Get your voice in the media
So you've picked a cause that inspires you? Wade in and cause a stir in the media, says Sophie Manning, and make sure we share our views with the people who really affect our lives.
Most young people feel the media represents them as a group to be feared, according to the Respect? campaign's report 'The Voice Behind The Hood.' Even though 86% of us say we read a newspaper and consume digital news, the voice of Britain's youth is strangely absent in most reports and broadcasts.
Anushka Asthana, a correspondent for The Observer newspaper, says: "Many journalists would like to report youth views but have difficulty finding young people for comment." Since journalists therefore aren't going to ask what you think, you'll have to tell them yourself.
Make your pledge
Make a pledge
If you're ready to make your voice heard, then sign up to YouthNet's and the British Youth Council's Respect Campaign and make a pledge to get young people's opinions in the media.
If you want to get your views out there, first of all you might want to brush up on your writing or debating skills. Debatepedia, a huge encyclopaedia of pros and cons on any topic, can help you form a persuasive argument. Tips include:
- Starting your argument with a short and simple claim, and then backing it up with three or four major supporting points and perhaps a quote or statistic;
- Using simple but varied vocabulary to keep the audience interested. Journalists prefer quotes which are real and come from the heart, so don't worry about sounding too clever. But there's a balance to be struck between sounding passionate and sounding downright angry or rude, so definitely no swearing!;
- Challenging any opposition your ideas might come in for head on. This proves that you're down-to-earth and reasonable about your project. Remember, there's nothing the media likes more than a bit of controversy.
Tackle the mainstream media
If you read an unfair newspaper article in a national or local paper, you don't have to just lie down and take it. Write a letter to the editor - although only a small proportion of these get published, it is still worth doing as it may reach the journalist and make them more aware of the issue.
Begin with 'for publication' and, on the whole, don't write on behalf of a group or lobby as you risk sounding like an advert.
Remain cool and analytical in tone. Quote individual words and phrases you object to, point out bias, and suggest people, points of view or facts you think should have been included.
Of course, you can also give praise where you think it's due!
Radio is great for youth participation, as anyone can phone in and voice their views. It's also the media to choose if you've got great stories and anecdotes, since they're not concerned images or footage.
DIY media participation
Online, blogs are also gaining power and influence. For instance, Sunny Hundal, editor of Liberal Conspiracy, asks bloggers to unite as a political force of opposition. Start your own and get it linked to as many others as possible.
There are also websites specifically for young people with a cause to promote:
- Taking IT Global helps you use your ICT skills to find others with a similar cause and map your contacts network effectively. It has an ejournal, Panorama, where you can record your efforts. Another great place to network is Youth Noise;
- UNICEF's Voices of Youth website collects the ideas of young people in over 180 countries into a voice that will really be heard. It also organises Voices of Youth chats between young people, adults and decision-makers;
- For matters of development or the economy, go to YouThink! at the World Bank;
- Party political issues are accessible on Labourspace or ConservativeHome.
Learn radio broadcasting skills yourself at one of CSV's Media Clubhouses throughout the country. The Community Media Association has details of projects in your area, where you can put this knowledge into practice.
Express yourself visually
To tell your story effectively through a lens, go for a mixture of close-ups and wider shots, but always keep something striking in the foreground to add impact. Online, where viewers spend less time looking each individual photo, images need to be particularly dynamic even if the subject is still.
The BBC website offers the opportunity for anyone to get their photos into the news arena on the web, and includes guidelines for capturing the perfect photo-story. Send images to email@example.com with some background information about the picture.
Finally on screen: we've all heard about YouTube, but try TrueTube, where you can learn to shoot and edit movies, and then upload your work on various issues from feminism to prisoners' rights. Ofcom research shows that 36% of households have a camcorder so beg, borrow or steal and start shooting footage.
Written by Sophie Manning