EarthEcho International last week hosted a two-day conference at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas for the inaugural STREAM event (Students Reporting Environmental Action through Media) in an effort to educate and empower youth citizen journalists working in various types of media. The conference, which hosted about 40 students from schools around the Gulf region, featured environmentalists, local reporters, teachers, professors, oil industry representatives and representatives from the mayor’s office, some of whom spoke about responsible reporting and others who fielded questions from the attendees. (At one point, students were able to pose questions to representatives from British Petroleum.)
Although the media response to the BP oil disaster in April was a great source of frustration for many, Philippe Cousteau Jr., grandson of legendary explorer Jacques Cousteau, saw the disaster as a chance to teach the youth how to report responsibly and ultimately tell their stories. If they felt powerless before, the STREAM conference taught them that they are not powerless and that they have the abilities to change the world.
“There has been a strong response,” Cousteau says of the program, which he hopes will become nationwide. “I’m not saying all these kids will become journalists, but this should teach them critical thinking and to question the world around them. What they have to say is valuable, and we want to help spread their voices and give them the tools” to report and share their important stories.
Cousteau also made it clear that the students aren’t just focusing on the oil disaster: “They care about the environment as a whole. It’s broad for them. We’re teaching them how to cover what they care about and how to be good citizen journalists.” A group of students from Isidore Newman School in New Orleans, for example, shared a story about the “little things” that an individual can do on a daily basis to help the environment and conserve water.
The conference also emphasized the importance of journalistic objectivity and media ethics. Cousteau says it is vital that journalists gather multiple sources and weigh different perspectives in order to create a credible story, whether it is a written article or a video. Students also learned how to edit files from Flipshare cameras that were provided to them for the duration of the conference and embed documents onto online platforms such as Youtube, and they received a lesson in the importance of attention-grabbing headlines.
Though the conference only spanned two days, it certainly gave them a foundation of skills that they will be able to use now that they are back in their own communities. They have access to an online digital platform that serves as a news resource, telling environmental stories from their perspectives.