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[staff] The Fake New York Times and Visions of Change

Fake New York Times Website screenshot
Whatever your political views, you have to admit that the Fake New York Times that was released in the wild this week was pretty brilliant transmedia political commentary.  For me, the fake paper and website -- while also very entertaining -- is the perfect example of how a holistic political activist agenda can be made concrete and inspiring. 

For the teens that we work with at Global Kids, there are definite lessons for me in how we expose them to global issues, what process they go through to learn about and contextualize those issues, and what products we want to facilitate them to create.

My understanding from talking with people who were tertiarily involved with the planning of the Fake New York Times project was that they intended for it to show what is possible if people got off their collective butts and actually organized and put pressure on their own government for change.  They could have easily just did a fake newspaper on "United Nations Declares Peace on Earth" and "Obama Makes Racism a Thing of the Past." 

Instead they have headlines along the lines of: "Popular Pressure Ushers Recent Progressive Tilt" and "Times Reporter to Embed with Peace Groups." Several articles write about how it was particular non-profits, activist organizations and popular movements that caused the particular political change -- real groups, not made-up ones. And the  "fine print" on page 2 lists a number of those actual groups from a range of interests and sectors, from LGBTQ to climate change to anti-war groups. 

For the youth that we work with at Global Kids, the Fake New York Times is a great example of how they can think about challenging and complicated issues without giving into despair that nothing will ever change.  It's one thing to expose young people to the genocide in Darfur, the plight of Tibetans in China, the spectre of global warming, etc.  It's another thing to get them to think creatively about what they can do to help address those problems in big and small ways.  Otherwise, we risk disempowering them even more rather than giving them the tools to be positive forces in their communities and in the world.

Perhaps what they should be creating for themselves is a newspaper of the future, forecasting what they would like the world to look like in five, ten, twenty years, and what steps could be taken to get there.  I.e. something like this chart in the Fake New York Times:


And personally, each of them can do this for their own lives as activists and leaders.  What is the change that I want to see happen, what would the world look like if that change were to be implemented, and what steps can I take over the next year / 5 years / 10 years to get the world closer to that?

Then there is the collaborative aspects of the Fake New York Times.  Having teens work together on creating their own fake newspaper (or radio show or TV newscast) would enable them to connect with each others' aspirations for the future and how they might work together to see their different causes and concerns brought to fruition. 

And then they need to do what the Fake New York Times people did -- release it into the wild.  Be strategic about sharing their vision for change with a wider audience using the media that they have at hand. Use their own social networks (offline and online) to get it out there during some strategic outreach period.  Having our teens use future-oriented media to think about how their actions can affect the lives of people around the world can be enormously empowering and affirming.  And a really fun activity to boot.

FYI, a more activist group-focused version of this blog post can be found here.

The entry "[staff] The Fake New York Times and Visions of Change" is tagged: activism, fake new york times, non-profit, progressive movement

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