The Importance Of Journalism And Literacy In A Democracy… The ACT 9 Experience. Linda Ruth Reporting… Part 7

May 3, 2019

“The future of democracy depends on you,” Joe Hyrkin, CEO of Issue, told the journalism students present at Mr. Magazine’s ACT 9, reflecting what Linda Thomas Brooks had said earlier in the day. Over the last couple of decades, the folks in the digital world have gotten in the middle of the relationship between the publisher and the audience. These platforms are amazing to enable a publisher to reach an audience; the key is to be able to reach this audience without doing endless versions of the content customized by platform. Think of it as providing pieces of existing content in ways consumers can read on any platform, wherever they are.

“I am out of a job today because of my stand for first amendment rights,” reported former journalism instructor Lori Oglesbee. “I was teacher of the year in Texas, and I lost my job because I refused to take down three articles.” Five kids can change a state, she tells the audience of enrapt students. Journalism is under attack today; but iwithout journalism, democracy fails. Students need to learn to be inquisitive, to discern the difference between biased and balanced reporting, to become thoughtful consumers of the news to improve their world.

No one has done more to get magazines into the hands of the at-risk communities than John Mennell, the founder of Magazine Literacy. Earlier today we leaned that children need print for the development of their brains, which stay on a distracted level in a digital-heavy environment; Mennell’s mission is to provide children throughout the world with magazines. Literacy, he told us, ends poverty of the pocket, mind and spirit. Echoing the other panel speakers, he said that freedom, independence and prosperity depend on literacy. In the US 18 million people live in poverty; 2/3rds of those children have no books at home.

A child unable to read is a child lost. Magazines, he told the group, are the most powerful literacy engines on the planet. There are over one million homeless students; these children are effectively invisible. Imagine giving a magazine to that child. It says: you see me. I matter. “I am here today because I want to share the joy I experienced from magazines as a child; I want to share it with the most vulnerable among us.” Our industry’s undivided attention toward literacy is crucial; the experience with reading materials is what is needed to create readers. There are tens of millions of magazines available that we as an industry can get into those homes, onto those coffee tables, into those backpacks. Because there are magazines for every interest, we can reach deep into this inventory to address specific literacy needs. Magazine Literacy has airlifted magazines to Inuit families in the Arctic Circle; and one of the families served opened a magazine stand in the village food pantry. One of ML’s goals is to open magazine stands in every food pantry throughout the world.

Magazine Literacy’s mission is to build the most powerful literacy marketplace on earth by tapping the enormous potential of magazines, and by engaging every stakeholder in the magazine supply chain to share the joy and the love and the incredible power of reading magazines with at risk readers. He has the mission that Jo Packham told us we all need; he has a dedication to the journalism that Lori Oglesbee has told us is necessary for the survival of a democracy; he provides children with the reading material they need, according to Linda Brooks, for the development of deep, undistracted thinking.

People died for free speech, said Oglesbee. It’s important. And, said Mennell, let’s get these reading materials into the hands of the next generation.

To watch the entire panel click on the video below:

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