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How Journalism and Activism Are One and The Same

By March 15, 2019 2 Comments

This article was published in partnership with theCramm, a news site for 13-30 year olds started by Olivia Seltzer. Find their work here: http://www.thecramm.com/

By: Olivia Seltzer

 

Two years ago, when I was twelve years old, the United States had its presidential election in which the winning candidate was sharply against immigration. As the granddaughter of a Jewish-Mexican immigrant, the election hit close to home. And not just because of my ancestry, but also because I attended a school where the majority of the students were children of undocumented immigrants.

As a result, in the weeks following the election, my junior high school was gripped with a tangible fear. I couldn’t walk the halls without hearing frightened discussions about our current political climate – an entirely new experience for me. Never before had I lain awake at night fearful for the millions in jeopardy across the nation. And this heightened awareness didn’t just come at school. A few months later, I saw a headline while glancing through the news: “Anti-Semitic Graffiti on NYC Subway Scrubbed by Riders.” My heart stopped.

The article described how New York City subway riders had gotten together to rid the subway of anti-Semitic messages – including the words “Jews belong in ovens.” Scrubbing away these hateful messages was a lovely act that warmed the hearts of millions, but to me, all I could think about was the fact that someone had written those words in the first place.

I had grown up in one of the more liberal parts of the United States. I was blissfully ignorant to the fact that anti-Semitism was still at large within my country – not to mention the most common hate crime, according to a recent FBI report. My thoughts were plagued with the realization that people in my own country would hate me just because of my religion.

Deeply disturbed, I went about life in a daze. Whenever someone brought up politics, I told them: “please, let’s discuss something else.” Thinking about politics was too painful for me, because as a young person, I saw no real way I could effect change.

I felt helpless, and – even worse – hopeless.

Sometime in January, I realized that this helpless feeling wasn’t going to go away. I had been exposed to the faults in our world; my ignorance had been forever shattered. I felt suddenly impassioned and understood that I was in a unique position. I could continue trying to ignore the world’s problems; or, I could turn my anger into action.

I choose the latter, a decision that would forever change my life. In doing so, it dawned on me that the issues that so frustrated me had always existed; I had just been oblivious to them for lack of a political or global education.

I wondered: what if I had always known about these issues? What earlier actions could I have taken to make a difference?

Then: what if everyone knew about these issues?

If my sudden drive to take action was any indication, the world would burst with innovation, awareness, and charitable acts.

I searched for the root of the problem and came to the immense realization that the issue wasn’t disinterest – it was a lack of a proper news source for teens and young adults. My friends and I were all extremely interested in the news, yet our conversations weren’t very deep or impactful due to our lack of knowledge surrounding the news. However, if there was a news source designed for my generation, I believed we’d have all the tools we needed to become changemakers.

That’s why, in February of 2017, I created theCramm. Each morning, I wake up at 5am to read the news, curate important news stories, and rewrite them in a way that relates and connects to 13-30 year olds. Then, I send it out in a quick, informational, and witty email or text. Our mission is to educate and activate, and our subscribers come from all around the world – from here in the US to India, from the United Kingdom to Australia, and from Pakistan to China. And over the past year, I’m proud to say we’ve had over one hundred thousand readers.

Because of theCramm, I’ve had first-time voters tell me they now feel confident while heading to the polls. I’ve had young people start having the important conversations about the issues currently facing our world. I’ve even had teens tell me they organized marches against sexual assault or gun violence at their school – all because of stories they had read in theCramm.

My belief that awareness leads to action is now stronger than ever. In writing theCramm, I have come to realize the true power of journalism. After all, you can’t change the world unless you know about it – and theCramm is successfully empowering young people to make a difference by informing them about the world’s greatest problems.

My two biggest passions in life have always been writing and philanthropy, and I now understand that journalism is where both of these worlds meet. Education is power, and journalists aim to give that immense power to people all over the world. They may be punished for it, but ultimately, the impact their writing has on the world is immeasurable.

I’m proud to call myself a youth journalist. I’m also proud to call myself a youth activist. And theCramm has helped me realize that the two are synonymous.

​​Olivia Seltzer is the 15 year old founder and sole writer of theCramm. She started theCramm after the 2016 presidential election, when she became inspired to make a difference. Since then, she has written over five hundred newsletters for theCramm, taken part in events like the Teen Vogue Summit and United State of Women Summit, interviewed and connected with a multitude of influencers, and traveled to different college campuses starting a grassroots movement to educate the world’s future. Her goal? Changing the world – one Cramm at a time – and creating activists out of the next generation by informing them about the world’s happenings.

Find Olivia and theCramm here:

Instagram: @thecramm

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