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Ebola, Ferguson and Derek Jeter make high schoolers’ #MyZeitgeist videos

A contest sponsored by PBS Newshour Extra and Google asked students to create a digital mash-up looking back at 2014. Judy Woodruff talks with three high schoolers who entered the #MyZeitgeist competition about deciding what events made their year-in-review videos and how their generation gets its news.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Now a different take on the year that was.

    Judy Woodruff recently talked to several teenagers about the stories that caught their eyes in 2014, and explored how technology affects what they see and hear about the news.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    "NewsHour" Extra, our Web site for teachers and students, has partnered with Google for what we're calling the MyZeitgeist Year in Review contest.

    More than 1,000 students from around the world created digital mash-ups, images and videos edited together, highlighting the most important stories of 2014. We don't know who won yet. That won't be announced until midnight, December 31.

    But, in the meantime, to find out more about how young people view current events, we have invited three students who entered the contest from T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia.

    They are Rona Ikram Putri, Evan Williams, and Shayla Brown. Their teacher, Mark Eaton, also joins us.

    But, first, here's a clip of one of their entries, just to give you one idea of how young people view the news.

  • MAN:

    Derek Jeter.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • MAN:

    Where fantasy becomes reality!

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, Anchor, "NBC Nightly News": The first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States has died of Ebola in a Dallas hospital.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, Evan Williams, let's start with you.

    That was an excerpt of your video. How did you decide what were the most important stories? How did you put that together?

  • EVAN WILLIAMS, Student, T.C. Williams High School:

    Well, I tried to think of stories that had the most impact.

    So I think a good way to measure that is something that became like a household discussion, pretty much, that was just a universal discussion, like, for example the Ebola outbreak. Everyone was talking about that. The World Cup, everyone was talking about that. The Olympics.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now Shayla, Shayla Brown, how did you decide what were the most important stories?

  • SHAYLA BROWN, Student, T.C. Williams High School:

    Our journalism class made a list of the huge stories in 2014, so I used that. And I did research, like Evan did.

    And my mom helped me with the project a lot too, so I got like a grown-up input to it.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    How do you get your news in general?

  • SHAYLA BROWN:

    I have apps on my phone that I get alerts occasionally when there's something huge in the news that happens.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Rona, what about you? How did you decide what were the most important stories?

  • RONA IKRAM PUTRI, Student, T.C. Williams High School:

    Yes.

    So, basically, for me, I — in the news, there are two necessary factors. The first one is the importance, and the second one is either it's interesting or no.

    I read newspaper every day, which is a good habit, I think, personally, and then also, like, what Shayla does. I look it up in the Internet. And then also, in the beginning of the journalism class, Mr. Eaton will say, what's going on out there?

    So, the students will raise their hand and then they will tell about what they have found in either newspaper or television or radio or…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So you all get a chance to talk about it?

  • RONA IKRAM PUTRI:

    Yes, so we all get a chance to talk about it.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And we should say, Rona is an exchange student from Indonesia.

  • RONA IKRAM PUTRI:

    Yes, I am.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So this is a particularly interesting experience for you in the United States.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Mark Eaton, you're the teacher of this class. You're head of the English department at T.C. Williams.

    What changes have you seen in the years, what, eight years you have been teaching journalism in how young people get their news?

  • MARK EATON, English Teacher, T.C. Williams High School:

    Well, first thank you for having us.

    What I have noticed is that the students seem to be getting their — with the rise of social media, the students seem to be getting their news from a much wider variety of sources. And I have noticed that there's a particular attraction to ironic news, the Stephen Colberts, Jon Stewart, John Oliver.

    These resonate with the students.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    How do you see that, Evan? Before you started this journalism class, how were you getting your news?

  • EVAN WILLIAMS:

    Mostly, it's Twitter, because Twitter, it's like you can follow the certain pages you want, the certain areas of news that interest you. You can just scroll down.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Rona, it sounds like you're getting news from a lot of different places. You mentioned newspapers and online.

  • RONA IKRAM PUTRI:

    Yes.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    What about your friends? How do you see them getting the news? Do you think the three of you are typical?

  • RONA IKRAM PUTRI:

    I think typical teenagers right now, they usually get the news from the Twitter. Yes, they follow certain accounts that provide news.

    And it's really useful. So when the teenagers are using their phone, it doesn't mean that they don't care about the world. They do. But it's only in a different way. They know what's going on out there in this world, actually.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Is that what you're seeing, Mark Eaton? Are they — as the teacher looking at them, do you think they're learning about the world in the sources that they choose?

  • MARK EATON:

    I do. I think so.

    And it's certainly something that we stress in the class, is we try to increase the element of curiosity about what's going on. Our class, in some ways, it is a citizenship class. The question we keep asking is, are you going to be just a consumer or are you going to be a citizen?

    And if you're interested in the news and you understand how the — the importance of news, that's a step on the road to citizenship.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Does the news this year, Evan, leave you feeling sort of uplifted about the way things are going in this country, or does it leave you worried in the world? How do you feel about that?

  • EVAN WILLIAMS:

    I mean, I think you could go both ways with that. There are so many things that uplift people, like sports, like the Olympics and the World Cup. But then also, obviously, there are things that can worry people, like the Ebola outbreak and stuff like that.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Sure.

  • EVAN WILLIAMS:

    So there's always different types.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    What about you, Shayla? Does the news make you feel better or more anxious about the world? What do you think?

  • SHAYLA BROWN:

    A little of both, but probably more anxious because of all the — not — there are some pretty terrible things that happened this year, like the Ebola outbreak, like Evan said, and then the shooting that went on in Missouri.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    How do you compare the way you get your news from your parents? And do you think the way you consume news will change when you're their age? Or do you think it will stay the way it is?

  • SHAYLA BROWN:

    I think it will stay the way it is. I kind of get the same — I watch news shows with them when we're, like, home. But my main way is through apps, and I think I will stick with that.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Rona, what about you? Do you think it's going to stay like this, or the way you get news now as you grow up?

  • RONA IKRAM PUTRI:

    I think it will change, because, as time goes by, the, like, newspaper, maybe, some day, it will be just gone and then everything will be just replaced by just online media.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Changing…

  • RONA IKRAM PUTRI:

    It will change.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Changing fast.

    And you get the last word, as the teacher. Do you think — do you see these — this younger generation changing the way everybody is going to consume news in the future?

  • MARK EATON:

    I think so, but I would not hazard a prediction. I think things will be different, but I don't think we know how.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    I think that's a very wise way to wrap it up.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Mark Eaton, who is the teacher of this journalism class at T.C. Williams High School, Shayla Brown, Evan Williams, and Rona Ikram Putri, we thank you.

  • RONA IKRAM PUTRI:

    Thank you.

  • SHAYLA BROWN:

    Thank you.

  • MARK EATON:

    Thank you.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And, by the way, this conversation is part of our American Graduate project. It's a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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