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The Mission

The  mission of the Teen Appeal  began with the realization that many of the city's high school programs did not have the resources for journalism courses or activities, denying students the opportunity to explore a potential media career. As a 1991 survey discovered, out of Memphis's 28 high schools, only five published their own newspapers allowing students hands-on experience in journalism. For 18 years, the Teen Appeal  remedied this problem in an innovative partnership that gave these important, unheard voices the chance to create a city-wide school newspaper by and about Memphis youth.


The  Teen Appeal  recognized excellence among its own student journalists with an annual Award Day at the Commercial Appeal facility, where students had the chance to tour the presses and sit in on production meetings to get a behind-the-scenes look at life in a professional newsroom. Teen Appeal  staff also gained statewide recognition by winning Tennessee High School Press Association awards. At the national level, several TA staff members were selected as Al Neuharth Free Spirit  Scholars, representing the state of Tennessee at the annual Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference in Washington, D. C. and receiving a $1,000 scholarship to start their college career. These included:

2005: Rachel Banks, Overton High School, Memphis, Tenn.
           Michael Russom, Booker T. Washington High School, Memphis, Tenn.
2006: Melody Gordon, Treadwell High School, Memphis, Tenn.
2007: Silas Vassar III, Overton High, Memphis, Tenn.
2008: Branden Asemah, Middle College High School, Memphis, Tenn.
           Shunitra Ingram, Trezevant High, Memphis, Tenn.

 In 2015, the Teen Appeal  alum and coordinator Elle Perry won the national Diversity Award from the Journalism Education Association, which honors scholastic journalism programs and teachers at the forefront of increasing diversity in media.

With funding from the Scripps Howard Foundation, the Teen Appeal  awarded scholarships  to graduates who were going on to major or minor in journalism in college. These scholarships provided $1000 per year for up to four years total to continue supporting students' success at their new universities.  Many of these names have become well-known in the media, education, publishing and creative writing fields.

Scholarship Recipients

The End of the Teen Appeal

By 2014, the kind of changes that would prompt the University of Memphis Department of Journalism to change its name to "Department of Journalism and Strategic Media" were hitting the newspaper publishing industry.  As daily newspapers competed with new media forms such as the internet, specialized cable channels and digital apps available for smartphones, publishing companies had to make hard choices about their services. In 2014, the E.W. Scripps Co. decided to make a nationwide move from newspapers to television and radio only; the Commercial Appeal was one of the many newspapers sold.  This unfortunately meant that Memphis would no longer be one of the cities hosting a Scripps publication, and thus, would lose funding for the Teen Appeal  after 2014.  Realizing how important the Teen Appeal  had become to the Memphis schools, Scripps Howard extended their support through December 2015 to allow time to seek new sponsorship.

While U of M JRSM faculty Prof. Otis Sanford and Dr. David Arant attempted to find new funding, they heard the same refrain over and over as people voiced their skepticism that a print newspaper would be a sustainable investment. Even the Commercial Appeal ceased to be printed in Memphis, as the new owner consolidated their presses in Jackson, TN. The prevailing sentiment that "people just don't read newspapers anymore" seemed to bring the dream of the city-wide high school newspaper to an end, as the final scholarships were awarded in 2014 and the final issue printed in 2015.

Preserving the Dream for a New Day

But the history of Memphis journalism - which includes the story of Ida B. Wells and her refusal to be silenced as a journalist - cannot be complete without the voices of its youth and the grown-up story of its high school newspaper.  This podcast project was started to both preserve the legacy of the Teen Appeal, and encourage the ongoing work to diversify media for a new generation.


Explore the Teen Appeal Archives

Issues of the Teen Appeal  have been digitized by the Special Collections Department of the University of Memphis Libraries and are available to the public through the U of M Digital Commons.

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Let’s Get in Touch

Do you have memories of the Teen Appeal or an interest in future youth media programs? Let us know by filling out this form.

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