The American Next: About the project
Welcome to the American Next. A team from the Missouri School of Journalism traveled across the state to document the lives of young people, and listen to their fears and hopes at a crucible time in our nation’s history. Our goal was to gather the real stories of the next generation, then use those stories to inform our coverage of the 2012 presidential election.
The candidates rumble on. The future is up for grabs — jobs, housing, education, constitutional rights, civil liberties, social safety nets. Each side (or sides) claims the answer.
Meanwhile, the stories stumble in. Everyday Americans feel disconnected from their government, stretched beyond their paychecks and skills, at odds over each other and values and the answer.
It is a time of crucial change and choice, and a time of deep discord. The politicians debate a choice to be made in November, with the election of a president.
But the change will continue — and play out differently in heartland America than in Congress and the White House. Choices made now will have lifelong consequences for the next generation. Young adults born into boom times have inherited a different world, fraught with economic and military risk. College students trusting the path of education may not be able to afford the tab. Middle-class kids recalibrate expectations. Immigrants redefine the dream. High school students are assured the debate is about their future — but aren’t asked what they think.
The American Next explores the heart of the heartland, and of the next generation, in conflicted times. We don’t presume to have the answers, but dare to ask the questions. We don’t dismiss the political debate, but listen more closely to those whose voices are muted or misunderstood. We note the rhetoric, then seek the reality as best we can. We will post our discoveries as we go, be transparent about our reporting and our curiosity, share information we find relevant, dive deep into profiles and issues.
We ask you to join us and help us with your questions, suggestions and stories.
Editor — “The American Next”
Collaborations Editor — Public Insight Network, American Public Media
Knight Chair Professor — Missouri School of Journalism
Meet the team
Hometown: Boynton Beach, Fla.
Studying: News reporting and writing
Hobby: Watching documentary films and knitting.
Last book read: "A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn
My American Dream: To have a full time job that never feels like work and to live on a Hawaiian island.
Erin McNeill Jorgensen
Hometown: Foristell, Mo.
Studying: News editing and design
Hobby: Riding and showing my 11-year-old Paint horse, reading fluff novels and baking.
Latest accomplishment: Picking up knitting again after not touching a set of needles or skein of yarn for several years and completely a baby blanket just in time for a friend's baby shower.
Biggest adventure: I spent a month in San Salvador, the Bahamas, (pop. 1,1oo) studying the impact of tourism on the local culture. This adventure also included: snorkeling on beautiful coral reefs, spelunking in a tidal cave and sampling the local cuisine — conch fritters were my favorite!
Hometown: Bloomington, Ill.
Studying: Information graphics and design
Hobby: Baking and reading either fluff novels or nonfiction.
Latest book read: "Street Gang" — it's about the history of "Sesame Street." And it was fabulous.
My American Dream: To have a job I love, never worry about having enough money and raise some awesome kids.
Hometown: Branson, Mo.
Studying: Multimedia reporting with a focus on radio
Hobby: Hiking and canoeing.
Biggest adventure: After undergrad, I moved to New York City with a plan but no job. I ended up teaching middle school Spanish in the Bronx after only a summer's worth of training.
My american dream: Meaningful work that I enjoy doing and provides financial security. But equally important is having time to spend with family.
Hometown: St. Louis, Mo.
Studying: Print and digital news; political science
Hobby: Trying my hand at reading and singing operas (which usually doesn't turn out so well for my neighbors).
Last book read: "The Emperor of All Maladies" — it's a history of cancer across the world and the author, Siddhartha Mukherjee, has a fantastic writing style.
Biggest adventure: When I was 16, I auditioned to sing at Carnegie Hall with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. I was lucky enough to go, and my family and some relatives surprised me by flying from various parts of the country to see the concert. Unquestionably the best night of my life.
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Studying: News reporting and writing; photojournalism
Hobby: International travel — I love cultures, languages and food (especially food).
Biggest adventure: When I was 30 I quit my marketing job, packed up everything I owned and moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, to work with orphans for three years. I built relationships with some of the most amazing people on the planet and ate things that most people have never even heard of — kudu, boerwors, biltong, rusks, koeksisters and potjiekos. I love food!
My American Dream: My life goals include spending as much quality time with those I love as possible, pursuing projects I'm passionate about and having a positive impact on the world around me. My American Dream would be to get paid well enough to do all of these things and travel internationally.
Hometown: Arad, Romania
Studying: Magazine writing
Hobby: Argentine tango.
Biggest adventure: In progress.
My American Dream: Do work that I love, here and everywhere, and touch lives for the better whenever possible.
Hilary A. Niles
Hometown: Portsmouth, N.H.
Studying: Multimedia investigative reporting on public policy and international affairs
Hobby: Swimming — preferably in oceans and rivers.
Latest accomplishment: My father taught me how to bake bread of the Christmas and New Year's holidays. So far my husband and I have made at least one batch almost every week — and they're delicious!
Biggest adventure: When I was 24, I bought a roundtrip ticket to Bombay, rolled up all the change I had saved from a summer of bartending and spent two months traveling through India by myself. It was so fun, I almost forgot to come home.
Hometown: Portland, Ore.
Studying: Investigative reporting
Hobby: Biting off more than I can chew.
Biggest adventure: Rolling a Subaru full of four friends off I-84 West and into a ditch in the dead of night.
My American Dream: Report in the public interest, explore the human condition, spend time with my family and raise kids who are better than me.
Hometown: Seattle, Wash. & Columbia, Mo.
Age: Learned to write on a manual typewriter, graduated from journalism school the year President Nixon resigned, reported from every continent before cell phones. You figure it out.
Journalism specialty: Newspaper editor and reporter who sought humanity in the news. Now teach journalism in the hopes of keeping the facts right and the faith alive.
Hobby: International travel, gardens, books and the Green Bay Packers.
Latest accomplishment: Cooked a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for 24 in Romania.
Biggest adventure: Stranded at a base camp in Antarctica for 17 days because of a broken plane, stolen fuel cache and bit of weather.