Roundup Reaches Across Generation Gap Online

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Two conversations. Two generations. Two completely different perspectives.

It started in the conference room of the Payson Roundup. I had a group of teenage girls gathered around the computer and we were discussing the future of our new Payson Teen Roundup staff. We decided to start with a MySpace page where local teens could blog, submit photos and articles, listen to music by local artists and keep track of events in the area they might want to attend.

As we brainstormed about the way it would look and what would be on it, they joked about how much time they spend on MySpace. Two hours a night, one girl said.

Then she said, "I don't know many adults who have MySpace pages. That's kind of sad."

If you don't know what MySpace is, you are probably not of the generation that participated in this first conversation.

If you know what it is, but don't have one, you are probably in my generation -- tech savvy but not tech dependent Generation X.

For those who don't know, MySpace is the current "it" gathering space for the generation that reads on the Web, shops on the Web and lives out a good portion of their social life on the Web.

"It's almost like e-mail, only more convenient and you can see pictures," said Lisa Bartoli, a Payson High School junior who is helping to organize this effort.

Most adults have only heard of MySpace because of the scary stories about predators they have seen on CNN or Fox News. While these dangers exist, there are safeguards and the Roundup has taken some precautions in setting up our site.

First, I monitor it daily.

Second, MySpace is a social network where people ask to be your "friend" and you approve or deny their request. The people you approve are the people who you interact with on your site. People who aren't approved can look at the site, but they can't interact with the teens.

For www.myspace.com/ paysonteenroundup, we only accept people we know who are teenagers from Payson -- from Payson High School, Payson Center for Success or home schooled.

The Roundup wanted teens involved in our newspaper.

The teens were hanging out on MySpace. So, the Roundup decided to meet them on their turf.

"The fact that the newspaper is doing this is cool. Everyone loves MySpace and they can identify with it," Bartoli said. "You can open up a little more on MySpace because you're saying it to your peers."

Once we got the basic site set up, I started telling adults about it, and that's when the generation gap opened up like a splitting fault line under my feet.

"This generation lives in a false reality," one woman said. "I think it's sad."

There has always been a generation gap, but I think this one is widened by the fact that teens are, for all intents and purposes, hanging out on another planet that many adults don't even know how to navigate.

"We're a different generation and these are different times," Bartoli said.

I hope that bringing these teens on board at the newspaper will help to bridge this gap.

As our Web site develops, content will move freely between our MySpace page, payson.com and the physical pages of our newspaper.

To repeat the cliché, our youth are our future. If that is true, we should learn how they are looking at the world to better understand how they will shape it when it is in their hands.

For any teens who want to get involved, we have a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Roundup office and we will be giving out assignments. See you there and see you on MySpace.

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