GUEST COMMENTARY: Knowledge from newspapers can empower youth

Monday, March 4, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST

In 2011, I wrote for the neighborhoods beat at the Columbia Missourian. Each journalist on my beat chose prominent neighborhoods, but I intentionally chose the least popular — Douglass Park.

Most of the residents in the Douglass Park area are African Americans. In addition, the community is often noted for its housing projects, poverty and crime — stereotypes that often hover over communities of color.

Week after week someone in Douglass Park is shot, a fight breaks out in a nearby park and a child grapples with the ugly hand of educational inequality. And week after week, the youth in the community read about these stories in their local newspapers. During my four months on the beat, I made it my goal to shift these stereotypes. I believed that I had a purpose as an African American female journalist, to give the little light that existed in the obscure corners of the Douglass Park area enough courage to shine.

No, I haven’t lived in poverty. I haven’t experienced the detriments of crime or faced educational inequality. Nonetheless, I am a first generation college student whose parents believe in merit. I am the granddaughter of a woman from Little Rock who dropped out of high school during her sophomore year to work, and of a man who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. These are the facts of my life, but no one would know unless I told them. And when we don’t have enough courage to tell our own stories, someone else will tell them for us.

I found the light in Douglass Park by telling stories of barbershop owners and local politicians, of non-profit youth initiatives and art teachers. I acknowledged their efforts because I value when news celebrates the truth and those who shape it.

The Newspaper In Education program believes in the empowerment of communities and the youth within them. It puts local newspapers into classrooms and bridges the consumers of news and the creators of it. The initiative supports and promotes the development of youth as informed and active participants within their communities.

In providing news to young children such as those in Douglass Park, we give them an opportunity to know, engage and advocate for a better future for themselves. We’ve put leaders, computers and smart boards in the classroom. They’ve learned about World War I, algebra and cursive writing. Now, it’s time to put in the things that matter — those things that can’t be found in the textbooks and are happening outside of their classrooms. It’s time to put in the truth.

Rikki Byrd is a senior studying journalism at the University of Missouri. Since high school, she has built a portfolio of articles, photographs and her own magazine titled s c u l p t. She is an avid blogger, poet and lover. Each day she is tailoring her craft to prepare for a career as an editor-in-chief of major publication.

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Michael Williams March 4, 2013 | 2:08 p.m.

Well, how about that....

The Missourian finally prints an article about OFA and influence buying with the President, but fails to put it into a format to which we can comment.

So, I'll do it in an article entitled "Knowledge from newspapers".

Jay Carney says:

"There is no "set price" to meet with President Obama, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday amid continued outcry over the role of Organizing for Action, the outside group supporting the president's agenda.

"Any notion that there is a set price for a meeting with the president of the United States is just wrong," Carney said during his daily briefing."

Yes, there is no set price.

But, there IS a price.

Note the difference.

We already know what you are; we're just haggling over the price.

I'll be bookmarking these stories, you betcha. Gonna need 'em someday. And I'll be laughing at the Joke-in-Chief and ANY other liberal the next time there are complaints about too much money in politics and influence buying.

Good gawd.....the media is SO silent on this. I'm disgusted.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 4, 2013 | 5:13 p.m.


That's pathetic, but is it surprising? Maybe they're really talking about peddling bicycles and not influence. :)

On the other hand, you've chosen a rather well done article to append your remarks to. I commend Rikki. Perhaps on reading Rikki's article I am influenced by her reference to those who are first-in-family to attend college; our University of Missouri System campus has quite a few undergraduate students in that category, and for us it's a point of pride.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 4, 2013 | 6:29 p.m.

Ellis; I liked the article, too, and agreed with her message on all but one point: The existence of educational inequality in Columbia.

I don't buy it. My 3 daughters were educated in Columbia public schools. For each daughter, all pupils in her classes had the same teacher, the same blackboard with the same writings, the same books, the same assignments, the same tests, the same readings, the same curricula set by the same state and school board, the same everything as everyone else.

And all this is still true for pupils today within in this city.

Yet, outcomes are different...dramatically different between various people who identify with particular "groups". We argue incessantly about "gaps" and believe the only solution is more money or earlier education.


I conclude any "educational inequality" that exists does NOT occur because of differences between the classrooms of Columbia.

When I hear such "explanations", I turn off in a real hurry.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 5, 2013 | 7:12 a.m.


Point taken. Back to the number of first-in-family college students, according to one of MS&T's recent publications their percentage is about 30; that's nearly one-third of all undergraduate students.

I previously suggested that the Missourian look into this at MU, UMKC and UMSL. The reporter could probably obtain the stats for each campus from System data (located in Columbia), then he/she could interview one or two such students from MU (the possibility of interviewing any students from UMKC, UMSL or MS&T being unthinkable :)).

(Report Comment)

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