Olivia Seltzer is the thirteen-year-old founder and sole writer of theCramm. She started theCramm after the 2016 presidential election, when she became inspired to make a difference. Her goal? Changing the world - one Cramm at a time - and creating activists out of the next generation by informing them about the world’s happenings.
What motivated you to launch theCramm? What first steps did you take to get it started?
theCramm was the product of my feelings of helplessness after the 2016 presidential election. The weeks and even months following the election, all anybody at school could talk about was what was happening in the White House. I noticed that, although everyone was incredibly interested in politics, every news source is primarily by and for adults, so they unfortunately don’t always connect to young people. So I have two reasons for starting theCramm: wanting to find a solution for the lack of a news source that relates to my generation and feeling the need to do something to make a difference. Once I got this idea in my head of waking up every day at 5am, reading the news and rewriting it in a relatable way for 13 to 30-year-olds, I started figuring out a name. theCramm came from “cramming” the news into one email or text, creating a website and designing the newsletters. I taught myself the basics of building websites at age 8, so after some research, I had all the tools I needed to get theCramm up and running.
What advice do you have for any young person who wants to turn their idea into action?
Don’t let your age - or people’s perception of you as a result of your age - inhibit you. I want other young people to know that it doesn’t matter how old you are: if you have a dream you feel passionate about, figure out how to make it work. If you believe in it, go do it.
How do you decide each day what to include in your newsletters? Do you have a specific process?
I have a really specific routine that I always stick to. I wake up to my alarm at 5am, grab my computer and then look at Instagram and check emails for a few minutes until my eyes adjust to the computer lights. By 5:10, I’ll start quickly glancing over the news. If an article stands out to me, I’ll copy the headline and paste it into Notes. I’ll get about 15-20 headlines, and then go and read over them more carefully until I get down to around 10 articles. At 6:00, I’ll start to write, keeping an article up for reference. By 6:40, I’ll finish, start linking to my sources, and then have my parents read it over to make sure there aren’t any typos. Before 7:00, I’ll send out the newsletter to my subscribers. I pick out the articles by thinking about what’s relevant to my age group. I think a big part of engaging your readers is knowing your audience, which is great, because I am my audience.
Where are some of your favorite sources for keeping up with the news?
I read anything and everything. I’ll start with CNN both because they’re more politics oriented and because I like the format of their site, and then move on to ABC News, BBC and the Bleacher Report in case there’s something big in sports. I’ll sometimes check with Fox News to see if they have a different opinion, because it’s interesting comparing CNN’s take on the day’s news versus Fox’s. I also read the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and the New York Times if there’s something I want more details on. I always end with Mashable, because they have great, funny pop-culture articles that I love using for Say What? and What to Know - some of the features on theCramm. And I always watch NBC Nightly News before bed with my family.
What are some frustrations you have experienced while running theCramm?
Being thirteen, it’s sometimes hard to get people to take me seriously. Another frustration is definitely managing my time, since the second I finish sending out theCramm, I have to start getting ready for school. That’s really the biggest frustration, I think - not being able to do some of the things I want with theCramm because I have school five days a week. But with all that said, I love what I do, and when that alarm wakes me up at 5am, I can’t wait to grab my computer and start writing.
What is the most personally rewarding part of running theCramm?
At first I was really just focused on the numbers. I would get stressed if I wasn’t meeting my goals for subscribers or Instagram followers - and then when I did, not take the time to appreciate it. I sort of had this idea of what theCramm should be, and I kept comparing myself to other news aggregates and thinking theCramm paled beside them. But by my sixth or so month of doing theCramm (it’s almost been a year now!), I started getting so many incredible Instagram comments or emails about how much someone loves theCramm and appreciates what I do - since there’s sadly no news source actually geared toward my generation. I realized that every single one of my subscribers is an actual person who takes time out of their day to read my writing. That’s a pretty amazing - and rewarding - thought.
How do you go about getting the word out about theCramm?
This is definitely the hardest part of running theCramm. My parents and I emailed everyone we knew. I contacted celebrities and put together a competition in the blogging community. I use the obvious social media sources - like Instagram - to spread the word, but I also have a more hands-on, grassroots strategy. I’m so grateful that enough people believe in theCramm that we actually have groups of other teens around the world who go to their local colleges telling people about theCramm and getting people to sign up. I recently attended the Teen Vogue Summit as well and had the opportunity to talk with dozens of influencers about theCramm, including Lilly Singh, Rowan Blanchard, and Elaine Welteroth.
Who is a real life hero for you?
I have a lot, which I’m really thankful for because I feel like a big issue in the United States is that girls aren’t being exposed to true female inspirations. Malala Yousafzai is definitely my number-one inspiration, because I feel like our causes are similar, except mine is on a first-world level. I believe girls - and teens in general - would be empowered to make a difference or go after their aspirations if they were better educated in a global and political sense. Education is just the solution to so many problems. After that, I would have to say Michelle Obama, Elaine Welteroth and Rowan Blanchard, because they all use their platforms to make an impact on the world. But in all actuality, I hear about young people everyday who are using their voice to make change, so I would consider them all my real-life heroes.
Favorite movie: I love The Post - it’s incredible how something that happened nearly fifty years ago could still be so relatable today.
Favorite book: The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan. I could read this book a thousand times and never get tired of it!
Song that gets you through any bad day? Chained to the Rhythm by Katy Perry, because that’s one of the first songs I heard that really connected to the 2016 presidential election.
An Instagram account or site that inspires you: I like looking at the Instagram accounts of influential women making a difference - Reese Witherspoon and her daughter, Storm Reid, Rowan Blanchard and Elaine Welteroth. Also, any post using #TeenVogueSummit. Looking through all of these posts gives me hope for a brighter future.
In five years find me: Still running theCramm, but expanding the platform to include a live news website, a TV series - everything you would find on a typical news source, but written how theCramm is. Think: a 60 Minutes meets Vice for a younger female demographic. I truly believe there’s a real need for this in a world that’s continually making it easier for young people to get a jumpstart on following their dreams.
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