Paula Antonello Moore, then reporter and youth editor for The Register, started the Youth Speak News journalism program for aspiring high school and post-secondary students. Photo courtesy of Paula Antonello Moore

The humble beginnings of Youth Speak News

By  Paula Antonello Moore, Catholic Register Special
  • April 17, 2015

Growing up, The Catholic Register was always a great teaching tool about my faith. Though it contained stories from an international, national and local perspective, it usually included pieces written by scholars, priests or literary faithful sharing their expertise.

I would never have considered it a place that would draw young people.

However, not long after starting at The Register in 1997 as a reporter/photographer, I began a discussion with Joseph Sinasac, who was then publisher and editor, about the need for a younger voice in The Register’s pages. I appealed to Sinasac to allow me to write stories with targeted youthful appeal. I composed thought-provoking profile pieces on talented young Catholics out in the community who didn’t shy away from living their Catholic faith.

We also welcomed co-op students from local Catholic high schools. They would spend a semester with us writing and reporting important stories and in turn, present a new point of view.

As our relationship with the students developed, I began to think about a section devoted solely to our young readers. Sinasac wholeheartedly supported the idea, and thus Youth Speak News was born 15 years ago.

What set those pages apart from the rest of the content was a youthful influence and tone. In particular, I assembled a calendar of events that would attract students. We included anything from faith talks on campus, retreats, community fundraisers through schools or the Office of Catholic Youth that would draw attention to charitable causes.

I also created “Painted Words,” a small inspirational quotation taken from popular music artists, celebrities or movies that young people could both relate to and be inspired by.

The workload began to increase as interest was sparked. Out of that came the desire to enhance our writing team beyond myself and our co-op student.

At first it was quite a challenge requesting young writers from schools or through the OCY to come and write for us.

Aside from being published in a national newspaper, it was not the most attractive offer with deadlines and extra work added to their already heavy school curriculum, all for no pay.

Then we spun the idea on its head. What if we offered membership on an exclusive team? Members would apply for a spot and compete with others with the same skills and desire. They would gain tangible hands-on journalism skills from writing news stories and composing a page layout, to framing the perfect photo.

The resumes poured in.

However, Sinasac and I were not simply looking for good writers. We wanted our reporters to have a solid faith background as well.

Soon, we had a team of 11 reporters. I co-ordinated social outings, retreat weekends and journalism workshops that provided a well-rounded perspective of what a faith-based writing career was like.

Then the golden opportunity of World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto arrived. What a dynamic experience it was to lead these young writers through such an historic event. The entire team was sent out into the fray to report on events, interview foreign and local peers while witnessing first-hand their faith in action.

The week-long event culminated in the largest slumber party ever at Downsview Park. We camped out after evening prayer and awoke to a wet and dreary morning for the final WYD Mass celebration. Yet nothing could dampen the spirit of the more than 800,000 gathered to welcome Pope John Paul II.

To see Youth Speak News vibrantly alive and flourishing some 15 years later warms my heart. It is my great hope that YSN will only continue to grow and blossom in the years to come. May it always be a well-loved stepping stone for those with a creative spirit and a vibrant faith life.

(Antonello Moore, a former Register youth editor, is a writer living in Belleville, Ont. She publishes a weekly blog entitled The Expressible Café at https://pmooreblog.wordpress.com/ and is editing her second novel.)

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