Poynter, Google To Help Local Newsrooms Reach Younger Audiences

The Poynter Institute and Google News Initiative are teaming up to help three local newsrooms reach new, young audiences through engaging, shareable social video storytelling. The yearlong program, VidSpark, will culminate with a playbook that local newsrooms across the country can use to engage younger people in their communities.

The three participants are Tegna’s CBS affiliate WTSP Tampa, Fla.; The Minneapolis Star Tribune; and noncommercial WGBH-FM Boston.

Last fall, Poynter and GNI sought applications from local newsrooms around the country to participate in the project. A newspaper, radio station and TV station were selected based on their commitment to digital innovation and need for additional support. Each newsroom will receive $25,000 to build out and promote their video production efforts. Poynter will also provide intensive training and consultation to the newsrooms, covering everything from strategic best practices to using analytics to inform editorial choices.

“Ensuring younger audiences are informed and engaged on local issues is critical to both our mission to serve our entire community, and to the sustainability of local journalism,” said Kari Jacobs, president and general manager at WTSP. “We are excited to partner with Poynter as we continue to develop new, creative ways to deliver our impactful news content to a broader audience across all platforms, and to share best practices with Tegna stations across the nation.”

“Smart, creative video storytelling may be a real path for local news companies to reach younger audiences,” said Poynter President Neil Brown. “Our VidSpark project with GNI can be a lab to try new story forms and help newsrooms share their journalism with those who don’t currently feel compelled by the local news scene.”

Google is currently a partner with Poynter on MediaWise, a digital information literacy project that teaches teenagers to sort out fact from fiction online. Through curriculum, in-person events, video series with influencers and a teen fact-checking network that publishes stories on Instagram and TikTok, MediaWise has reached more than 5 million people in its first year.


Beyond MediaWise, which is supported by Google.org, GNI has supported Poynter’s drone workshops, digital tools teaching and reporting, international fact-checking initiatives and elections reporting workshops.

“Poynter’s focus on sparking innovation in the news space is why they’ve been such a valuable partner for the GNI and our efforts supporting quality journalism,” said Chrissy Towle, Head of News and Local Media, Global Partnerships at Google. “I’ve worked with local publishers at Google for six years and am excited to see how VidSpark can help them succeed on the twin goals of growing and diversifying their audience and finding new and creative ways to tell stories. As the web becomes more visual, this is a great way to help publishers connect with young people and in turn guide them to develop healthy news habits.”

Ahsante Bean, Poynter’s editor and program manager of video strategy, will lead VidSpark and serve as the primary strategic consultant for newsrooms in the project. Prior to joining Poynter, Bean was an associate director of programming at PBS Digital Studios. There, she worked on editorial and content development for a slate of 20 educational online video series including It’s Okay to be Smart, Physics Girl and The Art Assignment.

She also created and executive produced Say It Loud, a PBS digital series celebrating black history, culture, and achievement. As a YouTube creator herself, Bean has been featured at VidCon, the largest international conference for online video, and is a 2018 YouTube NextUp winner. Bean holds a bachelor’s degree in film from Harvard University.

At a time when local news is under intense economic pressure, VidSpark aims to provide a path for these newsrooms to connect with young people in their communities to develop a trusting relationship as a dependable source of news and information.

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