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Kids Can Handle the Truth: A Modest Proposal for the NY Times


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On May 14, 2017, the New York Times ran a special, print-only children's news section, touting it as “kids take over the Times.” My problem with the section, and that claim, is that there was very little child-generated content, and a distinct lack of actual “news” or substantive content. Kids did seem to love the section, but was it a missed opportunity? How could a journalistic organization create an honest, ongoing and interactive relationship with young people, making them lifelong news consumers and contributors?

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Kids Can Handle the Truth: A Modest Proposal for the NY Times

  1. 1. Kids Can Handle The Truth: A Modest Proposal for the NYT David Kleeman, SVP, Global Trends
  2. 2. Dubit - 2 May 14, 2017 On May 14, the New York Times published a special, print-only kids’ news section.
  3. 3. Dubit - 3 My problem with the section was that kids didn’t really “take over the Times,” since there was very little child-generated content, and that there was a distinct lack of actual “news” or substantive content. Kids did seem to love the section, but was it a missed opportunity?
  4. 4. Dubit - 4 The Truth As the centerpiece, the Times ran a children-specific version of its advertising campaign on The Truth. Did the NYT live up to its views on young people and truth? Partially…
  5. 5. Dubit The Good
  6. 6. Dubit - 6 The section included several good - specific, practical, inspirational - essays on how people chose their career goals and set about reaching them.
  7. 7. Dubit - 7 A group of children received a lesson in opinion writing, and the section included their views, in a single sentence. The serious and thoughtful nature of their concerns should have tipped the Times that young people hear and see all that happens in the world, are engaged and worried about it, and could handle more “truth” in a kids’ news section.
  8. 8. Dubit - 8 One small feature deconstructed a news story, helping young writers structure their thinking and presentation.
  9. 9. Dubit - 9 Another feature made suggestions for activism at the school and community level.
  10. 10. Dubit The Bad * ✴Like adults, kids are curious about a diversity of things, serious and not. No piece is itself “bad,” except in relation to what’s missing.
  11. 11. Dubit -11 News photography is intended to take readers into the story, to think and feel more deeply. “How to Draw on the Newspaper” took children out of the image, instead of suggesting ways to understand the journalist’s composition.
  12. 12. Dubit -12 Here are conflicting messages - kids don’t need candy, but we’re going to give them chocolate chip cookie pizza. (It does, to be fair, look delicious.)
  13. 13. Dubit The Ugly
  14. 14. Dubit -14 Every research report on children and parents suggests they want to spend more time together and find more ways to talk to one another. Further, parents need and want help in addressing today’s world at a kid- friendly level. To discourage parents from reading the kids’ news, right beneath the Times’ logo, is a sad return to the 1990s’ “kids rule, adults drool” trope.
  15. 15. Dubit -15 The Times believes that children know lies are bad, but encourages them to play one parent off against the other, an inherently deceptive practice that every parent hates.
  16. 16. Dubit The Opportunity While I’m critical of this section’s shortcomings, I’d love to see the Times - or another journalistic organization - create an ongoing opportunity for young people to understand the world around them and become more news literate. Here’s are some starter ideas.
  17. 17. Dubit -17 MY NYT* * Mobile Youth Take the news mobile - it’s less important today to give a one-time gift to print subscribers than to turn the next generation into life-long news consumers and contributors.
  18. 18. Dubit -18 The Times leads the world is use of Virtual Reality to take its readers into trouble spots as well as natural wonders. In Dubit research with children, one of their top requests from VR is to be immersed in places they couldn’t otherwise go.
  19. 19. Dubit -19 NYT G[e]o: News Happens Here Have field reporters geo-tag stories, photos & resources for kids to discover in mobile and augmented reality. Like “Pokemon Go,” geo-tagging news resources (the story itself but also the photographs or research materials) to be discovered via mobile media would help young people understand that news happens everywhere, and would put stories into greater context.
  20. 20. Dubit -20 The former head of children’s programming from Danish public television said something profound: we can use media to help young people understand that “children everywhere grow up with equal dignity even under unequal circumstances.” The Times already covers stories that can build empathy (not sympathy or pity), if presented at an age-appropriate level.
  21. 21. Dubit -21 …this young journalist [Gabe Fleisher] makes it an accessible, and even engaging, door- opener for readers, particularly young people, who want to know what is going on. New York Times, May 28, 2017
  22. 22. Dubit -22 Pair Times reporters with young journalists, or YA authors.
  23. 23. Dubit -23 Share Article with Ask About Article Enable children to share stories with family, or ask questions.
  24. 24. Dubit -24 May 16, 2017 This was my first response to the Times’ kids’ section, and deals mostly with other efforts to bring news to children. This presentation (given first at Dust or Magic App Camp in Monterey, CA) came after further reflection.
  25. 25. Dubit -25 What would you do to present the world - news, non-fiction, features - to young people?
  26. 26. Confidential - Dubit Thank you! David Kleeman SVP Global Trends @davidkleeman @dubit “Children and Media Professionals” on Facebook