BuzzFeed News is looking to include more young voices in the national conversation around the presidential election campaign by hiring teenagers to produce news content for Instagram Stories and TikTok.
Each week, the three 'Teen Ambassadors' would produce a video for either platform until the election in November, starting next month. They will zoom in on stories and voices that are missing from the mainstream election coverage.
Sara Yasin, director of news curation at BuzzFeed, explained that despite growing activism among younger people, from gun control rallies to Extinction Rebellion protests, the voices of the under-25s are not getting enough airtime from traditional news organisations.
"There’s a lot of talking about Gen Z and younger people and not enough inclusion of them in a mainstream conversation. It felt like it made a lot of sense to include them in the conversation around the election.
"As a millennial, I find it very important to push back against people not including us in the conversation about how we see the world and I see Gen Z as no different from millennials in that way."
Each ambassador will receive training, maybe including a trip to BuzzFeed's newsroom in New York, and work closely with the news team to ensure the content they produce meets the journalistic standards.
However, the contributors will have the creative freedom to report untold stories in new and engaging ways on the two social platforms, as well as encourage discussion and debate.
Yasin explained that her passion for including Gen Z voices in BuzzFeed's news coverage came from talking to her teenage cousins about the things that matter to them.
"Having conversations with them about things like YouTube, for example, made me realise how little I knew and how much I enjoyed discussing those things. It made me think these are conversations we should be having in a more mainstream arena.
"There are so many things that are unique to them that we’re bringing out into a big conversation."
The three ambassadors will receive a monthly stipend at a "competitive and fair rate". Given the number of unpaid internships that exist for aspiring young reporters, Yasin felt it was very important that the scheme pays its contributors.
"Younger people, whether they’re interns or participating in this programme, should be paid because they are doing interesting and good work. They might need more training but it's work nonetheless and it is really important to value it.
"I had to turn down internships when I was younger because they were unpaid - one of them being an internship where they wanted me to pay for my own life and health insurance on top of not being paid.
"When you make work unpaid, what you're saying is 'you can only do this if you can afford it', and you are limiting the pool of people who are able to apply. And that's such a shame because there are so many incredible people in this country who deserve an opportunity."
Although the 2020 ambassadors are yet to be chosen, Yasin is hoping she will be able to run the scheme again next year, given the amount of interest and applications from across the country.
"It was really exciting to see how many people thought it was such a great opportunity."
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