by Emily Reuben
The opinions and views expressed in Documenting Docs are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board.
In recent weeks, high schoolers have been making headlines across the country for walking out of school and participating in demonstrations against gun violence. No, I’m not going to cover a documentary on gun violence. Instead I want to focus on children in the news, but not as subjects; these are the children actually writing the headlines for publication.
The short documentary When Kids Wrote the Headlines: The Children’s Express/Y-Press Story details an Indianapolis program that allowed children as young as 10 to work alongside their slightly older peers under the watch of reporters for the Indianapolis Star. The kids didn’t just work on local stories though. They went all around the world talking to world leaders including Supreme Court judges, Presidents, and young people living in Cuba and in the run-down suburbs of Paris.
These kids were doing work many professionals don’t get the opportunity to do. WFYI Indianapolis states that during the program’s 24 year run, “More than 1,750 young Hoosiers ages 10 to 18 learned the craft of gathering information and presenting it in print and broadcast reports that were used by The Indianapolis Star, WFYI and other media outlets.” That’s invaluable real-world experience that is simply not offered in a typical classroom environment. These children’s stories were getting printed on the front page of the Indianapolis Star right along side the articles written by professionals in the prime of their careers. It’s really hard not to feel amazed by what the team of kids were able to do in the program.
Several former participants in the program were interviewed for the making of this documentary, and it is really interesting to see what some of these kids went on to do after being involved in Y-Press. Counting attorneys, ministers, accountants, non-profit founders, and even a producer at Vice News, Children’s Express definitely has some distinguished members among its alumni.
For all of the great things highlighted in this story, the whole documentary cannot help but be tinged with a sense of sadness. Be it the opportunities given to kids, the amazing work they were able to do, the personal growth that came with the work that they did, or the successful careers the kids took up after their time at Y-Press, unfortunately the program ended in 2012 when the economy forced the paper to shutter the program to save money. Y-Press most certainly offered valuable professional skills to Indianapolis children, and it’s incredibly disheartening that such an educational, impactful program had to shut it’s doors.
Luckily children are inserting themselves back into the news cycle again in 2018. If anything, this documentary shows the power of children when they organize and work together. It also shows how empowering young people to tell stories that are relevant to their experiences can shift a lot of people’s perspectives.
Today, our youth is making strides towards change, be it in the form of writing headlines or protesting in the streets. Yet despite their efforts, there is still a stigma against children and teens becoming involved in news or politics. To me that’s absurd. We need to encourage the younger generation to speak out and make a difference, not silently conform to what they are told is correct.
With the defunding of Y-Press many children are losing the opportunity to speak and tell stories. They are losing the opportunity to report, question, and speak with others in a professional setting. In a time where ethical journalism is so desperately needed and voices are so often silenced, the loss of Y-Press is a major loss.
Hopefully we will see programs like these emerge again and give children the opportunity to tell their stories and get involved. If you’re interested in viewing content produced by Y-Press, be sure to check out the archive.
Looking for more interesting documentaries? Good because I have an unhealthy amount of recommendations! Be sure to check back next week for more Documenting Docs!
Images: WFYI, YouTube