Grant Highlight: Alaska Teen Media Institute (ATMI)

Shortly after Alaska Teen Media Institute (ATMI) youth reporters posted one of their broadcast pieces on Facebook, ATMI staff got an unexpected call from Catholic Social Services Communication Manager Russ Slaten about future ideas he had for the team.

After a couple quick email links were sent to 360 North, ATMI had a contract in hand.

“Thank you for sending these two our way,” said Kelli Burkinshaw, 360 North program manager. ”I would love to use them.”

The youth-produced TV short films were soon in regular rotation on 360 North, Alaska’s public affairs source and the most widely distributed television channel in Alaska. Burkinshaw went on to suggest a full, ATMI-produced TV show on the channel in the future.

Responses like these let us know ATMI is headed in the right direction with the work youth produced as part of an Alaska Humanities Forum funded pilot of a PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Lab in Alaska. People are now looking to ATMI as another way to disseminate information to the community on important events and issues. These pilot projects allowed youth to be part of local and national conversations, increasing the value, visibility, and sustainability of ATMI and youth-produced journalism.

With this pilot program, staff hoped that students would find an interest in creating TV broadcast pieces and that through this work they would become more engaged in their community and more interested in current events that impact all of us.

Shortly after the project started, these goals became realized. ATMI youth reporter Ezra Dan, 16, proposed a story on a Yup’ik spelling bee and Lynette Guanzon, 15, decided to attend the refugee camp simulation put on by a Catholic Social Services program. These topics fell right in line with what ATMI was trying to accomplish and were of great interest to youth reporters.

This project also served as a freelance work opportunity for youth. For Guanzon this was an opportunity that couldn’t be found elsewhere, “I wanted a job and I’m only 15,” she said, “and usually no one hires 15 year olds.”

Youth developed research, archiving, planning and speaking skills along with the technical expertise to produce a video story, start to finish. They also had opportunities to have their work honestly critiqued by Chair of the University of Alaska Anchorage Department of Journalism and Communication, Paola Banchero.

“This package has a great idea behind it. It has a pretty well articulated, unspoken theme,” Banchero wrote about Dan’s Yup’ik spelling bee piece. “My criticisms are minor, but I will address them. I think the delivery is a bit monotone. It is something to work on and something that can be improved. The shots were also too consistent. Zoom with your feet. In other words, get up close to your subjects. Luckily, the shot of the spelling bee plaques and the on-camera interview with Daniel Hunter were highlights.”

Not only has this established a bridge between youth and journalism professionals but ATMI has also seen this pilot lead to community dialogue through the response on social media.

Dan’s story on the Yup’ik spelling bee received 40 shares on Facebook with some gracious comments such as “Great work...nicely done and a great subject...Quyana for posting,” posted by Amauq Ayagalria.

The aspiration for this project was that youth would strive to get a piece aired nationally through PBS newshour. Though these stories did not make it to a national audience, this project has taken ATMI a step in that direction.

Piloting this program allowed ATMI to establish a connection with PBS NewsHour SRLs on the national level and leveraged a small National Institute of Health equipment grant to do some additional reporting on health topics this fall.

Keep an eye out for more youth-produced journalism at Or listen in to ATMI’s monthly public-affairs radio show, “In Other News” the last saturday of each month on KNBA 90.3 FM Anchorage.


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