Mark Hughes: Giving Youth A "New Voice"

Image: Mark Hughes

Image: Mark Hughes

Mark Hughes embodies that what The Defiant Movement believes in - the power of youth. The young CEO created The New Voice Co., a youth-powered publication which launched earlier this year with a goal of giving youth a “new voice”. Learn more about his incredible work below!

Tell us more about yourself and your publication!

I’m Mark Anthony Hughes. I was born in Michigan but raised in Kentucky. I’m a rising freshman at The Ohio State University, and I’m the CEO of The New Voice Media Group LLC and Editor in Chief of The New Voice. The New Voice is an objective, facts- focused news and political opinion media outlet aimed at educating the next generation of voters and informing global youth about the world around them. The publication was founded in 2018 and launched in January 2019.

What lead you to start the publication?

I actually created a publication that was similar to this one during my freshman year of high school (2016). I ended up shutting the site down because I had neither the writing staff to keep content up nor a complete vision of what I wanted that site to be. When I worked on a political campaign my senior year, this led me to create a publication with a new vision in mind. I recognized how important youth voices were and how impactful they can be. From there, I started doing research into what it took to create a media company and common problems media companies currently have. The first issue I found was that journalistic content targeted towards young people wasn’t that good. Not to attack these companies-something is obviously working for them-but I felt like there had to be a better alternative. We live in a time now where there’s a lot of biased and sensationalized news. People-young people especially-don’t want to be told what or how to think. They just want to think. I felt that a media platform of my own could do this by being facts-oriented and centrist in terms of the political spectrum. I wanted to create a platform that would fix this gap by providing better, more objective content directly targeted towards GenZ and young Millennials. I also found that young voices aren’t heard nearly enough-something much more evident to me, as a young, person of color. The New Voice would be a literal new voice of a generation that feels like they don’t have a platform to talk about issues important to them with.

Why is it important to give youth a platform to dissect politics?

Young people are the future. My high school principal said this once during an assembly, and it has stuck with me ever since. He talked about the issues of climate change, gun violence, social media addiction, racism, and discrimination. At this moment, I realized how important it was for young people to be not only informed but also involved in solving global issues. Young people may have limited life experience, but we are a lot smarter and innovative than most people give us credit for. Also, I think reaching young people specifically makes politicians realize how important youth voices are. Young people get a lot of slack for not showing up to polls as much, and while some elements of this are true, that doesn’t mean politicians should ignore the issues we have discourse about or the policies we want. And an element of why we don’t show out to the polls as much is because politicians refuse to listen to us. For these reasons, I think it’s very important for young people to have that voice and a platform they can use to learn about politics and the world more.

What barriers do young people face in the political realm?

I would say that we (young people) face two main barriers in the political realm. The first is that we are not allowed to vote and the second is that politicians don’t listen to us enough. Personally, I don’t believe that the voting age should be lowered but I think it’s important for politicians to consider the views of youth. I think politicians should be more open to listening to issues about climate change, healthcare, and other social issues relevant to young people. I think they should listen to us because as I said earlier, young people are the future. This doesn’t mean ignoring all other age groups, but to be more conscious about issues that young people care about.

How can more people become involved or contribute to your publication?

That’s a great question! On our corporate page (company.thenewvoice.co) there is more in-depth info about what we do as a company and what we are about. There’s a careers page with the applications for our current positions, so feel free to apply! If you don’t want to be a full-time writer or on the business/operations side, we are always looking for contributors. If this is something you’d be interested in, either email the Editor in Chief (mark@thenewvoice.co) or fill out the pitch application.

As a relatively new youth-powered organization in a fairly congested field, how do you plan to stand out, and what sets your writers/topics apart from other publications?

That’s an amazing question! The media field is very crowded like you said and it’s tough to stand out. We focused on finding our niche and what made us unique compared to our competitors. Unlike many others, we provide an objective facts-focused news and a political opinion platform for youth. Most news sites don’t specifically target young people and sites that are for young people often aren’t serious news sites. We’re a game changer to the media market: we introduced a methodology for better content that ensures critical thinking and an outlet that acknowledges young voices. The fact that we are a media organization run by young people and for young people is pretty distinguishing. The second difference is how we are fresh media. There are a lot of large, well-known big names in traditional media and I think a good portion of them will be here for a long time. However, many people are starting to have a growing distrust in some of the big names prompting them to want something new and fresh. We are a new and modern platform that our young audience wants and demands. To answer your last question, we heavily emphasize how global we are. Not only are we read in 88 countries, but we have writers and editors from around the world. Big name publications already have this, but for an early publication like ours it can be hard to get. In terms of our topics, we are pretty conscious and careful about what we publish. We want to ensure quality content over quantity of content, and to do so we focus on three main areas: world news, U.S. politics, and social issues.

What advice would you give to "grasshopper" youth organizations/publications that are trying to create change/initiatives similar to yours?

The most important advice I would give to other publications trying to create change would be don’t get in our way…. just kidding. Honestly, the first piece of advice I’d give would be to have passion for what you’re doing. Don’t create a publication/company to just brag about it or solely for money because you will be disappointed. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into what we do and people don’t usually see that, but that’s okay. I love seeing how many people relate to the content we publish or learn about an issue or event they haven’t heard about before because it feels like I’ve done what I was supposed to do. So if you’re really serious about creating your own organization or publication use your passion to fuel your flame. The second piece of advice I would give would be to plan ahead. Publications like ours weren’t created in a night. We had around five months of planning, hiring, website designing, logo designing, and marketing that went into the project before we launched. And we are still planning ahead for things! Really consider your vision and plan accordingly. Pick a launch date that’s realistic and then build up from there. One of the things I’m most proud of about this company isn’t the success we’ve had so far, but how I actually planned accordingly and implemented it. A lot of times people will talk up a good game about stuff they’re working on but don’t actually follow through with it. Don’t be that person! Have a vision, set targets/goals, follow up with them, and launch your platform. The last piece of advice I’d give is to be patient with progress. Our platform has been around for four months and while we’ve made some success, we hope there’s still more to come down the road. It takes time to build up and expand. There will be some days where site traffic isn’t where you want it to be and that’s okay. Learn from that and think about what can be done differently. An advantage of being in your startup phase is that you can be quite flexible in terms of what you do. Use this to your advantage to help contribute to long- term growth.

At The Defiant Movement, we constantly try to "dare to defy" boundaries and barriers, how have you done that with your publication?

The New Voice has “dared to defy” boundaries and barriers in multiple ways. The first is how we don’t follow a political agenda like other platforms do. Being an objective and facts-oriented platform is one of the major differences between us and our competitors. There’s a good portion of people that are tired of mainstream media following a certain side or political agenda, we try to defy the boundaries we are in by not following that standard. The second is that we aren’t afraid to be critical of the world we live in. One of most popular categories of the site is social issues, and I think our writers do an amazing job when it comes to covering this. We try to stay as objective as possible when writing news stories, but we aren’t afraid to talk about issues mainstream media ignores.