Long before my days as co-editor of FishbowlLA, I spent my Saturday afternoons at L.A. Youth, a newspaper for teens, by teens. It was during these weekly meetings with my peers from schools all across Los Angeles that I realized I wanted to pursue journalism as a profession.
So, it broke my heart to read in Monday’s Los Angeles Times that the non-profit needs to raise $500,000 in funding by mid-May or it will run out of cash:
But as the newspaper approaches a quarter-century, it is struggling to hang on. The foundations whose grants have long been the primary source of funding have pulled out, and board members who once brought in corporate donations have been laid off, said Donna Myrow, L.A. Youth’s executive director.
The paper, which operates on a $500,000 budget, has two full-time editors, Riddle and Mike Fricano, who guide the young scribes through the writing process. L.A. Youth is printed six times a year, with a circulation of about 70,000 and an estimated readership of 400,000, Myrow said. (The Times donates the printing of the newspaper.)
Myrow said the newspaper needs to raise $500,000 by mid-May or it will run out of money. Unlike other newspapers, which have seen scores of readers migrate to the Internet, Myrow said that’s not an option. Even with this high-tech generation, she said not as many students would read it online, mostly because of a lack of computer access.
Jolie Augustine, an English teacher at Wilson Middle School in Glendale, has included L.A. Youth in her lessons for eight years. The paper, she said, serves as an “important way for students to think about writing, to think about the issues that affect them. Their parents don’t talk about these issues with them. It’s certainly not in textbooks. These are real issues that L.A. teens are talking about.”
And when the paper prints letters to the editor from her students — which she encourages through extra credit — she said it gives them a sense of validation. “They feel their voice is being heard,” she said, “and they are being recognized.”
L.A. Youth has been down this road before so hopefully they will get the funding they need by next month. If not, it’s been a helluva ride and publisher Donna Myrow should know she has helped shape and mold hundreds of writers during these past 24 years.