One of the first things journalists learn is that it doesn't matter what you wanted to say if your readers weren't able to tell what you meant. Like that tree falling in the forest, an idea that nobody understands goes unheard.
That's why the New York News Publishers Association is launching Young Voices of New York, a website that allows talented writers under 14 years old to learn the basics of clear writing. NYNPA and its member newspapers - The Leader-Herald is one - have worked for years to help teachers, libraries and educational organizations. Now we are reaching out directly to talented young writers and their parents.
This is not simply another place for young writers to "express themselves" as they wish. Rather, it is a place for them to work on genuine assignments: conducting interviews, reporting on events in their communities and writing book and movie reviews, under the direction of an experienced, award-winning reporter and editor with a strong background in education.
It costs nothing to sign up, but participants will pay with hard work as they learn responsibility along with clear, professional writing skills. Here's how it works:
All YVNY reporters receive an email once a week, listing potential stories and reviews. They choose the opportunities they would like to try and, if chosen for the assignment, they are then provided with the materials or access they need.
They then write their story and post it to the website, where it will appear once it has been approved by the editor, who may offer suggestions or ask for changes or clarification, offering the same type of constructive feedback that occurs between reporters and editors in a modern newsroom.
Anyone may read the stories, but only other young people registered with YVNY may comment, creating a safe, secure place for them to display their talent. In addition, member newspapers may choose to use their stories, giving them an even wider audience of readers.
If you know someone under 14 who likes to write, go with them to www.yvnewyork.com and see the possibilities.
The site is currently in demonstration mode, filled with actual stories taken from the well-established, award-winning program upon which YVNY is based.
All it takes to participate is parental permission, a completed application and the desire to become a writer whose words do not fall in the forest unheard.