Closing the Generation Gap

Arlington, VA - A collection of generations from public media convened at the NETA Conference and CPB Public Media Thought Leader Forum held in Arlington, Virginia, to focus on the future of education and media. Technological innovation broke the mole for education and media, making it possible to embrace and connect with each generation. Across Indian Country, there are true Digital Natives who are empowered and engaged in media shifts made possible by technology. Digital Natives are those born after the 1980s and are comfortable in the digital age, they are the Millennials and Generation Z. Generation X’er Melissa Begay and Native Public Media’s thought leader reminisces. “Remember the day when you had to wait to hear your favorite song on the radio or when you had to press record on your cassette player to create your mixed tape? Remember the day when flipping through the pages of an Encyclopedia was how you learned more about an insect or another country? Or watching a movie at home using VHS (Video Home System) was cool? These mediums are no longer familiar to younger generations because the way we entertain and educate are now redefined because of innovation.”

“We are in an era where a plethora of media platforms dictate how people communicate, socialize, and obtain information. The essence of this is that language is the basis to connect generations and to close the generation gap. But there are still challenges. Even though Digital Natives are always connected, thanks to the variety of media platforms at their fingertips, there is still little content,” states Begay.

NETA conference speakers shared their experiences and creative inspiration about how to reach, engage new audiences on emerging media platforms. “The key takeaway for me was to understand the trends of each generations and how they drive today’s media and culture,” Begay explains.

The resounding statement made by conference speakers is to create content the way Digital Natives think and talk. This generation is using YouTube and Podcasts for learning and teaching, and to get their bite size news from SnapChat. Statistics show that 11% of Millennials get their news from cable television, in contrast to 43% of Boomers, and only 4% of Millennials read a newspaper, compared to 25% of Boomers.

While Tribal broadcasters are the media pioneers (Boomers and Generation X) in Indian Country, Begay states, “It’s time to engage Digital Natives to help change the landscape of how Indian Country tells their stories, control their narratives, and tell their truth. There is no need to recreate the wheel but to learn from what mainstream public media is already doing.”

In the next decade, as tribal media makers and technology continue to evolve, it is important to prepare the next seven generations to shape the native media ecosystem. Boomers and Generation X working with Digital Natives can help to preserve language and culture through education stories by podcasting or creating a YouTube video. Molly of Denali, an animated series of a 10 year old Alaska Native debuted July 2019, and Never Alone, a game that incorporates traditional Alaska storytellers demonstrate that digital content can reach new and younger audiences across Indian Country and indigenous communities. “The road has been created, tribal media makers can insert a fork in the road and pave the tribal path,” concludes Begay.

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