Poynter receives funding from Google News Initiative to help local newsrooms reach new, younger audiences through video

March 2, 2020

The Minneapolis Star Tribune, WGBH News in Boston and 10News WTSP in Tampa, Florida, will receive resources and guidance to create video content on platforms popular with teens through this new program, VidSpark.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 2, 2020) — 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.

“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.”

In the  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: The Minneapolis Star Tribune, 89.7 WGBH News in Boston and 10News WTSP in Tampa, Florida. 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.”

Ahsante Bean
Poynter’s editor and program manager of video strategy

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. 

Watch this video to hear Ahsante Bean discuss the VidSpark project.

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. Here’s what the participating outlets had to say:

“The Star Tribune hopes to establish a connection with GenZ with this series that is true to our brand but also teaches media literacy,” said Jenni Pinkley, senior video producer/ editor at the Star Tribune. “We also aim to establish a more YouTube-first workflow. “The collaboration with the team put together by Poynter and Google will provide us guidance on this new path with brainstorming ideas to get us on the right track, troubleshoot issues we might run into, and help us build a sustainable model that we can move forward with when the contract period ends in one year.”

“In applying for VidSpark funding, WGBH News was looking to create new ways to connect with young audiences, encouraging their interest in democracy and inspiring their participation in civic dialogue,” said Phil Redo, general manager of radio and local news at WGBH. “We want to build on the trust the American public has in public media and contribute to a model that looks beyond the immediate news cycle, creating content that has lasting local relevance and impact for young people. We look forward to working with Poynter and Google to achieve this goal.”

For more information about Poynter’s VidSpark project, please visit www.poynter.org/vidspark.

 About The Poynter Institute
The Poynter Institute for Media Studies is a global leader in journalism education and a strategy center that stands for uncompromising excellence in journalism, media and 21st-century public discourse. Poynter faculty teach seminars and workshops at the Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, and at conferences and organizations around the world. Its e-learning division, News University, offers the world’s largest online journalism curriculum, with hundreds of interactive courses and tens of thousands of registered international users. The Institute’s website produces 24-hour coverage about media, ethics, technology and the business of news. Poynter is the home of the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership, the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact, the International Fact-Checking Network and MediaWise, a digital information literacy project for young people. The world’s top journalists and media innovators come to Poynter to learn and teach new generations of reporters, storytellers, media inventors, designers, visual journalists, documentarians and broadcasters. This work builds public awareness about journalism, media, the First Amendment and discourse that serves democracy and the public good. Learn more at poynter.org

About the Google News Initiative (GNI)
The Google News Initiative represents Google’s largest-ever effort to help journalism thrive in the digital age. Through its partnerships, programs and products, the Google News Initiative works with thousands of organizations worldwide to support quality independent journalism, financial sustainability, and development of new technologies that drive innovation. Google allocated $300 million over three years to energize these collaborations, and to lay the foundation for new products and programs for a diverse set of news publishers, to benefit the entire ecosystem.

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Tina Dyakon
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The Poynter Institute
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