WireTap, a project of AlterNet.org and the Independent Media Institute, is a magazine web site designed to make alternative and independent sources of news and analysis available to young people at a time when corporate media like Teen People and Time for Kids have made youth a primary target of market-driven commercial efforts.
Under the slogan “Youth in Pursuit of the Dirty Truth,” WireTap provides young people with reporting and analysis, much of it done by young people themselves, on national and local issues. A typical recent edition featured an Atlanta high school student’s discussion of young people’s privacy rights in an era when schools are using metal detectors, locker searches, and drug tests as security measures. Other items included an account of a month-long “girl-cott” of the movies staged to protest the sexist portrayal of women, and a winning essay in a “Why Youth Don’t Vote” contest.
The WireTap site connects compelling first person accounts with broader policy approaches to social issues. For example, “Visiting My Father in Prison” is a moving narrative by a young woman whose parents have been in prison since she was an infant. On another page there’s a story titled: “Generation Incarceration: Juvenile Justice and the War on Youth” which details the growing number of young people whose lives have been affected by the legal and prison systems. A sidebar offers a provocative take on “The reality of youth today,” in the kind of short, fact-based bites that kids readily absorb and that can lead to deeper discussions. For example: “Percentage of the public who believe a shooting could occur at their local school: 71% True odds, based on 1997-99: 0.0001%.”
The WireTap site has many user friendly options. When you find an article you want, you can select a print-friendly version for easy reproduction, e-mail the article to someone else, or go directly to the message boards to discuss the issues with others. In fact, connecting people through issues is a main goal of the site. A “Youth Network” page has a useful list of “existing youth activism and youth media resources (including high school and college newspapers around the country) with short descriptions, contact info and direct links to their web sites.” The page is a good portal to the world of youth organizing and advocacy.
With its ties to AlterNet and the wider world of alternative and progressive media, the WireTap site deserves a bookmark for anyone working with young people.