Education reporter Jocelyn Gecker pushes beyond a government study of teen sexuality to find lots of gray areas and evidence of a shifting culture.

In America, teenagers’ lingo concerning sexuality has evolved significantly. Ever heard of “situationships” or “sneaky links”? AP education reporter Jocelyn Gecker explored the language of teen sexual mores to produce a forward-thinking story on a study of risky youth behaviors by the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention.  

After the CDC study came out showing that fewer American teens were having sexual intercourse, Gecker worked with several groups to reach out to youths who could speak to an interesting dichotomy in Gen Z sexuality. In part, Gecker found evidence that decreased sexual intercourse among teenagers doesn’t necessarily mean they’re having less sex. She weaved together quotes from teens, experts and advocates to show not only what was happening and why, but what it meant. 

The AP agreed to use teenagers’ first or middle names in the story, out of concern over backlash they might face at school, at home or on social media for their outspokenness on the topic. Still, illustrating the story proved difficult; several people who had said they’d be photographed later changed their minds. AP photographers Jae Hong and Sue Ogrocki found images that fit the story perfectly.  

As a collaboration of the new Trends+Culture operation and the Education Team, the story was an excellent example of something increasingly pivotal for the AP’s B-to-C efforts and its digital presence: taking a piece of the news and showing the cultural forces at play behind it. The story appeared far and wide on more than 120 websites from Florida to Alaska. And it hit 100,000 views within 24 hours and by Monday morning was up to more than 172,000.  

For a truly thought-provoking story on an admittedly difficult subject to report, Gecker is AP’s Best of Week — Second Winner. 

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