NZ Geographic 2

Jaxon with wild flower backdrop. Photo credit: Becki Moss

26 July 2023

Despite making up a sizeable portion of the population, rangatahi are an underrepresented group in news media in Aotearoa.

It was for that reason that one of the goals of NZ On Air’s Public Interest Journalism Fund (PIJF) was to ensure that this audience felt accurately reflected – for the benefit of wider audiences, as well as rangatahi themselves and future generations.

Being Teen was an innovative longitudinal project from New Zealand Geographic that was funded in the first round of the PIJF.  Intended as a counter to once-over-lightly treatment of teens by media, it documented the everyday lives of nine adolescents, aged 13 to 19, across the motu for the better part of a year.

The project aimed to follow the trials and tribulations of those nine teens through a collection of stories, to create a picture of a generation that is often misunderstood and, at worse, derided. This collection of stories was compiled into a special themed issue in the May/June 2023 edition of New Zealand Geographic.

Throughout this work, New Zealand Geographic was guided by a comprehensive health and safety plan (before the selection process, during the study, and after publication) as well as a participant guide. Independent teen liaisons were also employed throughout the project, as additional support people for the rangatahi and their caregivers.

The participants were thoughtfully selected, carefully matched with writers and photographers, and intended to be representative of Aotearoa’s teenagers across gender, ethnicity, geographic location, and household income.

“Taking this approach resulted in a remarkable representation of what life in the last couple of years has been like for our nation’s young people. They told us stories of how they coped with lockdown and their worries about inflation and climate change, as well as more universal stories about school, family, friendships, culture, and aspirations for the future,” says the magazine’s editor, Catherine Woulfe.

“The project gave its participants an unusual degree of autonomy over their images and stories, allowing them to be vulnerable in an empowered and safe environment, while creating a valuable portrait of the teenage experience at an historic point in time.”

You can read the New Zealand Geographic special issue Being Teen at:

NZ Geographic 1

Ceejay relaxing on her bed. Photo credit: Becki Moss

NZ Geographic 4

Hawikii (wearing cap) performing the haka. Photo credit: Cornell Tukiri

NZ Geographic 3

Liam with his spearfishing haul. Photo credit: supplied