What advice do you have for high school students who want to live in a better world?

For my Brace Center Fellowship in Gender Studies on Women in Journalism this past summer, I interviewed a number of experienced, talented, and smart professionals in the news industry. Here are their responses to the question:

What advice do you have for high school students who want to live in a better world?

Oh jeez, that’s a lot of pressure! I’d say just follow your passion, and remember that there are ways to make a difference. Also know that not everything is fair, and that you will face challenges in the professional world. But don’t be afraid to speak up when you encounter them.

- Jessica Bennett, Executive Editor at Tumblr

Figure out if you like it, and the only way to know is to do it a lot. There are so many opportunities now for you to work. The harder part now is there is not as much formal help. It’s hard to get a lot of feedback because people don’t have the time. Do as much writing as you can. Do as much reading other people’s writing as you can.

- Mark Coatney, Director/Media Evangelist at Tumblr

This is the hardest question ever! I guess, I’d say, just live your life as if every choice you made was the choice that everybody made—not in terms of career and so forth, but in terms of all the tiny things that you do every day that might impact another person. If everybody is a little bit better, the whole world will be immeasurably better for it. 

- Jesse Ellison, Articles Editor at Newsweek and The Daily Beast

I think that one’s world or one’s life is really one’s own making. So I think that you can make a better world for yourself by being the kind of person you are and what you choose to do with your life. If everybody thought that way, I think we would have a better globe. But I do think that your own happiness is really up to you and what kind of person you are and what you spend your time doing. 

- Jane Hirt, Managing Editor at The Chicago Tribune

I would love to see more high school students do some community service or volunteer at a place outside their comfort zone. I think the more they see how other people live, perhaps the more empathetic they will be as they learn how our government works and how policy affects all of us in our communities. 

- Lisa Black, Journalist at The Chicago Tribune

I’m excited about your generation. I see a generation that is much more socially aware in the best sense about community. I think your challenges are going to be dramatically different than ours. You’re going to have very interesting fiscal challenges. The biggest one hasn’t hit us yet, but it has started. It is going to be how artificial intelligence and robotics is going to eat away all the jobs that have kept the Wal-Mart’s and the McDonald’s and all the low-level basic jobs and people employed for so many years. Those are going to go away. And what happens to those people is going to be the challenge of the century, and I think frankly, worldwide. And those are things that great journalist and politicians are going to tackle. I think my generation wouldn’t have had a clue, but I think your generation has a great shot. I wish you luck and great things. 

- Jackie Leo, Editor-in-Chief at The Fiscal Times

Don’t wait around for someone else to create a movement that resonates with you. Develop your own ways of thinking about the world and act accordingly to change it, ideally with a group of peers who feel the same way.

Ann Friedman, Former Executive Editor at GOOD Magazine

Care about what’s happening around you and the world, and do things (little or big) to try to make a difference. Stay informed and be smart. Experience your world; engage with people and not just your smartphones and tablets. 

- Mei-Ling Hopgood, Professor at Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University