such as living in a news desert, living in the middle of the country, and-or unpredictable Wi-Fi access that hampers engagement with news and information sources," reports the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri. "With these barriers to access in mind, the central question becomes: Do rural Gen Z teenagers see themselves in the news they consume? If they do, what news topics and-or information is of interest to them? Where do they consume it? And if they don't consume news and information, how can they be compelled to engage with it?"

Nico Gendron, an RJI residential fellow, tried to find out more with a study of rural Missouri teens who live in news deserts. She worked with 15 juniors and seniors from five high schools in four counties in the middle of the state, from August 2018 through April 2019. The students were given the opportunity to produce an original, local news story about their community that they felt hadn't been explored by the news media, and in the process learn more about journalism basics. Read the final report here.

Gendron writes for the Columbia Missourian about the stories that won a competition judged by faculty at the Missouri School of Journalism: "Lily Terrell of Boonville High School is the grand prize winner for her profile on the Katy Bridge, the community fighting to save it and how beloved the landmark is to the Boonville community. The two runners-up are Emily Byrne of Boonville High School and Hannah Duncan of Prairie Home High School.

"Byrne produced an investigative feature on the use of Boonville’s stormwater tax to build six turf fields in hopes of boosting the local economy by making Boonville a destination for soccer tournaments. Duncan captured an intimate photo essay — which can be seen in Friday’s print edition — of the woman behind Duncan’s Diner, the only diner in a town of 280 people. This woman is also Hannah’s mother. She makes a mean Reese's pie."

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