What began as a conversation about citizen journalism education between Claudio Alvarez-Dunn and Me in mid-2007 is now the Youth Citizen Journalist Network--YCJN. In partnership with the National Student/Parent Mock Election, the largest civic education organization in the world, the YCJN will launch this year as a pilot project in several schools in New York City, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Florida, Maryland and Montana.
Other states will be added in a blend of citizen journalism and civic education--the basis of citizenship and democracy--that We are calling "Informed Democracy 101." To quote Ralph Nader: There is no daily democracy without daily citizenship. To build the democracy of the present and for the future requires that We educate Ourselves on becoming well-informed citizens about Our democracy and its issues.
Thanks to the support of Gloria Kirshner, President of the NS/PME and Tom Engleman, National Mock Election Coordinator and Board Member of the Dow Jones News Fund, the YCJN has a presence today at the National Civic Summit (the merging of new technologies and citizen journalism) and at the National Association of Secretaries of State conference, both being held in Minneapolis.
The YCJN will focus on middle- and high school students and the use of cell phones to help capture their community interests. Layered with this local (or hyper-local) focus will be a group of experienced journalists editing content and selecting national and international news that relate to developing an Informed Democracy. As newspapers and their influence dwindle, the need for the Fourth Estate to carry out its pivotal role as paladin of democracy increases and what was once the responsibility and privilege of a few is now the responsibility and privilege of all of Us. In the words of Bill Moyers: The quality of democracy and the quality of journalism are deeply entwined.
On a day that closes with the loss of the embodiment of trusted journalism, Walter Cronkite, the YCJN takes its first steps towards becoming a forum for developing engaged, enlightened and expressive citizens who apply the skills and standards of ethical journalism to build democracy, at home and around the world.
The Youth Citizen Journalist will develop with more partners, in more schools, communities, states and countries. It will grow in small steps, but each small step, each person who joins the effort, represents a quantum leap in the potential of developing Our democracy, or any democracy, now and well into the future.
As Abbie Hoffman wrote: Democracy is not something you believe in or a place to hang your hat, but it's something you do. You participate. If you stop doing it, democracy crumbles.
Say Hello to the Youth Citizen Journalist Network and get to know Us better. If you want to make a positive difference, rest assured We'd love to work with you.
The Jenius Has Spoken.