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The last ‘Whatever’: one less opportunity for teens

Whatever hosts included clockwise from top: Shahir, Tanya, Harshil and Lauren.
Whatever hosts included clockwise from top: Shahir, Tanya, Harshil and Lauren.

The crunch in the Twin Cities media market means fewer opportunities for teens interested in trying their hand at journalism.

With KARE 11’s decision to cancel its “Whatever” show, reported by kids for kids, the station joins the Star Tribune, Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) and KSTP-TV in shortchanging our talented teens.

Our young people are our future. Trite but true.

The trailblazer in providing teenagers with professional media experience was KSTP-TV, which was ahead of its time with a show called “Steamroller” in the late 1970s. “I was a sophomore in high school in 1979 when I reported for that show,” said Robin Hickman, who later co-created TPT’s “Don’t Believe the Hype” with Susan Robeson. The show ran so long ago that no one now at KSTP knows when it ended, but Hickman believes it ran for two or three years.

After “Steamroller” went off the air, it was probably a decade before anything like it came on the scene. But just 10 years or so ago, the local media landscape was dotted with kid-reported products. The first to come along was TPT’s “Don’t Believe the Hype,” followed in 1996 by the Star Tribune’s MYN (Minnesota Youth News) and the next year by “Whatever” at KARE 11.

“Don’t Believe the Hype” bit the dust in 2003, along with MYN.

The last segment of ‘Whatever’
Next is the regional and national award-winning “Whatever,” which airs for the last time at 10 a.m. Saturday (Aug. 30). It will be replaced by a cartoon about space-traveling birds called “3-2-1 Penguins.”

“I would much prefer to be running ‘Whatever,’ no doubt about it,” said KARE general manager John Remes. “But ‘Whatever’ costs a lot to produce. It really is too bad.”

“I’m not surprised [by the cancellation],” said Hickman. Media outlets “tout the youth shows as being for the greater good, a public service, but we always know it’s about the dollars.”

It was the same story with MYN. I should know. I worked up the prototype for the weekly page written by teens for teens and served as its editor, working with more than 150 teens over its seven-year run. Like “Whatever,” MYN won several national awards and more importantly, started a number of young people on the path to media careers. One of those talented teens was Damon Maloney, who reported for MYN and later “Whatever.”

“I was shocked” to hear about “Whatever,” said Maloney, now 22 and a reporter for KHBS/KHOG, the ABC affiliates in Fort Smith, Ark. “ ‘Whatever’ gave kids a taste of what it’s really like and an opportunity to work with professionals who’ve done it for a long time. And I was excited to work with MYN. Having the Star Tribune as an outlet, what more could you ask for as a young person interested in journalism? Now kids don’t have that kind of opportunity.”

Though saddened by the cancellation of “Whatever,” Erin Rasmussen, who co-created the show with Laura Stokes, said, “I feel grateful that in this day and age the show existed and that so many young people got to participate in it. We did well with it.” Rasmussen left the show five years ago and now runs Reframing Media, a video production company.

She’s right. “Whatever” was a quality show. I salute the reporters and producers for an excellent run.

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Kristen Hirsch on 08/28/2008 - 04:03 pm.

    I heard about this for the first time reading this article. While it’s sad that the show is leaving and that opportunity is gone, and I admit that I would have loved to have had that when I was a teen, I do think that the internships provided by the news organizations to college students are still available and a great option. I interned at KARE while in college and it was the best learning experience of my education. It’s not on camera experience, true, but if they are serious about going into the industry, the students will get plenty of on-the-scene learning during their internships. That is the stuff that will really help them in the long run.

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