As nearly every journalist knows, the desire to write and report usually kicks in very early in life, which is why high school and college newspapers have long thrived.
The Robert R. McCormick Foundation is one funder that's very attuned to young people's interests in journalism and, as part of its larger grantmaking in this area, has often supported efforts to nurture that interest. Earlier this fall, for example, the foundation renewed its support of Free Spirit Media in Chicago with a two-year grant of $300,000 to expand its youth journalism program. The foundation also made grants to the True Star Foundation and the Community Television Network to support youth journalism.
Free Spirit Media is aimed at adolescents transitioning into adulthood in underserved communities and helps them to develop the specific skills that will make them marketable in the highly competitive field of journalism.
What does this mean? Free Spirit Media's approach is to create its own media company to employ young folks in the business. It recently launched Free Spirit PRO, which provides Emmy Award-winning video production specializing in "social impact storytelling, documentaries & PSAs, and special event coverage."
The company has been used by the likes of Careerbuilder, the Poetry Foundation, and the Chicago Urban League, which recently hired Free Spirit PRO to produce its Golden Fellowship Dinner video tributes of honorees Louis Gossett Jr. and Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr.
Free Spirit PRO is a revenue source for Free Spirit Media, bringing in nearly 12 percent of overall income for the nonprofit, which reports a total budget of $1.4 million for the current fiscal year. In 2014, Free Spirit PRO, in conjunction with After School Matters and the City of Chicago, employed over 300 youth in the Chicago area, with youth pay totaling over $200,000.
You can see why McCormick is keen on this organization, which is aligned with the foundation's goal of advancing journalism, but also helps young people build jobs skills for the new digital economy and, presumably, feel more empowered as a result.