Millennials: What does ‘news’ mean to this generation?

Diversity means so much more than just race, color, ethnicity, religion, political segmentation, income and education opportunity. It includes generational differences, among others.

When thinking about age, we tend to focus on ageism discrimination. Yet, for the news industry, we have the boomers in our wheelhouse. It’s the millennials and younger that are cause for concern. They’re the next generations of news viewers and readers.

We recently shared insights on what it takes to hire millennials.

But how are millennial-run news startups taking up the challenge?

I’ll take a look at two — Mic and NowThis — from the perspective of two just-graduated Missouri School of Journalism students who spent their final semester inside these newsrooms.

“Mic was founded in 2011 to focus on underrepresented stories, diverse perspectives and delivering journalism through innovative online platforms,” according to Lily Oppenheimer, a Reynolds Journalism Institute Student Innovation Fellow. While headquartered in New York City, where Oppenheimer spent her semester, Mic has outposts in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, Kiev and Stockholm.

What started as a single channel — Mic: News that matters — Mic has grown to nine channels.

Mic channels

“Mic’s editorial standards focus on pushing conversations forward,” she observed while working there in video, video editing and production. “Video shoots, expert interviews and statistics and data explained through motion graphics … are still rooted in original reporting and analysis. Mic videos have a very distinctive feel, and … is becoming more known for documentary and long-form pieces that grapple with intense topics.”

She best shares the vision and strategies of Mic through interviews with team members via this video she produced.

“While public policy and political tactics are discussed, these videos can also be more personal and intimate to views,” Oppenheimer says. “Overall, the Mic perspective will challenge conventional thinking.”

To learn more of her insights and takeaway from working with Mic, watch her full report here:


NowThis is also millennial focused, invested in underrepresented communities, operates 10 channels and is based in New York City.

Another RJI Student Innovation Fellow, AnnMarie Welser, spent her semester there working on various teams, including the Context and Issues team — short for documentaries and docu-series, she says.

NowThis has a particular focus on delivering stories via Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.

“NowThis is the most watched news publisher on Facebook and their stories reach millions of viewers everyday,” according to Welser. “While working with their Facebook Watch Team, I learned why all newsrooms can learn … innovative lessons from this digital powerhouse.”

Other observations by Welser:

  1. Citizen participatory journalism: “A way to bring this new storytelling methodology to the forefront of newsrooms is to create journalistic pieces that connect the audience to the reporter. NowThis has … (created) their original reporting and video series Through Our Eyes. … This series gives an intimate view of an international news topic, and therefore allows the audience to make personal connections with the story.”
  2. Adaptation to new technologies: “NowThis Snapchat has millions of subscribers and creates daily recaps of the … top stories to highlight the work across its channels. NowThis is also planning to launch Snapchat’s first real-time news channel.
  3. Broader audience reach: “NowThis has 10 different channels on their website … including Weed, Her, Nerd and Future. The company’s slogan is ‘Stories that move.’”
  4. Investment in underrepresented communities: “With channels such as Her and video series like Mane … the newsroom (creates) a platform for communities that are often underrepresented.”

Learn how RJI Student Innovation Fellows can help you address broader audiences by contacting Mike McKean, associate director of the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. RJI seeks partners with forward-thinking news outlets to financially support Missouri School of Journalism students as they work 30 hours a week at one of those outlets.

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