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For today’s teens, a politics website of their own

They’re more engaged in politics than Generation X was – and are looking for ways to voice their views.

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One conclusion particularly suggests potential for sites such as NextGenJournal: "They are eager for opportunities to talk about issues with a diverse group of people in open and authentic ways," notes the study, conducted by CIRCLE, the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.

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The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., has tried to tap into that hunger through this summer's reading assignment for first-year students. They were asked to read a newspaper (or news website) regularly and post articles and commentary to a shared blog. After seeing students' insights and interests, some faculty have found themselves tweaking the way they plan to teach this semester.

How to give a voice to young people's opinions has long been a challenge for traditional forms of media.

"The main problem ... is that you always get the ‘good' kids ... [who are] trying to act like miniature adults," says Ken Sands, a former newspaper editorial board member and, until recently, executive editor for innovation at Congressional Quarterly in Washington. If the founders of NextGenJournal follow that pattern, he says, he doubts they'll attract many readers and contributors.

But Mr. Sands does see strong potential in opinion posts that connect a public issue to a young writer's personal experience. On NextGenJournal.com, for instance, a pre-med student tells how befriending a patient at a clinic for the uninsured has shaped his views of the healthcare debate.

About a dozen people – Connor's classmates and friends of friends – have been editing posts from several dozen contributors so far, and as they head back to school or to college campuses this fall, they hope to broaden the site's reach. Its Facebook page had about 250 fans by late August, and they're using other social networking sites as well to spread the word.

Clearly it's a labor of love for Connor and the core editors, who have spent three to four hours a day this summer running the site. But they have plenty in common with less politically engaged teens, too, like having to negotiate parental concerns.

"They definitely are worried that I'll start to neglect school or college applications," Connor says of his parents, "but I think as we move forward and hopefully grow more successful with this, [they'll see] it will be a good thing."