2
0
1
9

Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

“How can we reach an audience if that audience doesn’t see themselves, their hometowns, their families, even the brand of jeans they wear, portrayed in the media?”

People often ask me why I left New York City (and The New York Times) to live and work in Mid-Missouri.

The short answer is — I accepted a fellowship.

The long answer — I wanted to embed myself in communities that reflect America’s deep distrust of the media and get to the root of this conviction, which I don’t believe is solely a result of President Trump’s “anti-media” rhetoric.

One key finding is that Americans’ distrust is in response to a lack of coverage. Thousands of rural communities in America (particularly in the Midwest and the South) resemble the five communities and high schools I visit weekly in Mid-Missouri. They have no media coverage to call their own, due to decimating staff cuts at local newspapers and being overlooked by legacy media outlets.

There are specific high school juniors and seniors in these towns, despite not having a student newspaper, who are interested in producing an original story about their community that they haven’t seen covered by the media.

According to an October 2018 Pews study,”younger Americans are better than older Americans at telling factual news statements from opinions.” That’s why I chose to focus my project on high schoolers, known as Generation Z. They also represent the audience of journalism’s future.

Gen Zs were not only born with the Internet on full blast but also have had unprecedented access to cell phones. In fact, they have never known a world without these devices. A survey by Business Insider shows that “nearly 80% of teens got their first smartphone between the ages of 11 and 13.”

Whether it’s Instagram, Snapchat, or push alerts they may or may not have meant to turn on, Gen Zs are consuming news at an unprecedented pace and volume, whether it’s intentional or not.

And if they are intent on consuming the news, they turn to their phones, where they spend at least 5 hours per day perusing social media. 6 out of 10 Gen Zs say social media is their “preferred” platform to get the news.

But how can we reach an audience, particularly a young, digital-savvy one, if they don’t see themselves, their hometowns, their families, even the brand of jeans they wear, portrayed in the media?

We’ve reached a fork in the road when it comes to audience engagement. If we want a more diverse and more “media literate” country, everyone, especially Gen Z teenagers and young adults, needs to see themselves in the media.

Using an exercise devised by Jesse Hardman, one of the founders of Listening Post Collective, I verbally surveyed my juniors and seniors to get a feel for how they interact with the phones glued to their palms. We had conversations about what they read, watch and consume online, and where they go when they want to dig deeper into a something they heard at home or on the radio.

Many of the students had similar answers. They turn not only to social media, like Instagram and Snapchat, for news stories by the media outlets they follow, but also YouTube, Reddit and some have actively chosen to turn on Apple News push alerts.

Regardless of what they consume, students from all five high schools unanimously agreed that they do not seem themselves “fairly” represented in the media. Notably, in outlets where they “should” see themselves like teen lifestyle publications or Special Projects like The New York Times’ “This Is 18.”

When they do see themselves represented, it’s usually in stereotypes (poor, uneducated, pregnant, conservative, uncultured). Whereas their peers in coastal cities are portrayed as multi-dimensional.

And it’s especially hurtful, because unlike their parents or grandparents, they have a front row seat to how poorly they are being portrayed.

So legacy media — do your job. Invest in making your coverage and content more inclusive of and relevant to media-desert audiences. Because there is no reason why in the internet age, teenagers especially, should feel as one of my students put it bluntly, “left behind.”

Nico Gendron is a 2018-2019 Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow at the University of Missouri.

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   The most beautiful sentence in 2019 is “No.”

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Steve Myers   From trying to cover it all to covering what matters

Seth C. Lewis   The gap between journalism and research is too wide

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Kevin Douglas Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

Robin Kwong   Tech shouldn’t be the only field pollinating “news nerds”

Glyn Mottershead and Martin Chorley   When a tech company pulls the plug on your story

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Carrie Brown-Smith   Advocating a healthy civic life is no journalistic crime

Adam B. Ellick   Video forensic reporting goes mainstream — and local

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

Jesse Holcomb   We’ll get better at making the case for local journalism

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

Manoush Zomorodi   Tech will do for information overload what it did for mindfulness

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

Simon Galperin   After capitalism’s fire, journalism’s secondary succession

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

Amy Schmitz Weiss   Local news isn’t where you thought it was

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

Errin Haines Whack   Say it with me: Racism

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

Jennifer Dargan   You don’t build diversity through one-off training sessions

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Jenée Desmond-Harris   It finally sinks in that some people aren’t white

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau   A more sincere definition of “community”

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Jonathan Stray   More algorithmic accountability reporting, and a lot of it will be meh

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

Amy King   We should listen to the kids (especially on Instagram)

Raney Aronson-Rath   We learn “digital” doesn’t have to mean “short”

Umbreen Bhatti   The story doesn’t end for the people we quote

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

Pia Frey   You can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis

james Wahutu   Think 2018 was bad? Wait until you see 2019

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

Whitney Phillips   Our information systems aren’t broken — they’re working as intended

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

Matt Waite   “I went to Node.js because I wished to live deliberately”

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

Tushar Banerjee   Interactive ads will be the new face of display advertising

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Alexandra Borchardt   Newsrooms need to build trust with their journalists, not just the audience

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   A long, slow slog, with no one coming to the rescue

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

Cristi Hegranes   A year to invest in the security of local journalists

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

Mike Isaac   The old exit doors for digital media companies are closing

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Matt Karolian   Publishers come to terms with being Facebook’s enablers

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Alyssa Zeisler   We expand what (and how and who) we serve

Hearken   Pivot to people

Tshepo Tshabalala   Ahead of African elections, unlock partnerships with fact-checkers

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Sarah Stonbely   Mapping the local news ecosystem — with scale but detail

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Hossein Derakhshan   The news is dying, but journalism will not — and should not

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Kjerstin Thorson   Time to get mad about information inequality (again)

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

Stephanie Edgerly   It’s time to understand the un-audience

Millie Tran   There is no magic — you’ve got this

Frank Chimero   Leave the phone at home and put news on your wrist

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

Cătălina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Elisabeth Goodridge   Yes, they signed up — but our job’s not over

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

Axie Navas   The traffic hunt, CMS battle, and magazine identity crises loom

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

Efrat Nechushtai   Journalism wants to be your friend, not your teacher

Frank Mungeam   Tonight at 11: News, sports, and climate change

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

Heather Chaplin   Agree we’re partisan — for the democratic system

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Zainab Khan   Publishers whose products can stand up to social media giants will win

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

Cindy Royal   For journalism curriculum to change, its faculty needs disruption

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Claire Wardle   Forget deepfakes: Misinformation is showing up in our most personal online spaces

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Rebecca Lee Sanchez   We are all actors in the running rampant of political theater

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Angilee Shah   The year news orgs say “yes” to real leaders

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

An Xiao Mina   The death of consensus, not the death of truth

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

Mike Rispoli and Craig Aaron   Government funds local news — and that’s a good thing

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

Tyler Fisher   This is journalism’s do-or-die moment

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator