Guiding young people to be better news consumers one post at a time

“Why aren’t people talking about this?”

I read this phrase too many times on my peers’ Instagram stories as they shared images of big, developing stories. Stories that, in fact, were covered extensively by major media outlets and well-respected journalists. It became clear to me that the content wasn’t the problem but rather the news diet of consumers. For almost seven weeks I have created a consumer guide for young adults to help solve this problem.

Through the Instagram account, @nikki.news, and a branded website, I curated reading lists and following guides. These reading lists covered topics ranging from the #EndSARS movement in Nigeria to expectations for this 2020 Election night. I fostered productive conversations with young adults, who will one-day make up the majority of the media market. By offering talking points learned in my journalism school education, I believe I am just at the beginning of sparking change.

Gen Z-ers want information. My metrics make that clear. The election night guide saw almost 630 eyeballs — a clear indication that the post was shared and discovered by new users, given my accounts’ only 275 followers. This post was shared three times and saved by five people. Almost every other post of mine received at least two shares, with even one post reaching almost 50 shares. I expected people to appreciate the information but found myself pleasantly surprised by the number of authentic engagements.

The feedback was positive.

I love it! I think it’s very easy to understand and informative!! Also, love the layout it’s simple but effective” — Kylie Lakos, Senior at CU Boulder

I followed all of the journalists you recommended on Twitter and it transformed my feed!” — Cambri Guest, journalism major at USC

To supplement my guides, I often shared tweets. These were screenshotted from Twitter and shared to my Instagram with a bright colored background added. May it be the simplicity or the clear information, these posts performed well. The tweet by Elaine Low, a former reporter for the company I interned with after my freshman year, scored 25 comments. Low’s tweet touched on the basis of my project: non-news subscribers complaining that the media isn’t covering a topic.

I then called on my audience to comment on whether they subscribe to news outlets, and if not, why? With this information, I was able to add links to articles that required a subscription, knowing that the majority of my base received free subscriptions to major outlets, like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, by their university.

Additionally, given that I am currently reporting for Annenberg Media and in my classes, on occasion, I would share my own tweets and work. Oddly enough, these posts performed well. Particularly, the tweets tending to USC. This is not surprising given the majority of my following is either at USC or at another college, experiencing something similar. Nonetheless, I am pleased to see a positive response.

USC senior Mark Scarsi made this impact clear.

“There was a time in the semester when my buddies and I were unsure about grading rules, debating on what the rules actually meant for our grades as we were taking major classes. @nikki.news was the first clear summary I received about the change, and it settled the debate,” Scarsi said of my news account.

Although USC news and my personal work are not the main focus of this account, the combination of sharing others' work while supplementing with some of my own gives the account personality. Going forward, I hope to make my voice clearer in every post I share. I found that the more your followers can understand you as an individual, the more they will engage with your work.

Link to the guide on the italicized text

This project continues to evolve. I surprised myself with the direction it took. Initially, I intended to post at the same time and on the same day every week. However, I evolved to follow the news and the need for my audience. When I saw a must for information, like the events in Nigeria and the fear of what we could expect on November 3, I delivered a guide. Further, while conducting this project, Instagram also evolved.

A new feature, called Instagram ‘Guides’ was added in my final week. I quickly took advantage of the feature to share a much anticipated “favorite Instagram accounts for information guide.

However, the biggest surprise for me lies with myself.

I did not expect to have this much fun interacting with my peers about the news!

Although the semester is now over, I will continue to grow this account. I planned to invite journalists for a conversation on my Instagram live but didn’t get around to it in seven weeks. Going forward, I will make this a priority task. May no follower of @nikki.news ever feel the need to say, “why is nobody talking about this” again.

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Thoughts from Adriana Lacy’s FA 2020 Journalism 232 class at the University of Southern California.

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Nikki Walker

Nikki Walker

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