A Message from the Author

People do a double-take when I tell them that U.S. Supreme Court is the reason L.A. Youth existed. But it’s true. On January 13, 1988, the court ruled that school administrators had the power to control the content of high school newspapers.  The decision shocked me, for it meant that student journalists were in clear danger of losing their voice.  A few hours after the ruling was announced, I gather 15 teenagers around my kitchen table to talk about starting an independent, teen-written newspaper that would circulate citywide.  Out of that discussion came L.A. Youth, the newspaper by and about teens.

I also loved writing, and had been at the side of author Budd Schulberg when he founded the Watts Writers Workshop after the riots of 1965.  Over the years, I had become especially bothered by the mass media’s portrayal of young people – especially those from racial and ethnic minorities, often living on the edge of poverty.

Newspapers and television seldom provided opportunities for them to tell their stories in their own words.

So the creation of L.A. Youth on that January day was a logical outcome.  We began with two issues a year, 2,500 copies each time, delivered from the trunk of my car to teachers willing to hand it out on high school campuses around the city.  Over the years we grew to distributing 100,000 free copies every month during the school year to a total readership of more than 300,000 teens.

 

It was easy to publish a newspaper that is solely produced by volunteer teen journalists.  They attend school.  They have jobs and family responsibilities.  It all came together is a tribute to my extraordinary adult editors.

When the late Los Angeles Times Senior Editor Noel Greenwood urged me to pull all of the back issues out of the closet and share some of the amazing stories with a larger audience, I jumped at the idea. Don’t Print That! Giving Teens the Power of the Press, is filled with the work of writers and illustrators who are the storytellers of adolescence.  Their issues range from foster care, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, crime and race relations. My dream was to publish an excellent teen-written newspaper.  It was fulfilled.  I moved the world a bit in the right direction. Read my book and you will agree that our mission was successful.