In this episode, we dive into the intersection of news and technology and how it’s shaping the awareness of teen culture. The minds behind this episode: young people who attended a journalism workshop co-hosted by PublicSource and Saturday Light Brigade Radio’s Youth Media Center in the North Side. From news access to reliability, we explore the impact of technology on news and the types of stories that become news.
Tune in to hear from the next generation of journalists and critical thinkers on their perspectives of the role of media in society.
Jourdan: In this special edition of From the Source podcast, we dive into the intersection of news and technology and how it’s shaping the awareness of teen culture. The minds behind this episode are teen journalists who attended a journalism workshop co-hosted by a PublicSource and Saturday Light Brigade Radio’s Youth Media Center in the North Side. From news access to reliability, we explore the impact of technology on news, the types of stories that become news.
Jourdan: But first I decided to shake things up by having our guests take questions out of a fishbowl for their peers to answer on the spot. Listen to Elena, Swati, Pranita, Emma, Charlie and Jay share their questions and thoughts about news, access and personal influence.
Swati Mylarappa: What superpower would you use to help the Pittsburgh region?
Swati: My name is Swati Mylarappa. I’m 16 years old. I go to Fox Chapel Area High School. I’m a sophomore. So you know how Supergirl and Superman have breath that can, like, snuff out a fire? I guess I’d want to have that ability just to like it, be on standby near fires and just, like, fly up and be, like, full blow air and then just fire gone.
Emma Pearman: I would probably be invisible.
Emma: My name is Emma Perman. I am 15.
Emma: I live in Shaler Township. but I do cyber school at PA Cyber.
Emma: Yeah, just kind of hearing the truth and what people say behind cameras and stuff I think would help out a lot of people.
Elena Xiao: My name is Elena. I’m from Ingomar Middle School. I’m 12 and in 7th grade.
Jourdan: What’s your question? What’s the answer?
Elena: What is credible news? Unbiased and truthful.
Swati: Honest and viable. I’m a debater, so I always try to stick with facts that I see on multiple articles rather than just one.
Swati: Multiple opinions.
Emma: Multiple, like, sources.
Jay: Credible news is news that has facts to support it, like pictures, proof, primary sources to back it up with — that is credible news to me.
Pranita Chakkingai: Yeah. Anything that you can trust because it comes from like valid sources and they’ve backed it up.
Pranita: I’m Pranita. I’m a freshman. Ninth grade. I go to South Fayette High School.
Jay: My name is Jay. I’m from City High. I’m 14. Ninth grade.
Pranita: How do you get your news? I use multiple things like the news websites, news apps on my phone, and I use New York Times, CNN. I know it’s biased, but I still use it.
Jay: See, I’m not really into the more worldly problems. So I would say Snapchat. Tik Tok. I don’t really use it for news, but like, if something will pop up, I’ll be like, that’s interesting and then I’ll go search it up. Like, you know, when you click on Google and you scroll down, there’s just those little articles. I will click on those. They seem, they’re so interesting.
Jourdan: OK, so both of you get your news primarily through phone and apps.
Pranita: Oh, I didn’t say social media, but I was going to… I was trying to act like the smart person who uses like actual websites. But I use social media probably more than I use other sources. But like, I take broadcast journalism and every day she asks us, what’s the biggest news? And you have to say one news story and like, you can’t just like say like the main you have to like actually read it because you have to explain a little bit. So like every day I have to at least read one.
Charlie Sweeney: I’m also in the same boat of I don’t really follow news very much, but I get it from like social media.
Charlie, I’m a junior. I go to Obama. News, it should be like, you know, a way to stay updated with the happenings in the world and, you know, to be able to see what’s going on. But then, you know, it’s also used for a lot of other purposes, like manipulating people, which is not great.
Jourdan: Teens know that staying informed about what’s happening in the world is important. But with so much news out there, it could be tough to know what to believe. These teens have grown up in the era of bots, deep fake profiles, and filters, knowing when they’re being manipulated even in the slightest bit is important to them. These teens want news that’s reliable and easy to access with daily updates that come straight to their phones. They want reporting that gives different perspectives from different sources, includes verifiable facts and reveals the truth.
Jourdan: I’ve been hosting our podcast From the Source for three years. We started it at the beginning of the pandemic. We created this podcast to make sure that people could still be connected during the pandemic.
Jourdan: This season, we’re focusing on what teens feel like are the issues and things that are shaping who they are, who they hope to become. So we wanted to give the mics directly to young adults and teens to tell us directly what they were experiencing, what they go through.
Jourdan: I like podcasting. Like, you know, the news started out as like an oral tradition and then the newspaper, and then radio, and then TV, your nightly news programs and then blogs and then video content and now we’re at podcasting. Do y’all have any questions about podcasting that I can answer for you?
Swati: So I actually ended up coming to this because I want to start my own podcast. It is related to like mental health and I guess being a good communicator, academics, stress. I just want to A. learn how to articulate my ideas really well, B. learn how to use the podcasting equipment, and C. how to come across in a tone that is like, good for your viewers. Not viewers, like listeners.
Jourdan: Your basics are sound, story, style. So your sound is just you talking naturally. Your sound is also making sure that people are not distracted around or not distracted by what’s going on around you. Sometimes that adds like a style to the podcast because you can almost like envision what the person is doing, but sometimes it’s distracting. So making sure that your sound is cool. Making sure that you are fully confident about the subject matter that you are talking about. Being yourself is a style as well. So it’s all about being natural and making sure that people can hear you through the amazing equipment that you’ve purchased. We’re not just talking about anything, there’s a beginning, middle and end. Some of that includes storyboarding and outlining your story. Sometimes I like to have a free-flowing conversation, and if I don’t get what I’m supposed to get, I go back and say, OK, these are the questions I need to answer.
Elena: A question. So, you know, as a middle schooler, I’m sure other middle schoolers feel this way, like it’s awkward because, like, you know, you want to talk to people, but you sometimes don’t know how. So what’s the best way of like, especially like being on a podcast, you have to connect with people. So how do you do it?
Jourdan: I try to be myself and not listen to the voices in my head that may be telling me that I sound weird or I’m talking too fast or I don’t sound smart. Trying not to feed into the insecurities that kind of pop in my head when I’m talking to people. So I have to be present in not thinking about things I should not be paying attention to. So I would say directly to answer your question, it’s all about confidence or faking like you’re confident.
Emma: So since I do cyber school, you don’t really get to see, like, sometimes people’s faces or the first thing they hear is your voice or your chat that you send through. And it really is about confidence, like building up that confidence. And I do theater as well, and everything is about confidence. And just like believing in yourself and really not caring what other people think of you.
Emma: Because once you have just like a little bit of confidence in yourself, you can go so far in so many different aspects of things.
Jourdan: During his presentation, Rich Lord highlighted the importance of in-depth investigative reporting. He discussed PublicSource’s recent investigation into the use of ShotSpotter information by prosecutors to convict people of crimes. This investigation uncovered serious flaws in the way that ShotSpotter data was being used in the criminal justice system, which had resulted in a questionable conviction and potential civil rights violations.
Rich Lord: I’ve been doing reporting in Pittsburgh for about 27 years, and I don’t mean to be callous, but, you know, in the news there’s a saying if it, if it bleeds, it leads, you know, which means if somebody gets shot or, you know, if there’s, if there’s a violent, tragic incident, that’s usually the top of the news. You’ll see a reporter sometimes under an umbrella out in the rain, you know, in front of police headquarters saying, I’m here in front of police headquarters waiting for, you know, the Chief of Police to make a statement or waiting for the police to bring a suspect in or something like that.
That’s not what we do. We’re kind of more contemplative news. We’re kind of the second, I think, level or third level of analysis of an event. So when we see a trend in our community, we try to better understand it and then share that understanding with our readers. So we’re not going to run out to the police headquarters right after a shooting or run out to, goodness knows, somebody’s home or something like that after a tragedy. We’re going to try to digest it, kind of figure out what the overall trends are.
Rich: I’m going to try to show you a couple examples of that because we did see in the last couple of years, especially after the pandemic-related restrictions started to, you know, kind of fold, we did see an increase in violence in our community, an increase in shootings, and we felt like we needed to respond to that in a thoughtful way. So I’m going to walk you through kind of how that happens. This is a story I’m going to talk about.
Rich: ShotSpotter reports gunshots in Pittsburgh 3,000 times a year. One case to deflect its use in court. It involves this guy named Angelo Weeden, who has been convicted of attempted homicide and he’s convicted based on evidence from a sensor, in part a sensor that was hanging on a pole somewhere and detected a gunshot at a certain time. That was used as evidence in the case against this man. And he was convicted based on this. This lawyer who’s representing Angelo said, I don’t feel this is right because, you know, he’s convicted based on this technology, that, boy, you can’t really explain it. People don’t understand it. You can’t, you know, in a criminal trial, you have something called cross-examination, right? Where there’s a witness who’s up on the stand and I’m the lawyer for the defense. And I say, OK, but, you know, did you really see that? Or how far away were you? Or, you know, what did you eat for breakfast that day or whatever?
But you can’t cross-examine an electronic sensor sitting up on a pole. You can’t cross-examine a technology. So this attorney was really concerned. It had this pretty interesting case about the use of this technology called ShotSpotter in the conviction of his client. So we’re thinking, OK, what do we do with this? We start thinking about what concerns this case raises, what concerns the violence in our community raises, what information we could use to come to improve the public’s understanding of these things. How does this all come together?
Emma: Who was the target audience?
Rich: Really, I think anybody in Pittsburgh who’s civic-minded, you know, our motto is Stories for a Better Pittsburgh. We want our audience to be really anybody who wants to kind of move the needle on Pittsburgh’s civic discourse, on the livability of Pittsburgh, on the equity and fairness of Pittsburgh.
Elena: We’re in like a rapidly changing world. So what do you think the future of journalism looks like?
Rich: Yeah, that’s a great question, especially with ChatGPT and, you know, now the new Bing that you can almost ask it to write an article for you. So what is the future of journalism? There’s part of journalism that has always been just plain showing up at the darn council meeting or the city planning meeting that nobody really wants to go to and synthesizing what you learn there and putting it out to people in a digestible form, you know, does that part of journalism go away? Does ChatGPT do that for you? You know, can you type in what happened at yesterday’s city council meeting and get a summary at some point in the future? I don’t know. But what I think I know, what I kind of hope I know, is that this kind of analytical journalism, this kind of making a plan, obtaining disparate pieces of information, synthesizing it, trying to impart a fuller understanding to an audience is going to be hard to do electronically, at least I hope so.
Elena: So I think we need something that’s like truthful and just short but digestible, not necessarily written content, because, you know, I sometimes don’t want to look at, like, words. I like to listen because I listen to Apple News Daily Shumita Basu. She’s really good at just breaking down the daily stories and it just takes me 11, 12 minutes and I get what I want for my day.
Swati: I like verticals because you can look at them and then review them. And then I’m a student at a high school, in high school right now, so it’s like easier than replaying audio. I can just read over the script.
Emma: Well, what I really work on is my school’s newspaper, and I am cyber school, so kids have to hear it from all over the state. And that’s really difficult to try and find something where you can relate to everybody. So we kind of really work on like events that are happening that kind of affect everyone. And I think that’s something like what is going to like, affect everyone? If that makes sense.
Rich: So PA Cyber’s like 10,000 students?
Emma: Oh, there’s so many students. Yeah.
Rich: It’s all over the state?
Emma: It’s all over the state.
Emma: Like, I have friends from, like on the other side of the state and I do get like comments of like, oh, like I read this and it was,like, fantastic. But it is really hard to, like, appeal to everyone.
Rich: How do you do that? What do you report on from PA cyber?
Emma: So one role that the advisers have is it has to relate to PA Cyber in some way. So that does kind of affect everyone. So I kind of do like events that are happening, I think, events, field trips that are going on. But I want to try and take it into like a way of like what is happening in certain communities, just kind of like expand it a little bit, maybe like, like parts that like, oh, this is happening in the Pittsburgh area, this is happening in the Philly area.
And it’s really hard and difficult to talk to everyone and get those answers online. That’s something I really want to like expand on is like getting in person because I feel like everything is going online and it is helpful in some certain ways. Like I am excelling in my schoolwork online, but like with news, it’s , there’s like a part that needs to be in person.
Rich: I’m with you. And particularly since COVID, it’s been harder and harder to make that work in the news business. And we’ve really come to rely on Zoom and email, and it just doesn’t have the richness, it just doesn’t have the back and forth, the exchange of ideas, the getting to know each other, the relationship building that reporting has traditionally relied on.
Emma: Yeah, I get most of my answers through email and it’s like to get that like personality, it’s so hard. It’s yeah, it’s very difficult.
Rich: And like we said, take the case we describe, you can’t cross-examine an automatic sensor on a pole. You can’t really cross-examine via email either. You know, it’s, it’s, that’s, that’s tough.
Jourdan: As we wrap up this special edition of From the Source podcast, it’s clear that today’s teens face unique challenges when it comes to accessing and understanding the news. But as we’ve heard from our interviewees, many of their concerns are shared by previous generations, including the ever-present threat of misinformation.
Jourdan: These young people are looking for credible sources that provide verifiable information in a format that fits their busy lives. It’s crucial that we help them navigate the amorphous concept of news and teach them how to filter the constant information overload they face each day. By identifying what’s relevant to their lives, they can be better equipped to make informed decisions about the world around them. For the teens we talk to, news is defined as important — verified information that helps them make sense of the world.
Jourdan: As you look to the future of journalism, it’s clear that this next generation of news consumers and reporters will be equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to navigate the complex and ever changing-landscape of modern media.
Jourdan: Season four of From the Source podcast is produced, reported and hosted by me, Jourdan Hicks. Halle Stockton is our editor-in-chief. Sound design and mixing is done by Liz Reid of Jeweltone Productions. We continue to interview young people for the podcast as we speak. If you’re curious to learn how you can share your story with us or nominate a young person ages 13 to 18 to appear on an episode of From the Source, you can get in touch with me by sending me an email to Jourdan@Publicsource.org.
PublicSource is an independent nonprofit newsroom in Pittsburgh, Pa. You can find all of our reporting and storytelling at PublicSource.org I’m Jourdan Hicks. Stay safe. Be well.
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