News Decoder’s 8th birthday giving campaign goes beyond borders and back to basics.
(Illustration by News Decoder)
“Enable youth to be heard. To grasp why events matter. To engage in a global conversation.”
That was the subtitle of News Decoder’s first crowdfunding campaign in 2015, when founder Nelson Graves set out to build a borderless platform for youth to better understand global issues. He had spotted a paradox between the proliferation of young people’s access to news and actually understanding the context behind the headlines.
Eight years later, that idea has bloomed into thousands of young people across five continents publishing hundreds of original stories, connecting with international peers and professionals. Along the way, they learned about the world beyond their surroundings — and found their place in it.
This week, to celebrate our 8th birthday — a lucky number in many cultures — we’re kicking off a new campaign called Stories Without Borders by going back to journalism basics: Who, what, when, where, why and how?
Over the next five days, we’ll apply these fundamental questions to all aspects of our nonprofit. We will look at what we’ve done to get us to where we are now. We’ll give you a run down of our accomplishments this past year. And because we’re all about solutions, we’ll wrap up with a bit of, “Why not?” as we look to the future.
Today, we start with the What.
What does News Decoder do?
News Decoder helps young people expand their horizons to see the world from multiple perspectives through the lens of journalism. But what sets us apart?
On our news site, young people can access balanced, fact-based news stories by experienced correspondents that provide food for thought and decode why global events matter. We wrote about AI and GPT in 2021, two years before ChatGPT-4 exploded. Our Climate Decoder series gives context and examines solutions to seemingly insurmountable challenges.
In our school partnership programs, students can step out of their comfort zones to research and report original stories and collaborate with peers with diverse points of view in cross-border webinars.
However, while we teach the tools and techniques of journalism, our goal is not to create the next generation of journalists; It’s to help young people grow as globally-aware and connected citizens. And that mission is more important than ever.
What is the need for News Decoder?
Young people are naturally curious about the world — and concerned. They want to feel a part of something larger than themselves.
The universe of information, social media in particular, has completely transformed since our founding. In 2015, Instagram had 370 million users; today it’s two billion. TikTok hadn’t been created yet.
We know these platforms accelerate the proliferation of disinformation and misinformation, not to mention their effect on young people’s mental health. This technology was created to bring us closer, yet we’ve never been more divided.
Schools often lack the resources to develop strong media and news literacy programs to address this challenge. By the time the standard curriculum catches up, a new technology or trend has emerged.
We believe that thinking like a journalist gives a young person the critical tools to navigate this often-confusing and overwhelming media landscape and more readily recognize disinformation.
Our journalistic interventions foster critical thinking, intercultural understanding, collaboration, empathy and respect for diversity — the global competencies and socio-emotional learning skills that will equip and inspire them to make a difference in their communities and wider society, helping to strengthen democracy and a fact-based world.
What is Stories Without Borders?
The theme of Stories Without Borders captures the essence of this mission.
In 2022-23, we published stories that focused on 58 countries and territories. Our news site draws visitors from more than 100 countries, while our school partners represent 17 countries.
With News Decoder, students go beyond classroom walls to immerse themselves in their community and tell local stories that connect to global issues, such as Annette Khosravi’s story on efforts to save the Atlantic sturgeon in the U.S. state of Delaware.
Just as frequently, students start with an interest in a global issue and bring it home to find a local angle in their own backyard, such as Keya Dutt’s article documenting “One Afghan woman’s 3,100-mile journey to safety” in Italy.
We also provide a platform for young people to critically analyze issues, such as Skyler Duval’s media literacy essay exploring the blurred lines between fact and fiction in the news.
The same international, solutions-oriented lens applies to our correspondents, whether writing decoders on major global events or shining a light on underreported stories.
What to expect this week?
Tomorrow we’ll have a look at the How: how do we work towards achieving this mission? Wednesday, we ask, Why — why is journalism the tool to achieve this mission of global connectedness? Thursday, we’ll ask Where: where is News Decoder going in the future? And Friday we’ll wrap up with Who — who benefits from our mission, who leads the way and who makes our work possible (spoiler alert, that’s you!).
Maria Krasinski is News Decoder’s Managing Director. Previously she worked in public diplomacy and youth media in Chicago before serving in the Peace Corps in Tbilisi, Georgia. She is a published illustrator of two art history books with a third in production.