Did you know that most bloggers in the US are white, male, and in their mid 40s? Just one of the interesting facts I learned at the first of a year-long series of DC-based discussions around youth and the media. NPR veteran reporter Deborah Amos and Sean Carberry from America Abroad Media talked about their recent radio series on youth voices in the Middle East, noting that Arab youth are just beginning to amplify their voices and to speak truth to power. Yet Ms. Amos underscored that the youth media revolution in that part of the world is more focused on personal rather than political change. “Most young people in Egypt, or Morocco, or Jordan don’t yet see social media as a way to transform their societies, but more as a tool to explore and try out alternative identities.” In other words these platforms help them to take personal rather than political risks, she said. Mr. Carberry underscored the problem of unemployment among youth in the Middle East, saying that young people see joblessness as a real problem that in part is driving growing unrest in the region.

The dialogue, which also included panelists Richard Graves from Fired Up Media and Georgia Webster, a journalist from the Student Youth Network in Australia, was sponsored by the Society for International Development (SID) and organized by the International Youth Foundation (IYF) and the International Research & Exchange Board (IREX) through its Youth Development Working Group.

In Australia, according to Ms. Webster, few young people are seeking jobs as young journalists in the traditional media as a way to get their voices heard. They remain focused on using social media platforms to get their concerns and ideas out to the broader community and to each other.

While noting that Arab youth make up a majority of the population in the Middle East region [60 percent are under the age of 30], Ms. Amos said that it’s still very difficult to gain support for producing youth-focused programs in mainstream media outlets. “I’ll keep trying, because I think it’s such an important and urgent global issue, and we received a lot of positive feedback on the radio series on Arab youth. But you still have to sell the idea to your producer, and there are many competing priorities.”

Download a copy of IYF’s What Works series on youth and the media.