Dear news media: Don’t just hire millennials — value us

Gaining an audience made of us can only be secured if you hire, appreciate and listen to us .

So many in today’s news media think that the way to a millennial’s heart is through understanding what “lit” means, or how to use Snapchat filters and hashtags.

Hey, kudos to those born well before Generation Y who do know those things and other millennial culture trends — but that only gets you brownie points in my book.

If the news industry wants to attract a new audience — those of us who will be reading news for many years to come — its current leaders need to make some pretty significant changes in newsrooms, and it starts with who you hire and value. If you want us, come get us — for your workforce.

As a millennial, I take offense to the fact that for so long, news organizations thought they could reach us without even bothering to include enough of us in the news-making process.

This idea of hiring millennial journalists to attract a millennial audience shouldn’t be considered such a foreign concept. We’ve learned similar concepts elsewhere. We were taught in chemistry that “likes dissolve likes” when it comes to solubility. In psychology, research has corroborated the familiarity principle: a psychological occurrence in which people usually prefer things merely because those particular things are familiar to them. In literature, one of the reasons authors such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald became so popular is that they, as members of the Lost Generation, wrote books that spoke to the experiences of a Lost Generation audience.

At this point, the answer has been staring the news industry in the face for years. It only makes sense to start pushing newsrooms to not just hire but respect millennial journalists because we are your key to capturing a loyal millennial audience.

And, quite frankly, why would you not? Forbes says we are currently the best-educated and prepared group of employees to select from — contrary to Simon Sinek’s viral and disparaging rant against millennials.

“Millennial employees represent the best-educated (the most schooling, the highest SAT scores, computer coding and other advanced skills learned as early as middle school) and most thoughtfully-raised cohort in history.” – Forbes.com
Here is the full video of Simon Sinek,a leadership expert, sharing his opinion on millennials and their workforce habits. Video from: David Crossman on YouTube.

News organizations have hired a lot of millennials, but oftentimes they’re seen as a quicker means to a digitally savvy end rather than talent to develop. It feels a little bit like good ol’ Uncle Bob begging you to help him be cool. But after you help him, Uncle Bob never bothers to send you a birthday card again. What’s worse is that you expect us to help you make a difference in your framework and your culture that doesn’t value digital skills, and by extension, us. Recognize our value and you won’t have to beg. Heed our input, and “attracting millennials” won’t be another layer added on top of everything else you’re trying to do. It will come naturally.

So when you members of the news industry finally realize that you need millennials to develop a loyal millennial following, here are three ways you can take advantage of our journalistic contributions.

1. Allow your millennial audience to interact meaningfully and contribute work as well.

Allowing your audience to interact with the media outlets they subscribe to is a direct way to find out what content and subjects they care about. This can be done through chat forums, Facebook Live or just by getting outside the newsroom and talking with your audience. Furthermore, by taking a page out of Bleacher Report’s book and getting qualified members of your millennial audience to create content, you can tap into a more diverse group of contributors. Not only will these contributors appeal to a diverse audience, but they will also create stories by them for people like them. As we’ve learned through science, psychology and literature people generally like things that are like them.

2. Give us constructive criticism.

In Forbes.com’s research article about millennials, the organization says that millennials thrive off of feedback because we were raised receiving adult feedback from an early age. So let us know how we are doing and how we can improve. Trust me when I say that most millennials want constructive criticism so we can improve what we are doing. We may know a lot about how to reach a millennial audience, but we still seek the advice and knowledge of news veterans to create high quality and ethical news.

3. Listen to and follow our input.

I cannot stress how important this last piece of advice is. It’s quite simple. If you are looking to reach people like us, then the newsrooms need to listen to our input and follow our advice. We are the ones who use social media and new technology on the daily while our generation predecessors attempt to wrap their minds on the latest gadget released by Apple. Sometimes we millennials do know what we are talking about. So trust that and listen up more.

At the end of the day, we are going to be restructuring all the different workplaces we enter — and newsrooms will be no different. The news industry would be wise to realize this sooner rather than later if they want to capture an audience made of us.

This post is part of a series by USC students looking at how product affects trust in news. Learn more.