The Trek Episode 5 on Media: Civics Unplugged discusses the media and what role in plays in everyday lives of Gen Z – in collaboration with Humanity 2.0

Contributed by: Show Editorial Team

Gary Sheng, Co-Founder/COO at Civics Unplugged, Madison Adams, Director of Dialogue at Civics Unplugged, Noor Myran, Founding Fellow of the 2020 CU Fellowship, Zoe Jenkins, Steering Committee Chair at Civics 2030, Maryam Tourk, Co-founder of CU Summer Camp and Chabu Kapumba, Senior Fellow at Civics Unplugged discuss mental health on this week’s episode of The Trek


  • Civics Unplugged hosts Trek Session with Gen Z community on the media and the role it plays in society
  • Prominent Gen Z figures discuss how they view the media and the importance of journalistic integrity
  • Future leaders of America discuss media narrative and the importance of remaining skeptical when taking in information 



Brought to you by: Humanity 2.0 – a Non-Profit (Non-Government Organization) focused on identifying and removing the most significant impediments to human flourishing through technology and thought-leadership in collaboration with the Holy See (Vatican).

Special consideration; to CommPro Worldwide for their PR and media support

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTS: Gary Sheng, Co-Founder/COO at Civics Unplugged, Madison Adams, Director of Dialogue at Civics Unplugged, Noor Myran, Founding Fellow of the 2020 CU Fellowship, Zoe Jenkins, Steering Committee Chair at Civics 2030, Maryam Tourk, Co-founder of CU Summer Camp and Chabu Kapumba, Senior Fellow at Civics Unplugged

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:00:01:

Hello everyone. And welcome back to group think if this is your first time joining us, or you need a reminder group think is one of our conversation series that Civics Unplugged, where we take a topic and we start with a burning question and we just have a conversation about whatever feels meaningful related to that topic. And we are joined by a few of our builders. So, I’m Madison and I’m a high school senior from Verges, Oklahoma is everyone else wants to introduce themselves or get started? 

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:00:35

Hi everyone. I’m Maryam and I’m also a high school senior and I’m from the suburbs of Chicago. 

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 00:00:44

I’m Ashley. I’m also a high school senior from Vancouver, Washington. 

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 00:00:50

Hi everyone. I’m Zoe. I am likewise a high school senior and I’m from Lexington, Kentucky. 

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:00:58

And hi everyone. I’m Chabu. I am a first year in university and I live in Toronto, Canada.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:01:11:

I’m Gary. I’m one of the co-founders I’m in New York city.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:01:17:

Cool. Today we’re talking about media and I’m going to share my screen and Gary had a very good idea or something for us to get started off with so we can do like a word association. 

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:01:36:

So how do you want to do this? So, I’m wondering if there’s a way we can avoid influencing each other’s answers and then only like sharing it out after. So should we should we just like pick a place to write it down or just track it in our head?

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:01:55:

Yeah. I think either if you want to write it down or keep it in your head and then we can just Be good for like thinking of questions as well.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:02:07:

Yep. Exactly. Because people can just kind of draw like connection between words. So, let’s give it like a minute then. How many words would be like three? 

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:02:25:

And it’s where you associate with media and not necessarily like words to describe media.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:02:31:

Whatever it comes to mind, I guess. Okay, cool. It’s cool because I’m such a big motif, of CU is talking about words.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:03:59:

Does everyone have their three words?

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:04:07:

Cool. All right. Anyone want to shout out theirs as first?

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:04:13:

Sure. So, my three that came to mind were online, information and circus.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:04:28:

The cool thing about these sort of exercises or like prompts is that it’s inherently meaningful. Cause it’s just about like, Hey, you are special and think in a way that can contribute to other people’s thinking like the profit itself or it could be so simple as that way I can go. The three words I have are propaganda oligopoly. I might be getting the definition wrong, but I think it’s like basically the same thing as like it’s like market concentration, but it’s with a Y at the end, it’s a market. It’s a market that has stopped. No, it’s a market that’s dominated by a few players that use their dominance to squash other like market players. Basically. That’s, that’s how I interpreted. Sorry, what’s up?

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:05:32:

Oh, no, I’m just going to say it’s like a monopoly, but not just one person, two to three or something like that.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:05:40:


Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 00:05:48:

I can jump in. I wrote façade, advertising and hijacking thought. 

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:06:42:

I’ve been go next. And I also just want to pretend that I cannot spell anything so Madison you’re doing really great. So my three word narratives, and then I chose the phrase of selective information and then my last one was personal.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:07:05:

Why did you say personally? I want to hear more about that.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:07:10:

Because I think that as much as media is like this big thing, where we focus on impact has everything to do with like our personal interpretation of media and then how that impacts like our collective interpretation of what’s going on around the world. And then also there’s the idea of like social media. That’s like a very personal relationship. And that’s just like your personal relationship, but with the world at large.

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 00:07:37:

I guess I’ll jump in. So, my first, I guess word is more of a phrase and it’s similar to what Chabu said confirmation bias. The second one I got was profit. I’ll give you a second Madison, sorry. Okay. And then just ‘go-to’ as a phrase.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:08:01:

Hmm. And why did you write, go to.

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 00:08:05:

I think that when you can’t figure out what to talk with someone about, you’re like, Oh, what do you watch on Netflix? Or like, what kind of music do you listen? Or like, everything is just revolves around the media. Cause that’s what we all share in common.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:08:24:

So, for mine, I put the same as Maryam, I put like information slash news. I know that’s two, but I put them together and then talking and polarization, thank you guys for sharing those and preparing through my us spelling situation. Anyone have a question to start us off with? 

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:09:10

I had a question in mind. How has your view of, how has your view of the role of media changed in the past couple of years? 

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:09:30:

Yeah. I was saying it’s like a good go-to question for like role of X role of why change. That’s just like a really great type of question. How has the role of yourself how’s the view of yourself changed over the, you know, that’s endlessly fascinating.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:09:47:

Yeah, I would just say growing up, I never saw media, I think a lot of like the news and growing up, I never thought of it as like, like, should I question? What’s being said, it’s like, Oh, the news is like, like the facts, the truth. And what you hear on the news is there are people that you really admire, like they’re so I guess, like, it just, the role has evolved in becoming more skeptical of, and I mean, maybe skeptical is not the right word of like, not just taking and instantly agreeing with everything that I hear in media.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:10:35:

Yeah. I actually just, just learned the word for that discerning, being able to have the skill of judging the quality validity, et cetera, of something. So you become more discerning.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:10:58:

I guess I can start off with like, answering this question. So initially, in the past, I always just saw it as a source of information. Like it told me about the parts of the world that I didn’t have like personal access to, or didn’t engage with every day, but really now I see it as I think I see it more as like, its role as like depicting certain narratives. And I think that media has a way of telling you what to know about something before you really know anything at all. So it’s like the definition of just super surface level understanding. But as a society, we see it as having a deep level of understanding based on what you see in the media.

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 00:11:47:

One big way, my relationship with media has changed. It’s just understanding, these are people who are trying to make a profit, you know, like people don’t write news or like get on TV to talk about things for free, you know, like they’re, they’re being paid to do that. And so there are inherently different incentives when it comes with that. And that’s kind of how I had to reframe my understanding of bias because people were like, Oh, well, you know, this new station is supervised. And I was like, well, no, look, you’re, you’re catering to an audience. You get more views when you’re reporting things that that audience wants to hear. And I just kind of like is a feedback loop. So as much as possible, trying to distance myself from getting in the loop of, Oh, man, I can’t believe what that person said. And then only reading stuff from that one source about that.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:12:46:

I definitely agreeing with that and like also what childhood like you were saying, because before, I thought the media was this untouchable thing, this unbiased party, I was like, Oh, I want to learn something like, look at the news, see what’s going on in the world. And like, those are like the scholarly people who know what’s up. But like more and more, I’ve been like seeing it as like an echo chamber of like thoughts. So it’s like, Oh, like you enter into this side of the news and we’ll, you’ll hear all of these same thoughts just like in different ways. But if you go on the other side, then it’s like the opposing view and it’s like extremely polarized. And so I’ve had to like we were talking about before, discern with my own knowledge, but for me, that’s been hard because if you don’t have like information going into something, then how are you going to be able to discern, like what’s been versus like, what’s like actual facts. So I think that is like something that I’ve had to like stiff my mindset for like the news is a place to get accurate information versus like, these are biased sources of information that you’ll have to take kind of like with a grain of salt.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:14:04:

Really different perspectives, but there’s an underlying theme here of just skepticism, like a growing need to be really skeptical of everything that’s presented to us in media.

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 00:14:17:

And I really liked Maryam and your point about like things being an echo chamber. And this is kind of a very niche example that actually my piano teacher raised and now I can’t stop seeing it. But a lot of news outlets have started using the phrase writ large, which means clear or obvious as though it means at-large and it’s like cropping up everywhere. Like NPR is doing it. MSNBC is doing it Vice news, CNN, all of these different groups are misusing this word. And I think it’s just proof you, I mean, I don’t know why they’re doing it, but you see it one place and I guess they keep doing it cause they’re like, Oh, well that’s another news source. They know what they’re talking about, but now they’re all just misusing this word. And I think that it’s the same way that incorrect news gets spread to where, Oh, the New York times reported it. So that’s got to be right. But then there’ve been numerous times where like they’ve had to retract articles. Like they said something about Kamala Harris being the first female vice-presidential candidate in 30 years. And the people were like, Sarah Palin? And then, you know, it’s just proof that they’re not experts. And we really have to understand that there are people who are just like us as well.

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 00:15:41:

I think a lot about like what ethical journalism is and like, you know, journalists are supposed to uncover the truth and they’re supposed to be unbiased, but they are also just humans and essentially you are trusting that another human can do that makes me for you. And so, I think in terms of how media has changed for me, I started becoming a lot more handled like intentional about not just like the news sources I am looking at but who is actually writing this and what is their writing like. 

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:16:36

That’s a really interesting point that you bring up. And I was wondering if we could use it as a question, what does ethical journalism look like? I mean, is that what you guys would want to talk about?

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 00:16:51

Yeah, for sure. Hi, I’m Noor and I’m from Chicago. I just got here, but one of the things, and this is like a weird connection because it has to do with college, but I’m applying to like a journalism school and one of the, kind of the tours that I went on like the virtual, like interactive things that I did. And it talked about like, what, what can a journalist and what can’t a journalist report. And so, one of the things they talked about was if you were reporting something on 9/11, it’s like what photos can and can’t you use? Because I think that it’s really easy to be disconnected from the fact that there are people involved in their lives involved in live lost? The first thing was kind of like association that comes to mind like the idea of what you can and can’t cover depending on like major events that has happened.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:18:08

I also think that just like going off that brought up like a really interesting point in my mind is if you have to be an ethical journalist and you have to understand your own personal biases and try and minimize that as much as you can, like when you’re approaching a subject. But if your biases are accepted in society, or if you don’t even understand that you have biases and are you just perpetuating those? Because like, people are getting their information from you. So, I don’t know. I feel like certain things are like under reported on or like over reported on. And so like, if people are getting their information from the news, then they’ll keep seeing certain things and like keep valuing certain things over other things. And it kind of like keeps perpetuating a cycle. So I feel like journalists have a really cool role as like a conscience of the nation in a way, like they, they’re talking about like what people think is important and like, it’s kind of like a cyclical motion. So that’s really interesting point to think about.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:19:13:

I think that when I think of ethical journalism, it also just seems like a constant process of self-assessment and also just being open to being publicly held accountable because ideally journalism is a reflection of the world at large and biases have such a big way of misconstruing information. And so being aware of your own personal biases and just self-assessing, or being in spaces where other people can kind of check you so to speak is integral to any version of ethical journalism.

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 00:19:51

I’ll say another thing with that is I think that at least in my opinion, some of the best journalisms are those that are just telling stories. And there’s not really a lot, I guess you’re hearing from the journalists of, then they’re asking the right questions. They know where to go to get the right people to be heard. And I think that those sometimes are the most transformational things. So you’re actually hearing from people and journalists use their platform to elevate the experiences of other people. But I think there are places for where you need the analysis, but you also just need to hear it directly from the source. 

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 00:20:48

That idea of getting it from the source is really meaningful to me. And it makes me think about fast and slow and a sense of hearing people’s stories and then reporting them accurately. And from the perspective, like using the words of this people, like it takes time to collect those stories and like gain trust of communities that you want to report on. And I just feel like there’s this tight chain between like, Oh, like we need to get out the news. And the news like leads to like beautiful. And because of that, I feel like a step is often skipped and we don’t actually get to the stories we get to people’s assumptions or whatever they take away from that situation, we don’t get to hear from the people actually experiencing. 

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 00:21:04

So yeah, to that point, there’s a journalist in New York, his name is Brandon Stanton. And he started the humans of New York project where it’s literally just quotes, quotes from like, he’ll ask the questions and then he’ll weave together their quotes. So that people who are reading it can understand like the dialogue that’s happening. And I watched one of his interviews and it was like, how do you just get people to talk to you like that? Like, how do you get directly to that source? And to a point where they’re comfortable sharing like really deep information with you. And some of his responses are like, you have to like, you know, make sure you’re at eye level with them so that you don’t seem like, I think he said he was like, I’m like six, three. And so sometimes I’m just like towering over. People’s like, you know, getting down to their level, but also like opening yourself up as a person. And I think that’s something that just lacks in general is how approachable are you to talk to? Even in like a digital space.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:22:35:

I love humans of New York. And I have like the book and I follow them on Instagram. And there’s also like another similar project where someone is on an it’s, like an Instagram page, but essentially what they do is just he meets people in random spaces. And he’s like, goal was to me, like 3000 new friends or 10,000 new friends or something. And I was able to like be a part of the project and like become a friend so to speak. But it’s really interesting because like, there’s always something to be said by like the people he engages with. And so I love how ethical journalism isn’t necessarily flashy. Like there’s a really beautiful simplicity to it because it’s not trying to push something dramatic or like misconstrue something so that it’s like, you know, big and full of buzzwords and worth clicking on and so on and so forth.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:23:36:

Any other thoughts on this or another question that someone wants to pose?

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:23:43

I don’t know if this is another question, but something that Chabu said like, Oh, if it has to be like big or like worth getting clicks on, reminded me of an idea, what responsibility do you like journalists have to like the people that they are reporting on because like I saw a project that they reminded me of like the humans, New York, where it’s like a journalism brand and we’ll go to underreported place and get those stories, but then they’ll also like train the people. Like if they’re putting on like women who don’t have jobs, they’ll also become reporters in those communities. And so that they can continue reporting on the stories that aren’t getting enough attention. So, they’re influencing like the stories that they’re talking about. So, they’re taking it one level above storytelling to that. That was a really interesting idea because I think a lot of journalists right now are just kind of like conveying information. So, I think it’s like cool to think about what responsibility they have in like changing the story. And I don’t really know if that really falls under journalism because some people are the storytellers and some people are moving the story along if that makes sense. But yeah, I think it’s cool to think about how those two can coexist, but I think that’s kind of like falling underneath ethical journalism too. 

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:25:03

Ok so what responsibility do journalists have to like the people they report on?

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 00:25:24

I’ll say that’s something where when I’ve seen certain kinds of pictures, like from areas with a lot of conflict that I have a really hard time thinking you just took a picture of that. I would have the impetus to address the situation, but it’s like, you took the time to take a picture and then like photojournalist explaining where the limits are of you can’t intervene all the time. And that it’s sometimes that really has a lot of weight on them. Like when you’re taking like pictures and videos of things that are really traumatic and really awful things. But you as a journalist have the responsibility to capture it and report that out, not necessarily to act which is maybe sort of related to the question you asked, but that’s always something that would be a really hard thing as a journalist, if you were reporting and those kinds of situations of knowing where the boundary is. 

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 00:26:45

I almost feel like people should have the ability to totally review what was written about them before it’s published, or they should be able to influence this story in some way. I guess, what I always think about is when you do interviews with like a reporter, you don’t really control the story, the person writing your interview controls your narrative, which is kind of twisted. I just feel like you’re the person being written about you should have some form of control over like what the story ends up being.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:27:33

I totally agree with that Ashley. In the sense that it’s really important because journalism at the end of the day, establishes narratives and narratives are, not to be dramatic, but almost the foundation of our society and how we like engage with one another going forward. And what we deem as like worthwhile all those things. And I had a teacher, and we were talking about indigenous narratives and how things have happened to almost completely remove them from what’s actually taking place. And he basically was like, there’s he asked the pose the question to the class of whether or not they should be like, they should be able to write an article about an indigenous issue. And we all kind of were like, Oh yeah, because like we’ve now established our own personal learning revolve around it. And, you know, we consider ourselves allies. But in reality, the answer’s no, because no one should be in charge of kind of writing your narrative, but you are, but someone who’s like been a part of it because it comes from like a more genuine place. And you have a lot of like, almost like lifelong context to the things that are taking place. And so you can be more empathetic and genuine as to what’s going on. So I thought that was really interesting too.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:29:05

Kind of a related question. So instead of what responsibility do journalists have to people they report on, what responsibility do journalists have to like our society or like our democracy?

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 00:29:44

I guess when I think of, at least as that, you have a specific lived experience. You don’t have the lived experience of everyone else in like our democracy. There’s no way you can travel to every state in every city and understand how people are living, but that’s a unique opportunity that journalists have just given the nature of what they do. So I think in many ways it’s informing the rest of us about how different people around the country are like how, how they’re living, what issues uniquely face them. Because if you don’t like to understand the other people like in your country, I think it’s really easy to start, you know, developing stereotypes and generalizations of, Oh, well, the South is like that, or people in California like this because you don’t actually get to meet those people, but journalists have an opportunity to kind of bridge that gap when other people can’t.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:30:56

I think that because democracy is essentially supposed to be the will of the people. Right. And so journalism has a role in the sense that it, it tells us the foundational information so that we can even pick a side or determine how we feel about it to establish the will, that will be conveyed in the end. So I think that journalism is really important in our democracy.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:31:35

I think that this also plays heavily into empathy and dehumanizing people, because the way that you report on people that some don’t have any information on will influence the information that they get on those people. So if you’re just talking about a person, a number like, Oh, this many people died, it’s like easy to start falling into those numbers and just be like, Oh, well it was just one person. I mean, it would have been so much worse. I’ve seen a worse story versus actually telling the story of someone’s life. Like that was one person who lived just me or just like anybody else. And so, I think that a lot of the times, at least even for me, I used to do like a radio speaking in speech and I would have to report on stories and my coach would always tell me like, Oh why are you so enthusiastic about it? And I was like, I don’t mean to be in there, you’re talking about like horrific things are happening. And I was like, Oh yeah, I guess I am. And it took me a second and I was like, Oh, shoot that made me have a big realization that I was like, okay, these are people’s lives that you’re talking about. And I think that in general, people can get really lost in the rush of constant information that they forget that these are all stories about people’s lives. But I think that humanizing stories is something that kind of gets lost in the mix.

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 00:33:05

I completely relate on that radio point, I did it freshman year and the higher pitched voice didn’t help. But one of the things that comes to mind too is they’re almost like professional journalists or not even there are literal professional journalists who that’s what they do for a living. But I like to think that almost anyone who has the ability to either share on a lived experience or articulate something that they find to be meaningful. I think that type of journalism and that type of journalist is important to democracy just to give that alternate perspective or reinforce an already existing belief or challenging and already existing belief. So I think it’s cool how universal that can be.

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 00:34:04

Yeah. Was one of the words oligopoly or something? I think in a sense media is an oligopoly. It’s like its own vibe, a certain number of media sources that essentially give us most of our news. And Noor like what you said, kind of just causes me to think about, we need more locally based community centered journalism because I feel like the people in the community have the context on what is it important to their community. And I don’t know, I feel like journalism would be a lot more relevant if it is written by the people who are closest to the problem as opposed to like someone flying in and learning about it.

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 00:35:15

And already local news is way underfunded. And a lot of local news stations have had to either shut down or kind of lower or fire people and lower their staff. So, it’s already being something that’s already written.

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 00:35:35

And I’ll say something kind of scary that I read recently too. Is it a lot of local news is owned by like the larger media conglomerates, which I didn’t realize that my neighborhood weatherman is being paid by like NBC, for example. And I was like, that’s kind of weird to think about that. Like local news is not totally independent in the way that it should be

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:36:02

This is one of the probably first or second unplugged conversations we ever had, but somewhat, I don’t remember what the context was or who even said it, but they said your local news spends more time telling you, who got shot last night, rather than things that are taking place in your community. And that totally blew my mind because the place where we’re supposed to go learn about our community is just saturated in conflict. You know what I mean? And not even just like, if that’s what’s going on, that’s what’s going on and should be addressed, but I feel like it’s just weird that those are the conversations that they continue to choose to have over everything else.

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 00:36:46

I mean, that goes back to what gets people in the most clicks, right? Like the more horrendous the news is, the more clicks it gets and I just like news is optimized for the wrong thing.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:37:19

Any other thoughts? Another question? 

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:37:26

I have a question. What has media ever taught you about yourself? And was it something that you clung to, or was it something that you felt the need to unlearn?

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:37:50

So I can start I think that media was my first was really big agent of socialization when it came to understanding North American culture. Just because my parents are immigrants. And so the things that I was used to at home, or taught the things that were happening at school. And so it was useful in the sense that it taught me about the communities I was living in. But it didn’t really teach me where my place was in those communities that I was living in. And so the ideas that I picked up from that, where things that I kind of had to disengage with as I got older.

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 00:38:49

I think something that at least for me I unintentionally learned is that kind of became a headline skimmer in a sense that there’s just so much news. So I would decide is this worth reading based off of the headline and then quickly realized that the headlines that seemed the most interesting are not necessarily the ones who need to read. And so just figuring out, I think just better ways to consume media that is much more intentional so that I’m not just like swamped with a ton of different articles from a ton of different publications at one time.

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 00:39:30

I also think, and this is something at the very first take off from last year’s scholarship. This is something Nick said. He was like, I used to just have like the news running in my classroom, just kind of 24/7. And it almost became like background noise even though you were hearing these kinds of things, like it was almost anticipated just because you had the news on. And when you found out, I didn’t realize how often I was doing that too. And so, I think it taught me because I always point to be way more intentional with when I’m choosing to seek out that information and where I’m choosing to seek it out from. And also, this going back to what Maryam referenced earlier is remembering that what is being covered is real people and real people’s lives. And I think that changes how you kind of view a story or a statistic or even a headline.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:40:42

Another thing that comes to mind and what media has taught me about myself is I guess when I’m only one sided about a topic, because I feel like a lot of the people that I associate with have similar views as me. And I don’t necessarily seek out people with different views as much as I should. And then when I consume the same sort of media, it just kind of, again, back to this echo chamber idea, I feel like I don’t get enough perspective. And so one of the things that I’ve kind of learned is that things aren’t always one-sided, it’s not just one side or the other side, there’s a lot more in between. And so seeking out that middle ground is really important. And I think that it wasn’t because maybe it taught me that I should, because looking at the media, I realized that about myself, that I didn’t do it enough and other people weren’t doing it either. So, I wasn’t going to get it to the media or most people. And so I guess, that’s something that I’ve realized that I need to do more is just see things from multiple perspectives and kind of get that opinion to formulate my own opinion.

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 00:42:12

I guess one of the things I most wish media taught me, I think that we’ve gone a long way and representation and even if it’s just like a kid looking at the news and it’s like, Oh, this news reporter like shares this similar characteristic or trait to me. I guess one of the things I wish media had taught me from a younger age was that, and it’s the reason I want to go into journalism. I think broadcast journalism is really interesting. I wish I had seen like journalists, like on the TV from a younger age, because I think that it would have been like a more defining moment just cause you see a lot of representation, but sometimes it’s almost like token to be like, Hey, like look at me versus like I’m an actual real person and this is like my literal job. So I guess that’s kind of a segue, but also just something I wish media had taught me.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:43:28

And kind of just to like comment on what Noor said about how media also has a way of making a part of your personality or a characteristic that you have, the center of who you are, or the most important or relevant fact of who you are. And I think that’s really counterproductive, especially now that like we’re entering an era where like tokenizing people is super common in like an attempt to gain more representation in spaces.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:44:03

Yeah. I definitely see that. Like I hate, hate, hate the most when like media just like reduces like a person to they’re most diverse identity features. You’re like, Oh, that’s a hijab. And that’s the Indian kid or that’s the Asian person. It’s just so annoying when it’s TV shows and media and everything, you see it repeated so many times. And I get frustrated when people actually interact with those things. You’re like, Oh, but shouldn’t you be like X Y Z. But then I’m like, well, if the media is always pushing it and they’re never interacting with these people in real life, where else are they going to get it from? So I definitely see that more representation and then not just representation to push the stereotypes that already exist, which is real life representation, because not all diverse groups are like a monolith, right? I didn’t think that that even needs to be said, but I think that’s something that people are still like wrapping their head around because I see it all too much. So definitely agree with both of you on that point.

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 00:45:11

I’ll just add that. I had to Google this word to make sure this was like the word to describe what you’re talking about, but essentially like typecasting people of like, Oh, you’re the black journalist. So you can talk about everything going on with black lives matter. And the rest of us will just kind of nod our heads and be like, “yeah.” Which is ridiculous because anybody can have an opinion. And even people within the black community have very different opinions on Black Lives Matter as does everybody, because we’re all just incredibly diverse, regardless of what affinity group you’re most diverse feature group is. And so, I guess very early on perpetuated that, if you’re this, then you talk about these sorts of things. Or if you’re not that then you don’t talk about these kinds of things. Which I think is, I think both are incredibly dangerous.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:46:22

And also, just kind of pushing this idea of what Zoe was talking about with typecasting it also sets a limit on exploring those communities because you almost see them as one dimensional and you miss out on almost smaller communities within more subcategories, so to speak. And then, you’re like almost deleting other narratives that exist because you’re so busy establishing the ones that’s really solidified already.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:46:57

I think you bring up a really good point that is once these narratives have been pushed for so long, it’s hard for people to even understand the other narratives exist because it’s like, Oh, outside of your imagination, because they’ve never seen it in real life. So I think that’s really interesting to think about how people aren’t even allowed to really push the boundaries because stories about people who are pushing the boundaries, might not even be well received by people because it’s just such a non-thing, I guess, nobody else is doing it. And so when it was one lone story about something that nobody else wants to hear, because it doesn’t fit with everybody else has been saying, it just kind of like gets first under the rug and ignored.

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 00:47:44

Something this reminds me of is this speech I heard my freshman year. And it was on news and media and stories. And one of the things he said was one of the things that we noticed the media is these Uh-oh stories. It’s basically like the first time you hear it, for example, the headline was like, Oh, young six-year-old cancer patient has a lemonade stand that comes up with the total money she needs for her treatment. And it’s like, Oh, that’s so cute her community came together for her. And that’s like the odd part of like the IO versus like the owl part, which is like, Oh, like there was something wrong in the system where they needed to come up with that money. And they needed to be the ones to give back to her instead of I already have worked for her. And so, it just reminds me of the idea that sometimes well-received stories, this is not something that’s necessarily as it heartwarming that her community came together for her. Absolutely. But does it reflect like a much larger issue that is really easy to ignore because of this story? 

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 00:49:02

And I’ll say to touch on something that Maryam had mentioned too, of we type cast people. So there are these narratives and I think we also get another kind of story where it’s like the unicorn. We think that this one group all behaves X way, but there’s this one person who behaves this Y way and we’re just going to spend a couple hours diving into why, why did they think that way everyone else who’s like them doesn’t think that way which is just such a weird tokenization in and of itself. And almost like suggesting that it’s wrong to be out of that group. And then that news coverage tends to be really negative as well when that does happen, which is weird.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:49:54

Yeah. That just reminds me all the time when people say things like, “Oh, you’re a blank for a blank.” Like, “Oh, you were fun for like this type of person” or “You’re smart for this kind of person.” And it’s like, okay, are we really still in those narratives that you have to be like a certain type of people to be smart or fun or something else? But yeah, I see all the time. I like the way you put a unicorn story because it takes a feel good and everyone’s like, yay, we’re finally getting representation, but also is this the right kind of representation? I mean also kind of puts the communities that are being represented in an awkward position, because you want to support representation, but at what cost? Because I don’t know if that’s relevant to anybody else, but I think a lot of the times it’s like, Oh, I’ll see this. And be like “Yes, representation” but also like, I don’t want to perpetuate something, but I also want to support the slim representation that I do see. So that’s another thing that I kind of brings up typecasting.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:51:03

Myram brings up such a good point about the issue of almost the intersection of media on real life. Because when you step outside of the narrative, that’s been constantly presented. You’re almost in contradiction with the world or it puts an extra emphasis on you and what you’re doing then what needed to be there. And so I think that like, it’s a really, really tricky spot to be in. And that’s kind of like why it’s so important. That media is like a genuine representation of people and who they are and the diversity of what they could be. Because when you fall outside of that narrative, it’s a really tough situation to even understand that you’re in.

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 00:51:52

To Myram’s earlier point of there are some representations. I always think like we’ve almost like been like Gaslight into thinking Oh, what do you mean? Like you’re not represented look at this like model minority that does that. And that’s on the news. But I think that you can see an issue in that. And I think what’s frustrating is that’s expected the representation that’s being asked for or even being crushed because it’s you were so close, then you almost pick a point, but you’re just off by like the smallest little margin. 

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged:  00:52:53

Any other thoughts on this? I mean, I know that we were supposed to talk about the election. If you guys want to stay and talk with us for a little bit longer, you can, if there’s any more questions. 

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 00:53:05

I guess if people are ready to wrap up, I can contribute a closing question. Of just what media sources do you like to consume and why do you consume those sources? And I can start, cause this whole conversation has really gotten me thinking about what sources I do like. And so, one source I always love is Vice News. I just love when they go to these places in the world that I didn’t even know existed and talking to people that I didn’t even know existed. And I’m just learning all of these kind of revolutionary things about culture and different world conflicts that you don’t really see on like traditional cable news. And they also just have some really, really magnetic people who do those interviews and those stories. So, I really like it. It feels more independent than other news sources though. Of course, probably when you look into it, it’s not the independent, but it’s always fun to watch. I really enjoy.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:54:31

So I think I have two video sources that I find to be super great for me. One of them is a newsletter that comes in through email called “The Donut” and it kind of gives you both spectrums of an issue. So it’ll kind of describe the situation in one or two sentences and then give you links to articles that are left-leaning or right-leaning center far right, far left. I think it’s really good because it just kind of goes even just by reading the headlines, you see how the interpretation of what’s going on really impacts your understanding of it. And also gives you the opportunity to kind of look on the other side and see where they’re coming from. And then I also think just reading books is a really good media source. It’s not going to give you current events, but it does give you an understanding of or a more personal context of stuff that happens. And I’m talking about more like novels and personal stories, not necessarily non-fiction. I think there’s a lot of added value in that that’s undermined because we have such a high value for current events and current use right now.

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 00:55:41

I’m with Zoe on Vice and another I don’t know if this technically counts as media, but I used to watch a lot of Anthony Bordain because I think that like the intersection of like cuisine, which is something that’s so cool to me, and specific to very different people with current events and social issues that are happening in those countries that he visits. I think that it’s really cool to see that, but it was also he was traveling and talking to different people and like seeing someone appreciate, I just feel food is a really cool thing about people like it’s so specific to them. So seeing him appreciate the difference of like the cuisine and also being able to talk to different people. I think that he brought a really interesting narrative to the table.

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 00:56:38

Building off what Chabu talked about with books, I definitely agreed with finding more sources of slow media. I really like investigative journalism pieces. I think I like to go search for investigative journalism around issues and news. I also like to read a lot of Washington Post.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:57:21

Yeah, I’ll definitely second Vice and Anthony Bordain. This sounds bad, but I discovered Vice because for model UN, I was getting really annoyed that everyone would come with these same, like, Oh, I’m blah-blah-blah and I represent this country and they’re coming at it from such like a whitewash perspective. And so I discovered vice when I was trying to really get into a country that I was supposed to be representing. And then, yeah, I think that understanding someone’s culture and not like, Oh, this is their culture, but actually going in and experiencing it is really cool. And so I don’t know how good the show is, but I know my sister also really like this Gordon Ramsey show where he does the same thing where he’ll go and cook with people with different cultures. And so I think food is something universal, so maybe that’s why, it’s just really easy to connect people with. But then the last thing I’ll say is just from other languages, if that makes sense. I’m not really like fluent in any other language, but I’ll try and listen to things in French, which is a language that I’m learning and see their perspective on an issue, because I feel like at least most of the things I consume are from an American perspective. And so just seeing it, I’m like, Oh, how does the rest of the world view this? Or at least another country is something that I try and do to give myself more global perspective.

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 00:58:46

That is so cool. My parents have started listening to news during lunch and they play news from Taiwan once I’ve literally been like watching the US election from a Taiwanese perspective, incredibly interesting. And it has caused me to think about things from different perspectives that I otherwise wouldn’t even thought of.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:59:11

Wow. That is awesome. I’m kind of curious what have they been saying?

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 00:59:19

I think it has caused me to think a lot more because a lot of what they’re reporting is focusing on is how will the outcome of the election impact the US, China and Taiwan relations? So like a lot of it is around China and how it will be affected.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged:  00:59:51

Yeah. That’s really interesting. Thank you guys for sharing. If we can do like a quick little close. If anyone wants to share how this was for them you know, any thoughts, anything that they learned feel free to go ahead and share.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 01:00:13

I really enjoyed listening to what everyone had to say today, especially because I think that I undervalue the role that media has. I always think of it as like, Oh, it’s just a story. But today, what we were talking about is like, Oh, these stories have the power to influence real life. So even if it starts out as a story, it’s actual reports of how things happen. So I think that’s really cool. And I really enjoyed exploring that today.

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 01:00:40

Yeah. Like as always, it was really fun to talk to everyone here, but I’m also very curious and excited to go listen to, I don’t know why that never crossed my mind, but to go listen to the news in Arabic, I think that that’s going to be interesting to say the least.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 01:01:04

I mean, this was a great conversation as always. And I think that in the way that we’ve come across customs to media, I rarely think of it in the context of journalism. And so it was really cool to just sit and think about that today with you guys.

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 01:01:27

Yeah. I’ll a second everything that everyone else has been saying and just the importance of discernment and understanding that the people who create media are people who have biases and flaws, et cetera. And so it’s really important to keep that all in perspective when digesting readable.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged:  01:01:53

Okay. Well thank you all for sharing and reflecting. And thank you if you made it to the end of this video. But we will see you soon. And the next topic is to be decided. So have a great night, everyone.

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