Olivia Seltzer is determined to change the world. At just 14 years old, she’s the founder and sole writer of theCramm, a digital newsletter created to educate teen and young adult readers about current events.
Every morning, Olivia wakes up at 5 a.m. and grabs her computer. She takes in the daily news and political events, and aggregates the most important points to discuss in her newsletter. She writes her newsletter in teen-friendly language, ensures that it’s edited and ready to go out to her mailing list, and hits send. Then, Olivia heads to her Santa Barbara school for another day of eighth grade.
Why did Olivia start theCramm? How does she balance running a news organization and being an everyday teen? What are her hopes for the future of theCramm?
Everly Mag got the scoop when we talked to Olivia all about her inspirations and aspirations.
How theCramm began
After the 2016 American presidential election, Olivia began to notice her peers’ increased sense of interest in politics and current events. However, she also noticed that their desire to get involved was missing a central destination.
“Everyone was talking about [the election],” Olivia said. “All my friends and I could talk about at school was the world’s happenings. Although everyone was really interested in politics, nobody seemed to be reading or watching the news, since unfortunately there [was] no news source actually geared toward young people.”
Olivia was also inspired – or, in her own words – “activated” by the 2016 election results, in which Republican Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton in a shocking upset. “I woke up in the middle of the night,” Olivia said, explaining her devastation at hearing of Trump’s win. Many of Olivia’s friends and classmates are from immigrant families. Given Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric on the campaign trail, Olivia “was worried for [her] friends.”
Given her own passion and her drive to motivate others, Olivia realized that teens needed a news source written just for them.
“Having always loved writing, I decided to create the solution: theCramm,” Olivia said. “My first steps in turning my idea into a reality: coming up with a name, designing the newsletters, and building a website.” Olivia learned to build websites at just eight years old, so she was ready for the challenge.
How did Olivia decide on theCramm? “The name comes from cramming the news into one newsletter.” Soon, the first newsletter was ready. Olivia and her parents sent out an email to their entire contact list, and theCramm was born.
Evolution of theCramm
Since its start in February 2017, theCramm has evolved for Olivia, though the mission has remained the same.
“First, it was just the writing [itself], with no logo or anything,” said Olivia, remembering theCramm’s earlier days. “I realized I needed to give it more of an identity so I could connect more with my audience.” Now, theCramm has a clear black logo, a black-and-red color scheme, and a social media presence on Twitter and Instagram.
Olivia has developed her voice with each day’s writing. “I’ve been trying to be funnier and more sarcastic and grow into [the voice],” she said. “It’s just such a fun experience, since I write theCramm [like] how I talk to my friends: straight to the point, yet not without humor.”
At first, Olivia didn’t tell her friends at school about her new project, but once she did they were eager to sign up. Now, her network has grown even beyond Santa Barbara.
“I’ve gotten messages from other teens telling me that I’ve inspired them to get involved. It’s a very surreal experience to think that there are people around the world who rely on theCramm as their daily news source,” Olivia said. She even has groups of teens and young adults who visit local colleges to help grow theCramm.
theCramm and Social Media
Social media has been a powerful influence to help Olivia grow theCramm and connect with new readers.
Through Instagram, Olivia’s had the opportunity to connect theCramm with influencers like Chelsea Handler and Gwyneth Paltrow. She even attended the Teen Vogue Summit in December 2017, where she got to speak with influencers she admires, among them Rowan Blanchard, Lilly Singh, and Elaine Welteroth.
Given the ubiquity of social media in the lives of teenagers, are they programmed to favor visuals over text? Olivia says that’s not the case. “I didn’t want to do pictures,” she said, explaining that theCramm is a written newsletter. “People have a view of teens and young adults that isn’t true – that they don’t want to read. It’s easier to look at a picture of something, but people want to read.” While she includes the occasional picture on theCramm’s Instagram feed, she mainly focuses on spotlighting text-based aspects of the newsletter.
When it comes to current events, Olivia doesn’t “dumb down the news or take away stories” for theCramm. She tries to focus on the top stories of the day that gear toward her young adult audience, often featuring pop culture and technology stories. However, no matter the complexity of the issues, Olivia wants to make sure her readers are getting the breadth and depth of the daily news.
The Future of theCramm
“I hope to one day grow theCramm into a major media source for young women,” Olivia said, identifying her newsletter as a cross between 60 Minutes and Vice, but for women. “I envision having a news website like BBC or CNN with a live news feed and video features, along with the daily summary of the news, like I have now.”
Olivia’s target audience is made up of 13-30 year olds, primarily women. “I definitely hope to inspire young people – specifically girls,” she said. “I think a big issue in the United States is that girls aren’t being exposed to enough female inspirations. I want to show young women that we’re capable of doing anything, and that we can really change the world if we put our minds to it.”
Someday, Olivia hopes to have an office and a staff for theCramm, where her organization will be the same as any typical news source, but relate more to young people in its writing and tone.
“I always want to be writing the newsletters,” Olivia said when talking about the future. “But, it would be nice to have people to help that aren’t restricted by a school schedule.”
Has her age been a challenge in starting theCramm? Sometimes, it makes it so people don’t take her seriously. However, Olivia wants to help dispel the notion that teenagers aren’t capable of political involvement or running a business.
“I’d like to inspire any young person to go after their goals and dreams. Your age doesn’t need to inhibit you, and I think that’s really something teens and young adults need to be aware of,” Olivia said. “I believe young people will be inspired to make a difference if they’re exposed to the world’s happenings. Education is power, and I aim to give that power to [young people] around the world.”
Olivia’s goal: Educate to activate. “I want young people, in particular young women, to be informed when they go out to vote, to take part in a protest, to become inspired to start something, [and] to go after their dreams at a younger age. We can really make a difference.”
Despite the challenges of being 14, age hasn’t been the biggest difficulty in running theCramm.
“The biggest challenge would actually have to be detaching myself from the news,” Olivia said. “I read and write about so many horrific things every day. It’s easy to get caught up in it. But, really, nothing’s a challenge when you’re passionate about what you do.”
Olivia’s interest in philanthropy extends beyond theCramm.
“I started a charity at age 11 called Donate a Story, where I got kids at my elementary school to write and illustrate over 100 stories, which I then donated to kids in Uganda,” she said. “Last year, I started a Direct Relief 4 Youth club at my junior high and have since raised nearly two thousand dollars to help people affected by hurricanes in Haiti and mudslides in Santa Barbara.”
We asked Olivia: What are the biggest issues that affect teens today? How can teens get involved?
“I think a big issue teens experience is being underestimated by adults,” she said. “The past year, we’ve really been so activated by what’s going on in our country, and I think adults don’t necessarily give us enough credit for how much we care. If adults worked with teens to get us more involved, I think we’d see a lot more change occurring around the world.”
Another important issue to Olivia: gun control. “There are a lot of protests – school walkouts and marches – that I think are imperative for young people to take part in. We need to use our voices to make a difference, since things like gun control affect us so closely.”
Lastly, Olivia has a passion to combat sexism. “I think this is really a problem among teens because my friends and I all feel strongly about it, but it’s not really something teens talk about. Sexism – and how to combat it – needs to become a part of the conversation for young people.”
Olivia’s biggest inspiration? Malala Yousafzai.
“I love how she’s become such an advocate for girls’ education,” Olivia said. “She really represents a young person being activated by an event that closely affected her – and subsequently taking action to make a difference.”
Feature Image Credit: Olivia Seltzer