October 28, 2006
Channel One and ABC Working to Increase User-Generated Content for Teens

For those of you who grew up in my generation, you may have had the Channel One experience in school. For those who haven't, Channel One is a short morning program that airs every school morning, giving some basic headlines of current events that may be of interest to middle school and high school students. Some teachers weren't crazy about how it cut into class time, but--the way I understand it, anyway--Channel One provided our high school with television sets in every classroom with the edict that the televisions automatically came on every morning with the news.

Of course, some teachers just covered the television, or muted it, or a variety of other things to recoup that time for our classroom. But other teachers participated in quizzes to ensure that we had been watching the Channel One news that particular week.

Now, Channel One is trying to create a new project that creates some degree of news synergy between their middle school/high school programming and ABC, a program that is being celebrated by those interested in media literacies and proponents of citizen journalism alike.

The new initiative encourages the students watching Channel One to begin creating content for ABC's 24-hour digital news service, ABC News Now, through a weekly program called Be Seen Be Heard. ABC News Now is distributed through some cable programs, as well as wireless platforms and ABC's online site. The content will include text, audio, and video, and Channel One will include how-to segments on how to use webcams, digital video cameras and cameras, and cell phones to record footage that can be submitted to ABC News Now.

Judy Harris, Channel One's CEO, said in the press release that the "partnership with ABC News is crucial in extending our objective of providing teens with the tools to develop a better understanding of today's most pressing world issues. Citizen journalism is a critical component to extending the ideals of the First Amendment and strengthens the voices of students across America. This is yet another example of how Channel One is building alliances and forums beyond the classroom to make certain that teens' opinions can be heard."

The importance of teaching First Amendment rights and the importance of journalism to students may be best served by helping show them ways to participate. In a recent post here, Henry Jenkins wrote, "Those of us who care about this push for a more participatory culture should pay close attention to the legal struggles surrounding student journalists and bloggers. Students are using these new media as they make their first steps towards civic engagement and political participation. How they get treated can have a lasting impact on their future understanding of their roles as citizens. In my case, struggling to defend my rights as a student journalist left me with a deep commitment to free expression. For many others, those hopes can be crushed, leaving them apathetic, cynical, and uninterested."

And we recently discussed many of these issues when Dan Gillmor and Ellen Foley were here. After that meeting, I wrote that "I do agree that papers have to shift their purpose and their focus when new media forms come along. In this case, as Gillmor emphasizes, citizen journalism does not seek to replace professional journalism but rather to augment it."

For more on the affect of community journalism, see my post from Sept. 7 on community journalism and a variety of new perspectives and projects in citizen-led journalism. Also, CNN has experimented with user-generated content in interesting ways, and MTVN's recent purchase of College Publisher.