Nov 2, 2022
“We the Young People: Moments of Truth” — a PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs Special Transcript
Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse American generation, and as they begin to vote for the first time, how do they envision themselves and the future of U.S. democracy? Read the transcript here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Speaker 1 (00:10):
It’s important for your voice to be heard.
Speaker 2 (00:12):
I really want to see our community and our country really focus on gun violence.
Speaker 3 (00:17):
An issue I care about the most is mental health.
Speaker 4 (00:20):
My interest in politics is healthcare, and just making it more accessible for everyone.
Speaker 5 (00:24):
Recent overturning of Roe v. Wade is a major setback in our country.
Speaker 6 (00:28):
You can’t even adopt a child before you’re 18, but you can be forced to have one?
Speaker 7 (00:31):
I sympathize for the unborn. I do not think that their lives should be in the balance.
Speaker 8 (00:37):
I want to be a teacher someday, so I would like to vote for somebody who is pro education.
Speaker 9 (00:41):
I think climate change is the biggest issue that we’re facing right now.
Speaker 10 (00:46):
States should have more power to make decisions for their people. The Federal Government cannot make the best decisions for everyone.
Speaker 11 (00:51):
I want to make sure that my community is safe for not only me, but also, all of my loved ones.
Speaker 12 (00:55):
I want to see more leaders that look more like what America looks like, more young and diverse.
Speaker 13 (01:03):
I want to make sure that we have candidates in place who support democracy.
Speaker 14 (01:07):
I want older people to know that it’s hard to be able to afford the things that you were able to afford in the past.
Berto Suarez (01:17):
Hey, everyone. Welcome to We The Young People, Moments of Truth. It’s great to be with you. I’m Berto Suarez, a student journalist and content creator from Rockville, Maryland.
Tiffany Rodriguez (01:26):
And I’m Tiffany Rodriguez, a college freshman and student journalist from Philadelphia.
Berto Suarez (01:31):
And now we’re here, bringing you stories from all around the country about the upcoming elections. But, first, Tiffany, I have a question.
Tiffany Rodriguez (01:39):
Yeah? What’s up?
Berto Suarez (01:43):
Literally, what are the midterms?
Tiffany Rodriguez (01:47):
Good thing Effie Gross from Stevenson Branch, California is going to explain it all.
Effie Gross (01:54):
I’ve been searching for days, scanning this earth, looking for something, anything, to answer my question. What are the midterm elections? After leaving my neighborhood park, I decided to try searching for my answer somewhere else, and I finally found it. Don’t worry, I’ll explain the midterm elections to you in a way more interesting than Google.
The US midterm elections are the general elections held near the midpoint of a president’s four year term to elect the lawmakers that represent us in Congress. In the Senate, there are 35 seats up for reelection, and in the House of Representatives, all 435 seats are up for grabs. As of now, the Democrats control both, the Senate and the House, but only by a slim majority. In the past, the party that holds the White House, often loses in the midterms. Why is that so important? If one or both houses of Congress switch to the other side, in this case Republican, it will make it harder for President Biden to get his agenda through Congress.
Tiffany Rodriguez (03:05):
So, we don’t know how the election’s going to go yet, but we do know that it’s a really tough time to be a voter, especially a first time voter, like me. There’s just a lot of misinformation out there. That’s exactly why, in this show, we’ll be sharing more from our Moments of Truth digital series.
Berto Suarez (03:23):
Let’s look at the first story. Karen Robertson, when she was younger, in her 20s, she went with the wrong group of friends and wound up on the wrong side of the internet.
Karen Robertson (03:34):
It was easier to believe that there was someone, something, out there to get you, and that’s why my life was as bad as it was. Hi, I’m Karen Robertson, I’m 30, and I’m a single mom. We’re here to talk about the fact that I actually believed in conspiracy theories once upon a time ago.
Makenna Mead (03:58):
Can you tell me a couple of the conspiracy theories that you believed in?
Karen Robertson (04:02):
There was one that I don’t even know how to describe. Apparently, our birth certificates look like some type of shipping things where we’re selling stuff to China. Basically, China owns us. There’s a movie called, Zeitgeist, they’re trying to show you that a lot of what you’ve been taught isn’t factual. At some point, they go into 9/11 being a inside job. I kind of just straddled the fence on that one.
Makenna Mead (04:32):
What resonated with you about the conspiracy theories?
Karen Robertson (04:35):
I was in an abusive relationship that I didn’t realize, at the time, was abusive. I was trying to make the world make sense, and it was easier to believe that it was a bad place, and something was out to get you, and that’s why my life was where it was at, and as bad as it was, than it was to realize I had made bad choices.
Makenna Mead (04:58):
Can you tell me why you went off and researched all of the things that you believed in?
Karen Robertson (05:03):
There was a very specific night, actually, that caused this. This guy and I were talking, and he knew about all these different conspiracy theories that I did. Then, towards the end of the conversation, he was like, “Get this, flat earth.” I thought he was joking. He’s like, “Dude, there’s evidence that the earth is flat.” A little while later, I saw him use a very, very hard drug. It made me realize, if I’m thinking someone like that, that I should reconsider my belief system.
The very next day, I actually searched how to disprove a conspiracy theory. A month, maybe even less, went by before my brain just kind of clicked and I was just like, “All this is a bunch of hog wash.”
Makenna Mead (05:55):
If you could go back in time, and you could talk to a younger version of yourself that believed all those years ago, what would you say to her?
Karen Robertson (06:04):
I definitely would tell her that things are going to get better, because I think that was part of her problem. It’s hard to change minds, but that would ultimately be really cool if just a couple of people could decide to go look up something and challenge their own beliefs. That’s going to be the moral of my story, because when I challenged my beliefs, it changed my world and it made my life better.
Berto Suarez (06:42):
It’s almost time to make decisions and go vote. But what happens when a bunch of people don’t vote? The State of Arkansas has one of the worst voter turnout rates in the country. Student journalist, Ishi Rikazi worked with Arkansas PBS to find out why that’s happening, and help people are trying to improve it.
Ishi Rikazi (07:01):
Arkansas has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country. Why? The reasons range from, distressed and confusion, to deliberate attempts to prevent people from voting. Micah Wallace, with the Arkansas Young Democrats.
Micah Wallace (07:16):
I feel like a lot of times, young people don’t turn out to vote, probably, because they feel like they don’t know enough, or they don’t know exactly what they’re supposed to do or what will be expected of them when they walk in.
Ishi Rikazi (07:26):
Arkansas is rural, and voters must request a mail-in ballot if they can’t make it to the polling station. That can be a big barrier to voting, according to State Senator, Joyce Elliot,
Joyce Elliot (07:37):
You might have to drive a very long way to get to the polls. There are so many cases where people have hours that don’t sync up with the ability to vote, with their work.
Ishi Rikazi (07:50):
Arkansas’s history is another factor. After the Civil War, Jim Crow codified segregation into laws that affected education, public services, and made voting difficult for black Arkansans and other groups.
Robert Coon (08:04):
We talk about voter distrust of government, and we see that it’s clear that, that’s something that is much higher, on average, I think, in the south, than it is in the north. It’s hard to ignore that some of the roots of that go back to the Civil War, to Reconstruction.
Dr. Janine Parry (08:20):
Many scholars have documented the traditionalistic political culture that has dominated the South, especially with respect to voting behavior.
Ishi Rikazi (08:28):
Janine Parry points to a history of corruption and power held by a small group of leads.
Dr. Janine Parry (08:35):
They’re the ones who make decisions. They usually make it for their own benefit. That also has, I think, had a role, culturally, in depressing all kinds of participation.
Ishi Rikazi (08:46):
The situation is bleak, but we found young people hoping to turn things around by building change at the grassroots level.
Micah Wallace (08:54):
The Young Dems have really done the best that we can to take the message that voting is important to people directly.
Gabrielle Harvey (08:59):
Don’t even register to vote for president.
Micah Wallace (09:02):
But do you want to do it? It’s so important, and if young people show up, we can, literally, change everything.
It’s different if one of your peers, or a young person, says, “Do you want to get registered to vote?”
Joyce Elliot (09:14):
Voting is the way we get to have an exchange with people that we don’t get to talk to every day by registering what we think at the polls.
Gabrielle Harvey (09:22):
The older generation isn’t always going to be the older generation forever, and someday, that’s going to be us. We’re going to have to live in a world, and in a country, where the majority of us didn’t vote, and we didn’t express our opinions. Then, we’re left with issues that could have been resolved when we were younger, and instead, we’re having to deal with them when we’re older.
Berto Suarez (09:43):
Most likely, political posts keep filling up your social media fees as the election gets closer, often filled with misinformation. How do you check it?
Tiffany Rodriguez (09:53):
MediaWise, at the Poynter Institute, has a virtual newsroom of middle and high school students all over the country.
Speaker 26 (09:59):
A Tweet doesn’t provide any sources at all.
Tiffany Rodriguez (10:02):
They use social media to fact check viral misinformation, and they can teach you how to do what they do.
Speaker 27 (10:08):
Why is it that dead people always vote Democrat?
Speaker 28 (10:11):
High quality campaign videos, like this one, from a Michigan governor’s candidate, who claims that dead people are voting, are airing all over TV this election season. But, be careful. Even ads that are entertaining and nicely packaged can be misleading.
The first thing I did was a quick keyword search, typing in zombie Michigan Voters fact checked, and it brought me to an article from PolitiFact, which I know is reputable fact checking site. According to the article, a review by the Michigan Office of the Auditor General, debunked claims like the one in the campaign video that thousands of ballots were counted when they were on behalf of dead voters in the 2020 election. The article says that officials have ways to flag deceased voters before their ballots are, in fact, counted.
With election season upon us. It’s important to remember that not everything you see online is true. One of the simplest things you can do to find out if something is accurate is, check reliable sources, most of which do the fact checking part for you. PolitiFact is not the only one. In addition to them, there’s factcheck.org, the Washington Post Fact Check, Reuters, and that’s only to name a few.
Just to recap, be skeptical about what you’re hearing and seeing. Check out what other credible news sources are saying. Go straight to original sources. It’s important to realize that misinformation isn’t limited to a particular party, platform, paper, politician. The truth is not partisan.
Tiffany Rodriguez (11:35):
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wondered how votes get counted. Next, we’ll go to my home state of Pennsylvania to find out.
Gus Bonanni (11:44):
You’re not taking sides, you’re helping the process. You’re assisting people that are eligible to vote, to vote.
Tiffany Rodriguez (11:52):
When the city of Philadelphia announced a lack of poll workers and a desire for teen volunteers, my friend, Estee, and I realized we didn’t know much about the job.
So, we found a family of poll workers to give us a rundown.
Matthew Bonanni (12:07):
I am the second oldest, poll working for about 20 years, now.
Gus Bonanni (12:13):
Matthew, he’s the minority inspector, and he gets to a point a clerk who’s, Ashley.
Ashley Bonanni (12:18):
It’s always been something that I look forward to when elections come around.
Ashley and Matt started volunteering at the polls at 14 and 15, and were employed at 16. Why should more young people get involved in poll working?
Speaker 10 (12:33):
Younger people don’t get the experience of knowing how to vote until they’re 18.
Matthew Bonanni (12:41):
The more young people that you see working there, the more you’re going to think, “This impacts me.”
Karen Robertson (12:47):
It also looks good on a resume, too. I have to say.
That all sounds great, but… What does a poll worker do?
Gus Bonanni (12:57):
It’s a long day.
Matthew Bonanni (12:58):
Poll worker opens the polls so that everybody can come in and vote.
Ashley Bonanni (13:04):
Check people in, show them what the ballot is.
Gus Bonanni (13:08):
Hopefully, somebody’s bringing donuts or buying pizza, or something like that.
Speaker 10 (13:12):
Make sure they don’t have any other questions.
Matthew Bonanni (13:13):
We’re in charge of, also, closing the polls, too.
Ashley, Matt and their parents are like election workers and communities all across the United States. All elections are run locally, and local officials count the votes too. How do you think people can get more involved in poll work?
Matthew Bonanni (13:31):
Just come into your polling place in ask your poll worker. They’d be happy to show you how to get involved. They can’t do it forever.
Tiffany Rodriguez (13:40):
Thanks for doing this with me, Essie. I now have a much better idea of who works at the polls and why.
Yeah, now I’ll say thanks when I see them on election day.
Berto Suarez (13:59):
Next, we’re going to hear a conversation between a first time voter and a veteran political reporter about how she sees this moment in our country.
Sonal Prakash (14:08):
Hi, I’m Sonal Prakash. I’m an SRL Alumna and a student at George Mason University. Today, I’m here with Lisa Desjardins, a political correspondent at PBS News Hour. So nice to meet you.
Lisa Desjardins (14:19):
Really great to meet you.
Sonal Prakash (14:20):
To start off here, politics in this country, recently, has felt really ugly. What changes have you seen over time? You’ve been a reporter for so long.
Lisa Desjardins (14:30):
It used to be that the battles say, in Congress, could get very heated, and we would have floor speeches that were fiery. However, it was really confined to the idea that it was a political debate, and it wasn’t personal. What’s happened now in our politics, and I’ve felt it in Congress, is it feels very personal. It’s not just a battle of who has the best ideas, but it’s about putting down one person, or one group of people, in a way that is more hurtful, and as we saw, sometimes, can lead to violence.
Sonal Prakash (15:03):
Speaking of violence, obviously, the January 6th Capitol attacks, you were actually present there reporting on that day. What was the impact of that event, especially on these upcoming midterms?
Lisa Desjardins (15:15):
The Capitol is operating on any sort of rules at the moment… I think it is profound. It was surreal. It was surreal for anyone watching it. But to be in it, it really undermined the notion of thinking how stable our democracy is. Thinking of, who can you trust in the political sphere? How far will people with extremist ideas go? Because I think there was an assumption that people may say something, but they don’t really mean to attack the US Capitol. They did really attack the US Capitol.
What happened then, especially as for Democrats who were there, and I saw their eyes that day, I walked next to Democratic members of Congress who were crying. I was trying to comfort them because they really thought they were about to lose their lives over some part. It became such a raw sense of betrayal for them by Republicans. That trust has broken down like never before.
For Republicans, they believe they’re being falsely accused of conspiring against the United States, which they say they weren’t doing, but Democrats say, “Wait a minute, you had a role.” That debate is unresolved and it’s very raw.
Sonal Prakash (16:22):
I’ve, personally, seen a lot of the same kind of aggressiveness and passion on social media. As a young person who’s going to be a first time voter this year, it’s easy to be intimidated by the intensity of politics.
Lisa Desjardins (16:37):
I love that you used that word, intimidation. I hadn’t thought about that, but that is what’s happening here. I would say to young people, try not to be intimidated. Someone is going to portray that they have all the knowledge in the world, that they are so confident, they can’t possibly be wrong. But anyone can be wrong. It’s not just getting the facts on your own, but trusting your own instinct, be willing to disagree with your own friends in small ways, be willing to disagree with other people in big ways.
Sonal Prakash (17:09):
Is there anything that you’ve seen that gives us some kind of hope for a better future?
Lisa Desjardins (17:14):
For the first time in decades, we saw Congress pass legislation that actually did deal with gun violence. Again, not what a lot of gun control advocates want. It’s definitely not what gun rights people wanted, but Republicans and Democrats came together and said, after Uvalde, “We have a very serious problem and we need to start tackling it.”
There are members of Congress who realize that our democracy is at a really important pivot point and that if Congress is not able to figure out a way to talk to each other about these huge issues that endanger our country, then that is the danger itself.
Sonal Prakash (17:50):
Thank you so much, Lisa. This has been a wonderful conversation with you.
Lisa Desjardins (17:53):
You’re welcome. Thank you, because I think this kind of discussion is also a reason for hope.
Berto Suarez (18:17):
Good information about elections can be hard to find, especially when someone’s first language isn’t English. There’s a lot of misinformation targeted at immigrants. Our next Moments of Truth story takes a look how one organization is fighting against the spread of false information in the Vietnamese American community.
Steph Doan (18:40):
Hi, Nick, nice to meet you.
Nick Nguyen (18:42):
You’re the first Viet fact check person I’ve actually met in person.
Steph Doan (18:45):
Nick Nguyen (18:45):
Steph Doan (18:45):
Nick Nguyen (18:46):
What a crazy year this has been.
Steph Doan (18:46):
Thank you so much for having me over and making this film.
Nick Nguyen (18:51):
Of course. It should be fun.
Steph Doan (18:53):
Hi, I’m Steph. I’m 27 years old and I’m a volunteer with Viet Fact Check. I’ve been volunteering since 2019, and I’m super excited to meet one of the co-founders, Nick, as we’ve never met in person.
Nick Nguyen (19:05):
I can’t believe we’ve worked together on stuff for months and not actually met in person, but that’s how things are now.
Steph Doan (19:12):
Not just months, it’s been years. How did you start Viet Fact Check?
Nick Nguyen (19:16):
After the murder of George Floyd, there was just so much misinformation, not just in my community, but my family. What we found in the Vietnamese American community is that, we don’t have a Telemundo, we don’t have Una Vision. We don’t have Vietnamese language, well funded, professional media organizations aimed at the Vietnamese American community.
Steph Doan (19:36):
I think there’s just so much information that we are navigating. There’s Facebook, there’s Twitter, there’s TikTok, there’s Instagram. YouTube is also in the business of making money, where they want you to watch something else. What’s up next? You just go down this wormhole of information that is in your language, that makes sense to you, that is digestible, but is so inaccurate, but you don’t know where else to turn to.
Nick Nguyen (20:03):
I want to get to this world where everyone agrees on the facts, and they can disagree about what to do about them.
Steph Doan (20:09):
I remember being on Instagram when the War on Ukraine had first started. I was like, “Oh, my gosh, there’s all these attacks on Ukraine. Let me share this.” I got called out by a friend, very kindly, saying, “This is Russian media. They are trying to get you very riled up. You should look at the source.” I was like, “I am the target for this misinformation, and I am sharing this misinformation, and I’m working for an organization that try to combat it.”
Nick Nguyen (20:37):
I’m sure I’ve fallen for stuff too. It’s getting more and more sophisticated. Our parents, they grew up in a Civil War. I talk to other people from refugee communities. It’s very common, when you’re running away from a collapsing country, you can see it happen again So, when people are telling you the country’s collapsing unless you vote for us, they’re like, “Okay, I can deal with no healthcare and no gun control, as long as the country’s going to stay intact.”
I think you and I both share this sense of real injustice when people are being lied to and voting against their interests. I feel like the work we’re doing, in some ways, is just a love letter to the Vietnamese American community.
Steph Doan (21:11):
We are giving back and saying, “Hey, we’re also here. We are just as American as everyone else. Our narrative, our stories, might look a little different, but this is how we are contributing to this great diversity of America.”
Berto Suarez (21:36):
I’m joined, now, by Rachel Janfaza, a reporter covering Gen Z and politics. Welcome, Rachel.
Rachel Janfaza (21:42):
Thank you so much for having me.
Berto Suarez (21:44):
Gen Z-ers can now run for Congress. Can you tell us about who’s running?
Rachel Janfaza (21:48):
In the first election where Gen Z can run for Congress, there are two Gen Z candidates on the ballot this November. One of them is Maxwell Frost. He’s a Democrat running in Florida, and then Caroline Leavitt is a Republican running in New Hampshire. They have very different political beliefs and opinions, but they share a common thread, which is that they want to bring more young people into the political process, and get more young voters out to support both of their campaigns.
Berto Suarez (22:10):
How are they different from other politicians of other generations?
Rachel Janfaza (22:14):
They’ll go to college campuses in their district, and they can say to the students there, “Look, I’m really close in age to you. I’m only 25 years old. I understand what you’re going through, the ins and outs of your daily life. I’m going to listen to your concerns. If elected, I can take those concerns and advocate in the halls of Congress.”
Berto Suarez (22:30):
You’ve talked a lot about helping young people voting. Why do you think they don’t vote?
Rachel Janfaza (22:35):
What I hear from voters across the country is that they, sometimes, feel like the older politicians don’t understand the ins and outs of their daily life. The way that social media has impacted their life, they didn’t have to go to school on Zoom for two years because of COVID.
I think that young people feel that they have a unique set of circumstances. I think one of the issues, overall, throughout history and still today, is that young people don’t necessarily know where to access the resources that give them information about how to vote. It’s one thing for there to be all this passion and energy protesting, demonstrating, taking to social media to share your beliefs, but it’s another thing to actually know how to channel that and get to the ballot box.
Berto Suarez (23:19):
What advice would you give to someone that’s voting for the first time?
Rachel Janfaza (23:22):
The best thing you can do is go to your state’s Secretary of State website, and they should have information there. There organizations like vote.org, Rock the Vote, When We All Vote. These are all nonpartisan organizations that, regardless of your party and political preference, they help you figure out the process of how to actually get to voting in the first place.
Berto Suarez (23:40):
How do you feel about people that feel like their vote wouldn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things?
Rachel Janfaza (23:45):
The more people that turn out to vote, the more representative the democracy can actually be, so it only works if everyone participates. I think that if everyone says, “I don’t think I’m going to make a difference. It doesn’t matter if I don’t vote.” Only the people who turned out are the ones who are having their voices heard.
Berto Suarez (24:04):
Thank you so much for being here today, Rachel.
Rachel Janfaza (24:06):
Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure to be here.
Tiffany Rodriguez (24:21):
Fake or altered photos are one of the biggest ways bad information can spread, especially during elections. Let’s look at how you can combat online misinformation.
Speaker 44 (24:33):
The chatter surrounding the Pennsylvania Senate race between Democrat, John Fetterman, and Republican, Mehmet Oz, has been super intense on social media. This photo from late August shows Oz with restaurant workers in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It appears to show someone holding Oz’s signs sideways, so it spells, no. This kind of photo can create a strong emotional reaction like joy or anger. That’s a sign you should step back and take a breath, because it could be misinformation.
Did the person holding the sign make a silly mistake, or did they do it on purpose, or is it actually Photoshopped? A reverse image search is a great way to find out if a image is actually real or not. I went to Google Chrome Reverse Search Image app. First, find the in question, hold down on it and tap on the option that says, “Search Google for this image.” My search brought up this article from Reuters, which explains that the sideways Oz that spells, no, is actually Photoshopped. The article also links the unaltered version of the photo. This photo was actually altered and not legit.
Social media is filled with misinformation like this during an election cycle. Be sure to check your emotions, and check the original source of posts before you share.
Berto Suarez (25:38):
That’s what the time we have. It’s been a blast [inaudible 00:25:40], Tiffany. To everyone else here, thank you for tuning in.
Tiffany Rodriguez (25:44):
Same her, Berto. I’m so pumped to cast my first ever vote on November 8th.
Berto Suarez (25:48):
Good luck, Tiffany. I turn 18 soon, and then I’m going to get to vote. I’ll make sure I can sort fact from fiction on the interwebs.
Tiffany Rodriguez (25:56):
You’ll do great, I know it.
Berto Suarez (25:59):
Thanks for hanging off to us today.
Tiffany Rodriguez (26:04):
Berto Suarez (26:04):
Berto Suarez (26:14):
This is actually pretty unsafe, but [inaudible 00:26:05]. This is the White House? I feel so professional. The State of Arkansas has one of the worst… Arkansas. I’ve been saying that wrong forever. (singing)
I’m taking a video.