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I’d like to address a few of your comments on teen-produced sections (Dept. of Media, “Tiger Beat,” 5/20).
First, when you single out the Voices section for its feature on beauty, you make it seem as though all teen-produced content is fluff. Such is not the case. In my teen section (yes, I am a youth editor), we do produce “fluffy” stories, but we also tackle more serious issues. Some recent ones that come to mind are challenges gay teens face in coming out to their friends and family, the debate over making the morning-after pill available in schools, and the sad fact that many teens are under- and/or uneducated about the Holocaust.
You also ignore the fact that all newspapers—not just teen sections—produce fluff. What do you call the entertainment and features sections of newspapers? They don’t exactly produce hard-hitting news coverage. (And I say that as an entertainment/features reporter. I’m not ashamed to admit that the things I cover aren’t exactly earth-shattering events.)
As far as naming sections goes, I can’t speak for the sections you mentioned, but our section name—FlipSide—was chosen by the publication’s original staffers when it debuted 14 years ago. True, all teens may not like these “pandering” names, but no one name is going to make the entire youth demographic happy.
Finally, I think you missed one key component in your coverage of teen sections: They produce future journalists. I can attest to this; I was a FlipSide correspondent during my high-school years. Being a teen journalist gave me the chance to sample the field and strengthened my desire to go into it. I know of at least a dozen other correspondents (counting from my final year, 1999, on) who have also gone on to pursue journalism after their involvement in the program.
With all that said, I think the initial issue your article addressed—that the Washington Post is covering issues directly related to teens without getting their input—is an important one, and it’s good that you put it out there. However, teen sections can help even in that regard. If your newspaper has a youth staff, you have a built-in group of teens who can, either directly or indirectly, assist in finding voices for teen-targeted stories.
I respect your right to write what you wish, but in the future, I hope you will dig a little deeper before making generalizations about teen sections.