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Student Newspaper Shows Diversity, Concerns of Los Angeles Adolescents


A student newspaper in Los Angeles called L.A. Youth is giving a voice to teenagers, free from censorship by school officials. As Mike O'Sullivan reports, the paper deals with controversial issues from sexuality to violence, and such ordinary problems as getting a date in high school.

Each month, students from around Los Angeles attend an editorial meeting for the citywide teen paper, L.A. Youth.

The paper probes sensitive and controversial subjects, as well as ordinary topics, such as movies and music, that could be found in any high school paper.

Sixteen-year-old Daniel Marx is writing his first story. He says, "The article is about peer pressure with drinking. And the whole process is, we write a draft and we send it to one of the editors."

Co-editor Mike Fricano says the paper started nearly 20 years ago after the U.S. courts granted broad discretion to school administrators in censoring student newspapers. He says this one is independent. "We do not rely on government funding because we do not want to feel under that authority, or that [school] principals or school administrators or anyone who might find what we're doing is controversial, that they can censor us and tell us that we can't do that."

Charlene Lee, 14, is writing an article on the pressures to score well on standardized tests. "I'm working on a story about how I think teachers right now are teaching to tests more than just education for learning's sake."

Alana Folsom, 16 years old, is writing a critical piece about the pressures on students to get into top colleges. "And about how us high schoolers were pressured too much to go into the "good" colleges, the brand-name colleges, and how it's hurting high schoolers now," she says.

Seventeen-year-old Katie Havard likes to work on a variety of stories. "You get to be an investigative journalist, and you also get to be a music reviewer and a book reviewer, and you can do any kind of journalism you're interested in, any kind of writing. You can do it here. They don't put you in boxes."

Associate editor Laura Lee says L.A. Youth is open to students who want to express themselves. "They don't even necessarily have to be writers. If they want to illustrate or do photography, we would welcome them here as well."

Los Angeles, the second-largest U.S. city, is a diverse city with wealthy areas where Hollywood stars live -- and desperately poor sections that have witnessed unrest in the past.

Students from these different neighborhoods and backgrounds come together at L.A. Youth, says editor Amanda Riddle. "And so coming to L.A. Youth is one of the few chances they have to meet students form other parts of the city, and students from different backgrounds."

Editors say most of the student writers do not want to pursue a career in journalism, but want to communicate their ideas, and find someone to listen.

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