The Global Student Square

In public squares around the world, young people stand up and speak out in ways that move their societies toward change. But they’re not connected to each other. I’m building a global network of student journalists, with digital tools that give them the power to create and collaborate online. My challenge is to find ways for young journalists to add their millennial voices to mainstream media.

How will your approach answer the journalism challenge you are trying to solve?

Though we’re still in the early stages, Global Student Square is already connecting student journalists. From Stockton, Calif., to Seoul, South Korea, students are using our collaborative online platform to pitch, edit and publish stories no matter where in the world they might be. And these young journalists are engaged; student editors are organizing their virtual newsroom, testing workflows, designing our website, and pushing stories to publication.

In coming weeks we’ll focus on Compass, a collection of transmedia tools with a mobile-first emphasis. Students will be able to use these resources to report, shoot, write and edit stories. We’re also developing a mobile app that helps students localize global stories with links that make them more real and relevant to their daily lives. We hope these tools will help educators who face the challenge of engaging students and developing them into global citizens. We also hope to help young journalists to think about complex issues that every civil society must face, for example, the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris and the ensuing debate over the right to free speech and the right to offend.

How is your approach different from what already exists?

Several other organizations do good work in global youth journalism, including News21.com, Youth Journalism International, Daniel Pearl Youth News, and the PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs. However, none offers high school students a collaborative publishing platform where they could come together in cross-cultural, multiskilled teams to make independent editorial decisions and publish their own work. Another key difference is our plan to align our Compass curricula with educational standards in the U.S. and abroad. Connecting tested journalism values and best practices to Common Core and International Baccalaureate standards will help us create change from the inside, instead of a program that’s perceived as an add-on.

What elements of your proposal have you researched, tested or created?

  • In January, we began monthly production days at the JSK Garage that test student leadership and our ability to work as a global team.
  • We set up an online collaborative content management system plus a website and social media tools, all of which are student-administered and led.
  • We are testing our ability to scale and engage new readers and contributors by launching our first global news challenge, on Africa. So far, the responses suggest what millennials think the media has missed in covering this continent – for example, how teens create social lives in countries such as Egypt that restrict social media. We plan to use these responses to design data visualizations and interactive maps.
  • We are researching partnerships with key institutions, such as the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE), the Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies; media partners such as Public Radio International, and schools here in the U.S. and abroad.

What are your immediate next steps?

  • Get microfunding ASAP for the remaining three production days
  • Prototype mobile app
  • Create project budget and apply for incubator/grants
  • Develop/publish mobile-first curricula

What resources or advice do you need to complete those steps?

Building a global network of student journalists comes down to simple things that seem local but loom large, especially for an early-stage project involving youth. Among the resources that would make a difference for us right now:

  • Microfunding for production day costs (pizza, supplies, gas money for students)
  • Travel stipends so student editors can attend a national journalism conference in April and a media literacy conference in June
  • Funding for our student web team, and a coding team to develop a mobile app

Please list any collaborators, partners or significant outside advisers on your project.

  • Public Radio International: Social media manager Angilee Shah and PRI’s new #safemode project have showed me new ways to add youth to global stories.
  • Stanford Storytelling Project: For emphasizing good stories, well told, over expensive technology. Plus, new ways of telling them (graphic novels, sound design, podcasting).
  • Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, where I’ve learned about everything from designing creative organizations and building for social good as well as creating digital maps and news ecosystems.
  • Abbas Milani, Hamid & Christina Moghadam Director of Iranian Studies at Stanford: A brilliant scholar who has opened my eyes to what I need to understand about Iran, Islam, and the West.

What specific aspects of your project would you most like to receive feedback about?

  • Connections to international schools/students/teachers in Iran and Russia
  • Mobile app — what do community, citizen journos need? Could they be users also?
  • Research/suggestions on digital mapmaking
  • Research/suggestions on collaborative tools/workflows. Are there options beyond Azendoo, Asana, Basecamp?

This is the refinement phase of Motamedi’s effort to address a challenge in journalism. Learn more about her initial exploration phase of the process. Have questions or suggestions about this challenge? Email bymota@stanford.edu or follow her on Twitter @writergirl.