Watch out BuzzFeed, Politico and, heck, even The New York Times, because 17-year-old Cameron Berg has launched the next big thing in online political news. The Wilton High School senior has created MynorMedia.com, the first journalism publishing work written exclusively by those under 18 years old, providing a platform for young writers from all over the world who seek to present unique and engaging ideas and perspectives.
“The idea came about after the election, but it’s not a political response to Trump or the election outcome. Regardless of a person’s politics, something different happened, something unprecedented. There needed to be some type of response on the part of young people, who I saw being very, very active–communicating and talking on social media. There needs to be some type of mechanism that allows that to happen in a meaningful way,” Berg says about why he was moved to start the site.
Like lots of dot-com start-ups, Berg chose to subtly alter the spelling of his website’s title, changing ‘minor’ to ‘mynor.’ It’s just one of the ways he tapped into the way today’s teens communicate. He recruited close to 30 contributing writers–all under the age of 18–by targeted Facebook and Instagram ads, asking for writing samples and applications from people in countries around the world. In addition to American writers, his team includes teens from Europe, Australia, the Middle East, Canada, Brazil and more.
“The unifying factor of Mynor is the age of the contributors–not political ideology, not a million other things. People can write whatever they want to write, as long as it has some relevance either to them or to the world. There’s a section called ‘Anecdotal,’ and if someone wants to write a 500 word autobiography, or something funny that happened, or something intense that happened to them–as long as it’s relevant and young people voicing something they care about. A lot of that tends to be political and for people my age, a lot tends to be social activism. But I’ve gotten very funny submissions, lighthearted submissions, and that is just as good and effective in doing what we’re trying to do,” Berg explains.
One of the main reasons he was interested in this kind of forum for his peers was his take on how limited and skewed many people’s vantage points are on what’s going on in the world. He hopes it will be eye-opening for others, just as it has been for him.
“There’s a lot of talk about bubbles, ‘liberal bubbles,’ ‘conservative bubbles,’ a ‘media bubble.’ America has become its own bubble, and there’s so much other stuff going on in the world. For me it was a shock to realize the world was still going on outside of what was going on with the election and the President and our government right now. It’s really super interesting to see in real time kids being passionate about things I’ve never even heard of, and that a lot of Americans haven’t heard of. That’s another goal of the site, is to not only get people’s voices heard, but to really listen and realize how big the world is, as cliché as it sounds. I hope other people find it just as cool that you have kids your age all around the world–same amount of life experience, and yet look at all these different ideas, perspectives and opinions,” he explains.
Both politics and freedom of the press were important areas in which he wanted to be involved.
“I don’t want to make it too political, but the way the President talks about media is also unprecedented–for better or worse. In that respect, I care deeply about making an enterprise for people who want to make their voices heard and exercise their first amendment rights.
Despite the 2016 U.S. Presidential election being the motivation for starting the site, Berg says it’s not about President Trump–or any particular political ideology.
“This is not a liberal, social activist, social justice response to the fact that we have a president who doesn’t conform to that. It’s much more time to make voices heard in a way that’s more organized than in the noise of Facebook, Twitter, etc.,” he says.
In other words, he wanted a place to be able to bring those voices together but with something more than the 140 characters of Twitter.
“People can make their voices heard with today’s Internet. But I don’t think that there’s a way to do it where you can get your voice listened to. There’s a difference between those two things. Everybody can yell out on Facebook and Twitter, ‘I’m doing this! I’m doing that!’ The whole point of Mynor is to cut through the noise and make that transition from everyone shouting to people being listened to. It’s not because people don’t currently have the tools to communicate with each other, I just don’t think those tools are particularly adequate,” he explains.
He also thinks that Mynor Media gives young writers more control and a chance to connect with others, “…more than Facebook, where you see someone’s post once and then it’s gone forever, in your feed that’s curated for you by people trying to make money off you, not inform you. There’s not a need for more noise but there’s a need to organize the noise so your voice can be heard. That’s the difference.”
Ultimately, his goal is to get adults to take young people a little more seriously. “Give them a chance to voice their opinion on level terms to people who are allowed to vote. This is their seat at the table. I hope it gathers a large audience under 18 as well. A lot of adults are interested in seeing what kids are thinking. The reaction is that, ‘Wow, these kids can write and they know what they’re talking about.’”
He also wants more teens who are interested in contributing, to consider applying to write for the site.
“People can submit one piece, if they’re passionate about one thing. If people want to join the team as a contributor to publish once every 1-2 weeks, they can apply. I’ve intentionally made the process very easy. I know people my age are very busy and don’t have a lot of time for another application. It’s super straightforward and super fast. Growing a team of writers is as important as growing the audience.”
Lifelong Interest in Politics
Berg has been interested in government and politics as long as he can remember.
“My first political memory was walking into a voting booth with my mom. I must have been 4 years old. I just remember, ‘If Bush wins, that’s it,’” he says indicating he thought it wouldn’t be a good thing. “I remember watching Bill Clinton’s speech for Obama, I probably understood one of every seven words but it was cool to see a former president speak–I just remember how good I felt about myself after watching that, even though I didn’t understand a word of it. But the entire process has always been very interesting to me.”
And he only got more hooked as he got older.
“Maybe it was 7th grade, we studied government, and from then on it was every day–it’s always been so intriguing to me. The last two years has been bizarre, interesting, hilarious, terrifying, and impossible to look away from. I definitely have not been bored out of the subject or being passionate about politics.”
Berg says the site isn’t meant to be his own soapbox, and he hopes it will be bigger than one person. As the editor, he is finding his footing balancing his own, strong opinions with the need to bring all viewpoints to his readers, even when he may not agree with the writer’s point of view.
“One of the things that’s been most interesting, as an American and especially as a Jewish American, is having a Palestinian writer from the Gaza strip, who spends a lot of time writing about injustices that she thinks are inflicted on her by Israel and neighboring countries. That has been interesting for me to read, and the decisions I have to make about publishing certain things. Her ambiguity about whether Hamas is a terrorist group or not, I have to make very serious choices about whether I pursue that or edit that that makes me comfortable publishing it. To what extent is it ‘my site, my rules’? This person’s content–these are very interesting for me to figure out,” he says.
He also acknowledges that he knows he doesn’t know everything. It’s part of the learning curve of being the editor, and also understanding his own limited–until now–world view.
“I like learning more, I’m a senior in high school, I’m not done learning. I’ve already published things I don’t personally agree with, and that’s fine, it’s the point of the site. It’s not my soapbox, and there’s enough liberal, social activists. This is something different and the fact that it doesn’t have an ideological slant will be refreshing,” he says.
Speaking of high school, it’s easy to sometimes forget that Berg is still in school, which comes with all the usual busy obligations–and then many more. As a senior, he’s looking ahead to college applications; he’s also very active in school, as president of the school/student body, vice president of Model Congress, co-captain of the Debate Team, a member of the WHS varsity soccer team, and part of the WHS marching band and several smaller musical groups.
“It will be an interesting thing,” he laughs, thinking about just how busy this next year will be. “But I’m skeptical that it will be different in college. I doubt I’m going to magically feel not busy anymore. I like it, I like being productive. I like waking up and doing stuff. Will sleep be a challenge? Most likely, but I’m prepared, it’s okay. I’d prefer doing this, sitting around makes me crazy.”
Looking ahead to college, it’s unsurprising that Berg is eyeing areas of study that include political science, journalism, history, government, and sociology. “Where I go from that I couldn’t tell you, maybe journalism, maybe politics, but definitely not horseback riding. I’m not going to be a chef,” he laughs. “It will be somewhere in that bubble of stuff. We’ll see what happens.”
So, does that mean that MynorMedia.com is the first step in the eventual Cameron Berg empire? Perhaps, but not so fast.
Maybe as we grow it will be different, but I’m not going to be able to run The New York Times, there are not enough hours in the day,” he laughs. “But right now it’s not The New York Times.”
But to make Mynor grow enough to do now what he intends it to do, it means trying to recruit more writers–and hoping that readers are inspired to support the site through donations, which is what will keep the site online.
“As of now, it’s entirely donation based. I used to be annoyed by [subscription fees] but now I realize that, not even the basic making money off of it, there are basic baseline costs that need to be filled. But as of now we’re 100% donation based so anybody feeling generous to support our effort,” Berg says hopefully.
Visit MynorMedia.com to learn more about applying to write (18-and-under only) or donating to support the website.