“We use our phones to keep informed”: How Journalism Reaches Gen-Z

On June 26, 2022, I woke up from my twin-size bed in my college dorm and went to use the bathroom. It was a regular morning as part of my new life as a freshman at Florida A&M University. Then, I got a call from my mom saying that a girl from back home by the name of Kyndall Myers was killed. 

I was immediately shocked, and my first instinct was to check Instagram where I saw several people putting “RIP” by her name. She was having fun being a teenager partying in the northwest part of Washington DC. Police say she was standing in a crowd when she was struck in the head by a bullet that came from a car. 

Kyndall and I didn’t have a close relationship. We went to McKinley Technology High School in DC together and only spoke in statistics class with Mr. Hammond. We never had any issues; we just bonded over math in class every once in a while.

Kyndall was only 18 years old when she was shot. We just graduated a week before this happened. Since she passed, it’s come to me that this is the expected life of a teenager in the US. 

According to the Metropolitan Police Department, the total number of violent crimes this year in  Washington DC, as of July 7, was 1,972, which is a 9% increase from that time last year. Out of that number, 109 were homicides. And according to The Washington Post, Kyndall was one of the most recent victims in a troubling pattern of adolescent violence in DC. Six of the 12 youth deaths this year occurred in June, alone. 

Adults often criticize teenagers for being so engrossed in our phones. But when you consider the wider picture, we use our phones to keep informed about what is happening in our surroundings. 

The high gun violence in my community and police brutality rates across the country have made me more conscious of my surroundings and prompted me to learn more about my laws and rights. I frequently utilize Instagram, TikTok, and the radio to share information or find out what’s going on around me. Depending on how terrible the news is, I might visit The Washington Post or New York Times to learn a little more about current affairs. As soon as I was informed about Kyndall’s death, for example, I immediately went on Google to find more news websites about her death because I was confused about how something like this could happen. 

But it does take a toll on me when things become hot or start trending on social media — just knowing there are bad people in the world. It’s also extremely scary seeing the amount of violence every hour on the @killmoenews Instagram page, which makes me less excited for fun in the summer. 

Kyndall’s story is a great example; my best friend always reminds me of how nobody goes out anymore in DC because they are intimidated by the violence happening in the city. 

Photo by Victoria Pickering via Flickr.

After some reflection, I realized that I shouldn’t go out as much. I need to be more careful about the neighborhoods I enter in DC because I could be put in the same predicament as Kyndall and everyone at the party that night. 

These days, it’s not easy for me to go shopping, get my nails done, go to the movies, or even go to parties without questioning if I’ll make it home at night. When I go out, I often look around at strangers to see if anyone looks dangerous. Oftentimes, if a person has a gun, you can see them pulling at their belt buckle. 

As a Black teenage girl, I have to be aware of not only my safety, but the safety of people around me.

Photo of the author.

As a teen growing up these days, I not only have to be aware of my physical surroundings but what I see online because I’ve realized that not everything on social media or in the news is true. I, myself, might not always take the time to thoroughly examine whether something is true. For instance, there were a lot of myths of the effects of the COVID vaccines floating around in the media. I started noticing how those myths weren’t true when many people I knew got the vaccine, and I did as well. 

On the other hand, social media can also guide me on what to do (or not to do) if I ever find myself in one of the situations that show up on my timelines. For example, if I see a fight between a business owner and a customer, I might learn how to communicate in a certain establishment to have a different outcome. 

Basically, both the news media and social media can influence how we perceive information and live our daily lives. That’s why I am continuously learning how to navigate what I read and hear, which has put me at a tremendous advantage as someone who consumes a lot of information. 

In addition to taking courses at Florida A&M University this summer, I’m interning with Bloc By Block News, which is a media outlet that covers Baltimore City. During the internship, I am focusing on news related to youth in Baltimore. 

Although I’m not from Baltimore, I believe youth from there share my fears of not feeling safe in their communities and lack access to resources like recreation centers that would help stop the violence. According to Baltimore Witness, there have been 176 homicides this year in Baltimore City. That’s actually a much higher rate than Washington DC, but close enough for me to understand the hardships that Baltimore youth go through.

From this internship, I would like to learn to communicate stories about youth through the news and social media. I’m majoring in computer science in college, so journalism isn’t something I’ve always felt passionate about, but I’m excited to learn how I can bring my creativity to it. I also want to know more about what it’s like being on the opposite side of the news, as a reporter instead of the one looking at the media. 

I would also like to learn more about how Baltimore youth are being portrayed in the news because I feel like, no matter what the topic is, children aren’t always heard. I remember growing up and my mom constantly reminding me that I don’t pay bills which is why I shouldn’t have anything to say. But I want adults to know that they can learn from us, just as much as we learn from them. We can give them new perspectives that they never considered before. 

If I’m in the position to be the one sharing the news, I will try to be relatable to youth as possible. And if the news about them isn’t so positive, I want to offer solutions. A few topics that have interested me so far during this internship are the pathways for Baltimore youth to enter college, become entrepreneurs, and get jobs. 

Our fight for greatness must continue even with all the negative things in the world. Yes, our classmates and friends may continue to become victims of violence. But if I show youth that there are more opportunities than negative headlines, they might want to become the doctors, lawyers, teachers, business owners, etc. that they once dreamed of becoming as kids. Before life got so complicated at such a young age. 

Editorial Disclaimer: Reporting for this story was provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and we thank them for their support. However, the findings and conclusions presented in this article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Foundation.

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