Data-Based Journalism and Story Telling Needed to Advance Youth Justice

New fellowship supports Black reporters examining and contextualizing issues affecting young people in the courts

Navigate to:

Data-Based Journalism and Story Telling Needed to Advance Youth Justice
Five video cameras on tripods stand in a line, with one reporter holding a camera slightly out of focus, all aimed at the same subject.
Microgen Getty Images

Is youth crime “surging” in the United States or is it “sharply declining”? The answer can depend in part on how journalists report the news, and the reality is often much more nuanced. The media has a critical and often delicate role in covering crimes involving young people: Reporters may have limited time and resources, but the words they produce can have lasting effects on policy and the lives of those accused.

To support reporters in writing research-based stories, The Pew Charitable Trusts and the National Association of Black Journalists launched the Youth Justice Reporting Fellowship in May 2023. This first-of-its-kind program provides data coaching and mentorship for five journalists, competitively selected, who are investigating justice issues that are specific to emerging adults.

Five women stand smiling at the photographer around a framed standing poster marking The Pew Charitable Trusts’ 75th anniversary.
This year’s Youth Justice Reporting fellows gathered May 23 and 24 at The Pew Charitable Trusts’ offices in Washington. They are, from left, Taylor Tiamoyo Harris, who works for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Safia Abdulahi, a freelance writer based in Minneapolis; Danielle Davis, a freelance reporter and anchor from Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Jasmine Minor, an investigative reporter with WLS-TV in Chicago; and Tamara Ward, a freelance writer from Mitchellville, Maryland.
The Pew Charitable Trusts

The fellowship kicked off with a two-day convening at Pew’s Washington office with presentations from reporters, academics, youth leaders, and government officials. Among the speakers were representatives of news organizations, such as Jamiles Lartey of The Marshall Project and Jodi Cohen from ProPublica, as well as advocates for young people in the court system such as Josh Rovner and Jordyn Wilson, both from The Sentencing Project

Speakers interacted with fellows in a small group setting, sharing insights about the field and building connections. Among the common themes was the need to report without reharming, specifically considering the media’s history of perpetuating false narratives about crime and its drivers. Carroll Bogert, president of The Marshall Project, and Abd’Allah Wali Lateef, deputy director of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, spoke about the myth of the “superpredator” and the need to learn from the harmful impact of such mischaracterizations based on faulty data.

They discussed how the “Central Park 5” case more than 30 years ago normalized the widespread use of dehumanizing language to describe young people of color. As tough-on-crime rhetoric and legislation flourished into the 1990s, the myth of the superpredator took hold. The theory that a new type of violent and irredeemable teen was to blame for the rise in crime was first advanced by a professor then at Princeton University who has since rebuked the notion. The legacy, however, still lingers today.

“It has dire consequences on the individuals that are so described. It has dire consequences on the communities that are impacted. It has dire consequences on our public psyche, where we become afraid of one another, where difference is perceived as an automatic threat, and none, or very little of it, is factually based,” said Lateef, who was himself incarcerated as a teenager.

The fellows and other journalists at the sessions expressed their dedication to reshaping how crime is discussed in the media and undoing past harms, specifically related to the treatment of Black young people. Black teenagers and young adults remain overpoliced and overincarcerated, while their White peers who get into trouble with the law are often allowed to stay with their families and in school. Responsible reporting can help shine light on and create a sense of urgency about the need to address these prolific disparities.

The full panel discussion between Bogert and Lateef is available to view on demand. 

Breana Lamkin is an officer within The Pew Charitable Trusts’ safety and justice portfolio, and Ruth Rosenthal is a senior manager with Pew’s public safety performance project.

Spotlight on Mental Health

This video is hosted by YouTube. In order to view it, you must consent to the use of “Marketing Cookies” by updating your preferences in the Cookie Settings link below. View on YouTube

This video is hosted by YouTube. In order to view it, you must consent to the use of “Marketing Cookies” by updating your preferences in the Cookie Settings link below. View on YouTube

Learning From the Past: Myth of the "Superpredator"
Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

Pills illustration
Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

Explore Pew’s new and improved
Fiscal 50 interactive

Your state's stats are more accessible than ever with our new and improved Fiscal 50 interactive:

  • Maps, trends, and customizable charts
  • 50-state rankings
  • Analysis of what it all means
  • Shareable graphics and downloadable data
  • Proven fiscal policy strategies


Welcome to the new Fiscal 50

Key changes include:

  • State pages that help you keep track of trends in your home state and provide national and regional context.
  • Interactive indicator pages with highly customizable and shareable data visualizations.
  • A Budget Threads feature that offers Pew’s read on the latest state fiscal news.

Learn more about the new and improved Fiscal 50.