Each morning, Lily Donaldson wakes up to over thirty notifications on her phone from her favorite news organizations. On the way to school, she listens to podcasts to learn about the state of the world. Throughout the day, she checks her computer for updates from the Associated Press.
It’s this insatiable desire for news and her love of journalism that led this International Baccalaureate senior at Bolton High School to create her own Memphis-based media organization, The Memphis Teen. The Memphis Teen is an online and print newspaper where Memphis teens can gain journalistic experience through a censor-free platform and connect with other writers who are passionate about the trade.
Donaldson seeks to cover local news pertaining to teens, especially schools. Entertainment, sports, fashion – whatever her writers’ passions, The Memphis Teen will provide the platform for it.
“I really want it to be an open forum for all student journalists to be able to write about what they want, to get that experience,” said Donaldson.
The idea for The Memphis Teen arose after Donaldson faced a series of roadblocks that prevented her from having an outlet to write, beginning with the collapse of her own school’s newspaper at Bolton High School. With the merging of Shelby County Schools with Memphis Area Schools, the funding for her school’s newspaper vanished. She turned to The Teen Appeal a subset of the Commercial Appeal, that employed teen writers. When The Teen Appeal lost funding in 2015, she was driven to find another avenue for writing.
Donaldson theorized there were other students just like her – teens eager to write but with nowhere to go – and she wanted to create a platform that was student run and self-sufficient.
In June, Donaldson applied for the Baldwin Fellows – a week-long program at the University of South Carolina designed for aspiring journalists. In the introductions, she and the other 15 students stated their names as well as their position on their respective student newspapers. Everyone had a position on their newspapers to share except for Donaldson. When it came her turn to state the details of her journalistic future, she stated,
“I’m Lily Donaldson, and I’m going to start my own newspaper.”
Through the fellowship, Donaldson connected with Chris Muldrow of Rambletype who gave her helpful advice and donated the hosting for her website. “At that point, I just didn’t have an excuse anymore,” said Donaldson.
Now, Donaldson has actualized her dream of creating a Memphis newspaper for teens and is looking to build her team for The Memphis Teen. Writers, graphic designers, coders, photographers, videographers, broadcasters, and journalists are all welcome to apply. The application is live and on the website, and all applicants must attend a school in Shelby County, TN and be between the ages of 13-19 years old.
Donaldson hopes to major in computer science and journalism at the University of Memphis next fall. Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she moved to Memphis and hopes to stay here and continue to make a difference in the community.
“I love my school, and I love my city.”
Do you want to join the team at The Memphis Teen? Applications are available here.