NextGen Journal: Student News, Voices Outside the College Bubble

NextGen Journal began with 800 words and $20 trillion.

In early 2009, Connor Toohill, a 17-year-old high school senior in San Diego, came across a slew of politicians and pundits debating the impact of the growing national debt.  Many of them were repeatedly imploring lawmakers and the public to think of “the next generation” when deciding what economic recovery tactics to take.

Toohill noticed one important set of voices missing from the debate.  “I was kind of frustrated about the fact that everyone was talking about the next generation and what we should do for the next generation,” he said, “but there were no voices of the next generation, my generation, in the conversation.”

So Toohill spoke up.  In an 800-word community essay published in The San Diego Union-Tribune, he discussed the need for federal government “fiscal responsibility” to help stave off “a crushing and unsustainable national debt.”

“At this moment, our nation is in a deep financial hole,” he wrote.  “We must stop digging, making the decision to leave some aspects of energy, education and health care reform to future administrations or to the private sector. . . . As a member of the generation that will be tasked with solving these issues and paying for these proposals, I know one thing for certain: I would much rather inherit difficult policy problems than a $20 trillion national debt.”

For weeks after the essay’s premiere, Toohill dealt with a separate indebtedness.  He felt he owed it to himself and his peers to do more.  “Basically, I wanted the conversation to continue,” he said.  “My dream was to have many voices of our generation in the conversation– different voices, with different perspectives, on all sorts of different topics.”

The difference between Toohill and many others with similar dreams: He made his come true.

With the help of friends, he launched NextGen Journal, a student-run news and commentary site, writ large.  Contributors are currently enrolled at colleges and universities across the country and into Canada.

NextGen’s standout niche is its international scope.  It covers matters of interest and importance to students outside the bubble of their own colleges– “from dorm life to Darfur, and from climate change to Kid Cudi.”  Current topics under investigation and discussion on the homepage range from Libya, net neutrality, and health care reform to college graduation rates, the deficit, and Rebecca Black.

“Up until now, campus media, especially in the opinion sense, has just been localized,” said Toohill, now 19, a freshman at the University of Notre Dame.  “There’s nothing from our generation that is influential in the national sphere.  We wanted to do something that can have influence nationally, that can bring our generation into the conversation.  Not intending that to rhyme, but it did.  Oh well.”

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  1. […] We’re not the only people doing this, BTW. College Media Matters, a must-read blog for anyone involved in any way with college news media, has the story of NextGen Journal, “a student-run news and commentary site.” [CMM] […]