T-News!: How to keep teens up to date

In an age where there are more rivals for teenagers time than ever, Dan Crossen explores how to get and keep their attention when it comes to informing them of the latest news.

Getting teenagers interested in the news brings with it a set of very unique challenges not applicable to standard news items aimed at an older target audience. These include a short attention span, competition from other sources of entertainment such as video games and TV shows, and perhaps a conscious decision by these young people to be uninformed because they consider the news ‘boring’. Due to this a different approach would need to be taken when producing news for T-News, in order to make it as entertaining as possible while still including key information.

When selecting programming for T-News, special care will be taken to focus mostly on issues that directly affect teenagers from the UK, for example education, university, apprenticeships and youth employment. On broader stories I would try as hard as possible to draw out the parts of the story that affect or relate to the target audience, because teenagers in particular may find it difficult to see the bigger picture behind some news stories unless they are told explicitly why they should care. However there will be some world affairs programmes in order to give the audience a sense of perspective and worldly knowledge.

There would also be a focus on entertainment and sport news in the form of talk and panel shows, as this could be used to draw in teenagers who then, once familiar with the news channel, would be exposed to programming about more important issues that alone would not hugely interest them. Entertainment news would feature the latest in TV, film and music reviews, as well a small amount of celebrity gossip.

Other topics that will be covered include technology and science, in the form of short documentary pieces. These are topics which on the surface can seem quite mundane and boring, but could be presented in such a way as to make them exciting, and hopefully to foster interest in these areas among teenagers, in a similar fashion to Brian Cox’s hugely popular science shows on the BBC.

The news section of the channel would need to be produced in an informal and laid back style, while avoiding being condescending. The typical news programme would be read in a colourful news studio with presenters dressed informally and sat on couches rather than behind a desk. Presenters would occasionally make light banter between themselves in order to add a conversational feeling to the proceedings, rather than spewing a constant flow of information. However I believe the focus should be placed outside the studio, with as much location reporting as possible in order to keep a good variety.

With the T-News website, there would be a strong emphasis on getting involved in the story, through the use of social media, comments, sharing articles on websites like reddit.com and digg.com, and finally on submitting your own news stories for the possibility of publication. Not only would this engage the audience in a much more effective and personal way, but it could also contribute to developing talent in journalism for the future.

As teenagers are much more familiar with the online environment than many older generations, multimedia on the T-News website would be a very important aspect in getting and keeping their attention. Each news package or piece broadcast on the TV channel could have a watermark in the corner of the screen directing viewers to the website in order to find out more information about certain stories.

The website would then have background pieces, exclusive interviews, and much more in depth articles, as well as content like informally written blogs on a variety of subjects covered by the news channel as well as the more traditional news stories, albeit in a more lively tone to keep the audience interested. There would also be easy to digest fact-files on certain complicated subjects in order to help the teenagers get a better understanding of some of the issues reported on. The website would also have its own dedicated entertainment, sport and technology sections in order to appeal to as many people as possible.

The website itself would be designed in such a way as to integrate video, audio and text, making it as easy as possible to transition between them. Most news websites have separate sections for the different mediums, and I believe this only serves to add more obstacles in order to get to certain material. An extra click or two to access a video may not seem like much, but it can easily make the difference between someone choosing whether or not to watch something.

The team of ten journalists would be divided into roles typical of most newsrooms, as these are tried and tested methods. There would be an editor who would decide the news agenda and two sub-editors to check through all text, audio and video material. The interactive editor would be responsible for keeping Facebook and Twitter feeds updated, as well as responding to comments from viewers on these social networks to give a sense of relatability to the organisation and so the viewer feels their opinions are actually being listened to. The Multimedia editor would be responsible for deciding which stories to cover using the appropriate medium, and ensuring the website is kept up to date with fresh material. There would also be one community editor that is responsible for gathering material produced by the audience. The four remaining journalists would be dedicated reporters in their specialist areas, those being entertainment and sport, science and technology, current affairs and finally world affairs.

As journalists, it is our job to inform and educate, and while there is plenty of news material that aims to appeal to older audiences, teenagers are just as in need of being kept up to date, and T-News would aim to do that in an easily relatable and entertaining way while treating the audience as valued equals rather than taking an ‘adults know better’ approach.

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