young photogs
Credit: By pedrosimoes7 on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

In its 126-year history, Belgian news outlet Le Soir has been a mainstay of the political establishment, positioned between the Royal Palace and the Parliament buildings and serving a similar audience.

But Le Soir's project #25 has sought to bring new, young life into the newsroom and reach different audiences, and was recently awarded a World Young Reader Prize by the World Association of Newspapers.

Accepting the award at the 13th International Newsroom Summit in Amsterdam today and speaking on a panel about affecting change in the newsroom, Le Soir's editor-in-chief Didier Hamann said the project had "completely changed the culture of the newsroom" and helped the legacy news outlet reach new audiences.

A team of 12 journalists between 23 and 29 years old were given free rein to "do almost anything in the newspaper", except the front page op-ed, to "talk with the young not just to or about them", according to Le Soir's editor-in-chief Didier Hamann.

The team set up press conferences with politicians and looked into issues which were of specific interest to their target audience.

Articles and investigations into employment, education and housing, for example, were all approached in a manner most relevant to the journalists themselves, and hence the youth audience.

And what started as a blog on the website has gone on to produce new stand-alone sites and affect newsroom culture for the better.

"It's part of a process to cultivate new communities of readers," Hamann said, "and part of a big process to find new trends in the way we are covering the news."

A large part of the website has traditionally been copying the "frame" of the newspaper, Hamann said, in reporting on the same subjects like politics, economics, culture, sport.

But by looking into areas where an audience was already existing but not being served, young Le Soir journalists discovered different areas which were just as ripe for reporting.

As such the blogs section of Le Soir's website has expanded to include a range of new sites dedicated to food, technology, the environment, popular music and more.

The real benefits have been in the intangible results though, said Hamann.

"The old journalists are now interested in new topics," he said, and the series will continue to expand.

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