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How GenZ Duets the News on TikTok | SXSW 2021

Ian McKenna
Journalist at NowThis Media
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SXSW 2021
March 19, 2021, Online, Austin, USA
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How GenZ Duets the News on TikTok | SXSW 2021
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About speakers

Ian McKenna
Journalist at NowThis Media
Jackie James
Creator/Actor/Human rights activist at Palette Management
Dave Jorgenson
Mostly making TikToks at The Washington Post

Ian McKenna (he/him) is a producer at NowThis, the #1 mobile news brand in the U.S. A graduate of Fordham University, Ian joined NowThis’ dedicated election coverage team in 2015 where he shoots, produces, and cuts daily short-form, cross-platform videos as well as in-depth mini-docs for young audiences. Ian ran the NowThis Politics Vine (RIP) before running the NowThis Politics TikTok (yeet).

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Jackie “Jax” James is a 17-year-old creator / actor / human rights activist based in Fargo, ND. Unafraid to stand up for what she knows is right, Jax addresses topics with her signature quick-wit and grace; and, in doing so, has established herself as a thought leader for her generation. She’s been featured in The New York Times, CNN & i-D Magazine, all while finishing her senior year in high school.

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About the talk

In recent months, discourse on the role social media plays in news consumption has focused on how it can be a vector of disinformation and divisiveness, rather than good-faith conversation. Gen-Z news consumers on TikTok are demonstrating that it's possible to engage with platforms, with news publishers, and with each other in a radically different way. With humor and optimism, young people across the political spectrum are creatively harnessing this video-first medium to participate in authentic conversations, seek out facts, and shape their views on important issues and elections. Hear from NowThis’ Ian McKenna (@nowthispolitics), The Washington Post’s Dave Jorgenson (@washingtonpost), and Creator, Actor, and Human Rights Activist Jackie James (@fatraco0n) on the tactics publishers are using to build relationships with young audiences on TikTok, and the content that moves audiences to action.

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Hey everyone, welcomes you, how gen Z Duets the news on Tik Tok. My name is Ian McKenna. I run the nowthis politics channel on Tik-Tok, and I'm joined with Dave Jorgensen, the man the myth, the legend behind the Washington Post Tik-Tok account and Jackie James, a Tik-Tok, Creator activist and actor. So thank you all for being here and I'm working to talk a little bit about how the used car in keeping with news publisher is on Tik Tok on something. Dave and I are very interested in on so we're glad to have Jackie here. I guess one thing to start is we should maybe go around and say our handles

and my what Drew you detect, talk in the beginning because I always find that interesting. So Jackie Yes, my hand on Tik-Tok is fat raccoon and I think I was trying to tell you know the beginning of my extracurricular activities. I just really needed an artistic Outlet. So kind of My handle is not as cool as fat raccoon, but it is at Washington Post, which is a 143 year old newspaper, which the course always takes a question. How did you get into, do it? I'd read about Tik Tok late in 2018, you know, the physical newspaper, which makes us even funnier. And was like, I think

this is a cool app and I really like what I had to offer and especially for someone like me who's primarily a video editor, I saw a lot of opportunity to create really fun things on their end. So I could got the right people in the right room and convince him to say yes to something didn't even understand yet. Cuz if you remember, like two years ago, most people had no idea what Tik-Tok was as if they weren't gen Z or, or, you know younger than me. So, yeah, it's really fun. That's our handles at Washington Post and I'd be remiss, not to say if you don't go to washingtonpost.com, Dave,

go get a, pretty cool, a student discount. If you are a students for our newspaper, Glam. Oh yeah, I would say that Dave and I are the lower end of the old that can get Tik-Tok. So, yeah, that's a great point. I'm, I guess we can jump right in and start, we are going to be showing a couple of Tik tok's that we've liked each other's work. So Jackie, I'd love to show you this Tik-Tok of yours that you clearly already seen and talked to you about it. You want to get mad at us for writing, but you literally made a professional football player loses job for

kneeling about the Boston Tea Party every year school. So, baby, why don't you come catch this fade? So that was one of the first things I had seen it from you and it was coming out of very like hectic, time in news publishing and somehow that Tik-Tok just cut through everything with like with such Grace, and like humor. But also like serious topics being discussed. I wondered what you thought of everyone's response to it, because it just blew up like, like I was going to visit

comment the other day and everybody was going crazy for it. Yeah, I think that was the most controversial Tik-Tok I've ever posted ever. So yeah, the inspection was just as battleground of us. It was crazy. And this is why this was back in the summertime. So this is like in the midst of like the George Floyd situation and, you know, you know, monks the black lives matter movement and it was crazy because I feel like it was the first time that I have realized that, you know, everybody had an opinion because you know, from where I'm from like, you know, politics is kind of taboo to

talk about with random people. So just seeing everybody, you know, like weather weather at the, you know, negative or positive or something that I don't believe in or something. But I do agree with just seeing everybody, you know? Understanding smite. It was one of those things where I was like, wow, that's crazy. Was it one of those tic-tacs for you where you post it and you do all. This is this is pretty good but then it just blows up in your like how did this

one Tik Tok glow up and away in my other ones don't have? It was like one of my tiktoks. A really interesting thing that you said was like, it's your opinion, but it's also basically based in fact, you know, it's like, kind of both things at once. I'm one of the things that I've always thought of, when running the novice politics account or like approaching news, is that news is like, yes, if information, but once it is posted, it also automatically becomes a conversation and that's one of the

things I like so much about Tik Tok is that it really is Foster's. This conversational element of news and especially your account. I was wondering if like, at the time, I remember watching, like, the cable news networks and being like, none of these people are saying what I think, or like offering really any helpful top three stations. And so I found in the months since that Tik-Tok has been like such a good platform for like youth pundit tree. I hate that word but it's like all of these young people with their voice Seem like fully fleshed-out. Basically are taking to the platform to

like find each other and discuss. I'm wondering what you, how you found Tik-Tok for like, Engaging, with other people who may or may not share your views. Yeah, I think. but that, it's Living in North Dakota, you know, like, like I said before, like not everybody really has an opinion on Politics as being able to see people create their own opinion just so, you know, I think that's that's one of the many great things about sex in general is just see how being able to take something that seems like rocket science when you watch it on TV and being able to have that

conversation on Tik-Tok with followers of people that you've never seen before. You know, in able to hear the experiences in the lives of people who you never thought about ever. And so, you know, it's just it's it's a really great place for more than just dancing and Mike, who would have known that, you know, like the app would have changed so much and it's been like, six months Talk to you later. Sorry. I know it's fine. You know how you described that you in but like the the news Publications you called us or actually this was

just a group of tiktokers but like this, this ragtag group of Avengers and I feel like now even have the the people that run news accounts had this this bonds and we all kind of know each other. Now, I'm wondering Jackie. If you have now met people through Tik-Tok to have similar goals are out, looks or even, just like style to you on Tik-Tok that you've met just through the app that you probably wouldn't have met in North Dakota. Absolutely. Absolutely. I feel like, I feel like the people I see on Tik-Tok are almost complete opposites of the people that I would see in real life and Sunday

and I was seeing people just existing as you are and places that they're living on super crazy to me. Because you know, I'm saying people who like things that you don't know, but he does here and so just a great place to just see that. And did you see now? See people being very genuine authentic selves. Yeah, it's like it's great and like seeing people that you know, I would probably never talk to you because they just are so intimidating. But just being the kindest nicest people ever it's it's a great Saturday. Awesome. So I guess I'll pass it over to Jackie if he's going to share

another text back. yes, I actually Dave's tiktoks from the tell me you earn on average about 62% of the white men aren't without actually telling me you earn on average about 62% of the white men turn Yeah, so I'm so glad you like it kind of want to know, like how do you come up with that want to let you know, talking about politics in your life issues that are going around the country and just being able to format it in a way that like, I mean my middle schoolers could understand but still, you know, understanding what's going on?

Yeah. That that's probably the most important thing to me is just the media literacy of it all is, is, you know, I personally, when I was in Middle School knew virtually, nothing about what was happening. Nothing nothing at all has, ended mention, I feel like genze to some extent. Is it is least more involved than we ever were. So that's really cool. So what I'm just trying to do is go to bring in the facts and bring it in a way that you can understand it. And I'm really, hopefully get it within a 15-second Tik Tok like that one. And so course, that was coming from the facts that the

actual factual things that 62% of black work, black, female, black workers and clean out. My work, get paid less and so I approached Karen, who is the things that are at the post and I knew that she be down for it because she's, you know, very vocal about this kind of thing. And I do my own way would like to support her. And so, that's how I was able to do with it with this Tik-Tok. But I also felt like this is basically just a visual thing. You're getting it and Strikes, you more if you say less than a tick tock. And so that was the sort of them hope I was trying to bet.

That's what I was hoping to get out of that Tik Tok and we made it and certainly you know, being a kind of stodgy newspaper. Sometimes it's hard to get those things through but because I approached it from a fact-based you know thing that that we really were effectively able to put it out there and there was no issue with it. Obviously there were some people in the comments, you know that I'm sure you're familiar with Jackie who lost their minds but when you're coming at it, from a fact that what he going to do. So definitely awake with my

politics. That's that's also really important. Right and yeah that trend is is something that you know normally have been kind of a joke, like tell me something about showing you whatever so I'd written it down. Like I'd like to do this trend sometime but I'm kind of waiting for the right, either news event or something to cut my hair and this was the perfect opportunity for that, which is, it's always nice when you can blend the two And I think that's something that I've tried to not steal or coffee or anything but have been inspired by both of you that, you know, when to invite people

on who know more than you about something to talk about it. So like, Jackie I've noticed that it's only makes a very Salient point just to signal boost that you'll just do at it but with not like you're not on it. It's just a black screen so that you are following is also our you're basically sharing other people's opinion which I think is so important. And Dave, you've been inviting reporters on to, to talk about current events and stuff. So that it's not just gave all the time but there's like, there's like this, like building of a community of people being like we want to teach you

and we want to help each other, learn everything that I think is really inspiring about both of your accounts. Yeah, we started calling it jokingly. Sorry for the delay is the Washington. Post Cinematic Universe as a joke, but like, you know, there's there's hundreds of people in the, in the Washington Post news room that can talk about any topic, much better than I can. So you don't actually, like, I am sort of the face of the account, with a, for whatever that's worth. But you know, I'd much rather introduce someone that can talk much more

readily into more articulate, cuz I'm cleaning out. An articulate person about something. And Karen is actually my go-to in that in that way. But we really, especially last summer, I just started bringing in way more by my black co-workers, because I, my experiences, I can't tell you what's happening. I can only kind of listened, so that would, I was really important to me. That we are listening more than we were talking if we don't know about something. So I hope that that came through that way. But I do think it's really important when you just, as you said signal to someone, I think

that sometimes the best thing you can do on Tik-Tok Absolutely, I definitely feel the same way, especially I like to use the pool. It's a lot. It's a lot easier to learn about something, then to experience it. And so, and although I say like you should use your voice all the time, I feel like sometimes the best way to approach the situation is buying uplifting, the voices of the people who have to know. So like just being able to be able to use your platform to get somebody else's my messages, messages across. So like I I think that especially for me

it's the thing that I do mostly with losing is anti-Semitism and just being able to do so as video specifically because those are the ones that, you know, I mean, are getting as much recognition specifically on Tik-Tok and it seems to be more prevalent issue now. So that's really great and that goes along with it. I'm so sorry. I like talk about losing it. Sounds like you but I promise it sounds like you're done but that's what that's only like, really that goes well, with the media literacy, I think is is, especially with sort of anti-Semitic phrases or words or anything like you don't

necessarily understand that anti-semitic maybe the first time you hear it. So it's really important. Kind of still like oh this is what this person's really saying when they do this and I think Tik-Tok is actually very effective way of taking those things, one of the time and really helping to help other people understand what's what they're actually saying. Sometimes it is a simple as that second video. Like, you don't have to reinvent the wheel to like, destroy the patriarch, the or something. I don't know. I think Tik Tok is just so powerful. But yes, I'll let you go now.

I agree. Very powerful. So my Tik-Tok. I get to introduce Ians here. One of my favorite thing that Ian does is he always comes with receipts with his tiktoks. Not, I mean, in this particular style, take out there are about to see where he kind of just as. Well. This person said this will actually I remember this news clip from the year 2004 you go in this case it's a news clip from just the last year or so. But anyway, and it's worth remembering that, this president was never given an orderly transition of power on his presidency was never accepted. We must accept this resolved and then look

to the Future. Donald Trump is going to be our President. We owe him an open mind and the chance to leave our constitutional democracy and shrines the peaceful transfer of power. And we don't just respect that. We cherish it. And these clips just like sit in your head. Like, you just remember I never four years ago when, when Hillary said this and that you're just like, okay. How do you, how is that still there? So, I've been, yeah, that's a great question. I don't know. I'm not entirely sure how my brain works. Or

does not work, but I've been. Now this for since 2015. So it's been a long haul of just like, watching almost everything that comes in over the fees, like, that's kind of was my job for a long time. Just like feed monitoring and putting out large sheets and stuff like that. So yeah, I think there are things that are just stuck in my craw that I can just pull out of nowhere. And sometimes it's just like, I'll just get it from thinking about something else. I remember specifically watching this happen on CNN and then like the hosts would like having people talking about

Kayleigh, mcenany has comments and I'm like, I understand that the 24-hour news network is built around this but it's just like, I really do. I need 15 minutes of us. Being like, what is she, right? Or is she wrong to debate this? I'm like it's very clear in this like 45 second clip. That within hours of the election it was accepted by the losing party and intend to debate. That seems like not only like an abdication of our responsibility to hold people accountable. But also an application just to like, fill minute hours when it's

like, I ain't think. And I'm glad that you reacted to it. I think it pretty stallion. We like, exposes that lie without getting partisan. It's like, this is just literally what happened and she saved the opposite is not true. So yeah, I tried to approach nowthis Politics as like a venue for accountability. One of the things I hate the most about politics is that it is so lie, intensive especially the last four years. But like even before that it's deceit. And it is like conniving until like any chance that I have to like deflate that is like

really important to me, because I think that we're at. Is everything seems right now. I think we can get to a place where that's not the case, and maybe the novice politics account, just like folds, which might be bad for me. But if we can get to a better politics, I'm always trying to push us that way. Yeah. Your account has too many followers. I don't think it's fully anytime soon. Hi. I just left but one thing I'm curious. What you think about the brevity that Tik-Tok offers versus like the 24-hour news cycle on cable and

I know this is kind of what you're literally just saying. Like, you feel like there's still room for Puttin tree with in tik-tok's as long as it's not just like, let's talk about this for 15 minutes. Do you think that there's a way to sort of keep that there without oversaturating? Yeah, absolutely, I think. But, what's weird about my job is that, yes, I'm the only person behind the novice politics account, but I'm not the, I'm not a face or anything like you were, Jackie are for your a very rarely appear. It's mainly just like a magic hand and a voice that I'm lending to it and my

programming notes. But my main job is cutting everything for other feet. So, like, 3 minutes packages about the news, so, I think that both of those have, like, some sort of appeal. I'm not quite sure I can't. I'm not sure I'm able to write them. But I know, whenever I'm working on a three minute piece, I'm like, well, there is a Tik-Tok in here. It's just stripped out of Inessential contacts because sometimes contact matters and sometimes contacts doesn't matter it. Like I could do a whole three minute piece about Kayleigh mcenany is by, but I really only need 45 seconds. I

think that like the reaction to news is really important. So yes, I think country does have a place on the platform. Specially the way Jackie does it, which is like a quick bite that you would probably have to watch 3 hours of cable news to get like something that powerful. Or I think the going live capacity of Tik-Tok, is like, so powerful. I found this one kid. I don't know if you, I don't know if you follow him, but it's a government doing things or something, where he just like pops on and talks about Marxist theory for literally, like, 6 hours at a time.

Like I like, I don't understand, I'll check back throughout the day and he's still going. But he's like Fielding questions and Mike rampa bike ramp To himself but like people are watching and people are asking questions. I think that there's so much to be learned on Tik-Tok that I don't think pundit tree will ever die, but I think it's like so much more potent on Tik-Tok then, anywhere else. I don't know if that was a long way of saying, I totally believe your ticket that we watched earlier. One of the things I would like to take the Tik Tok riyaz Tik Tok.

And I'm watching like, oh, that's so like, I love how she's moving with the like, even just the way you moved in like this very simple, they talk and it hits at the moment and there was just the right level of like facts. But you know that the sort of anger boiling and I don't know, it just felt so right when I'm watching them like I can watch it over and over again and I still would never go make a Tik-Tok with effective, so like I think that's what's so it's so sharp. It just hits today's hits a wall that way. Sport really doesn't bother me.

That people are definitely tuning into a free list for is some wisdom from Jackie, the target demo if you will. So I wondered if you had any thoughts about things that Publishers can do or are doing braids and things that they might be doing wrong, or any ounce of wisdom, can share with me and Dave and anybody who might be watching, who wants to bring their brand to Tik Tok Yes, I feel like one thing that graphic is noticeable. And so when you can tell, when you know you're trying, I

guess I got to say this other than trying too hard. I feel like when something is meant to be a definitely will be and so I guess we're making content in on Tik Tok leg and about politics just making it so that it's no digestible for viewers but also making it entertaining and you know, that's, that's weird. That really is the trick to snow being able to reinvent yourself when you're, you know, talking about politics. Because most people politics seems like a very intense and long topic to talk about. And so just being able to make small clips and, you

know, pack a bunch of facts and a bunch of Education, I guess. Like, you know, What you would see on a regular news Outlet into 60 seconds and that really is a jerk that I mean, once you learn how to do that and make it authentic and make it entertaining and fun. And you know something, somebody would want to talk about, you know, I was just smooth sailing from there. Google Translate. I'm sorry, no debut. Do you want me to take that? You're like, oh, that just wasn't, I don't know. They just didn't respond. Like I thought they would cuz I haven't been able

to find us. Best racing gear. Okay. Do you have no bad hiss got it. I died. But that you said, authenticity. The thing that I I talked to Dave for a book, he wrote about Tik-Tok, so I wonder if he might say something, but really quickly, I think I'll send text via really important. You have to have a beer brand getting into this. You, or your person on their has to really believe in the power of tic tac, which is like, I know it's getting cold here, whatever, but I really do believe that is like a social media platform. Unlike any others, like Dave in your conversations with

Tik-Tok creators, what, what have you found his most important? Well, thank you for reminding me. My book publisher is going to probably send you a free book now it's called naked Tik-Tok every day comes on June, but it was, it was so cool. Is that I talk to 12 different Tik-Tok creators about 12 very different, you know, some of the genres of Tik-Tok and they all while they came from different places, have the same sort of, like they said, all the same things about Tik Tok. Like they all seem to understand that whatever there needs was worked into, just kind of like people come back to them

and they will keep finding the naturally and they have a connection with the audience that I think is different, unlike anything else. I know we're wrapping up soon so I don't really like, there's something about the doctor's. I think that is like, genuinely kind of wholesome in the sense that they really want to help people. And they really want to connect with people more so than anything else on the internet. But I think that's our time. I hope this was this not just a Tik-Tok evangelization like ceremony and my people learned something again. I'm eating McKenna. I'm at now, this

Politics on Tik-Tok. Jackie from Jackie James at fat raccoon on Tik-Tok I'm Ted Jorgensen at Washington, Post on Tik-Tok, and I have my own at Dave Jorgensen on Tik-Tok also on Twitter watching posted. I think you just need to call me guy. Thanks Guy. Okay, thanks everyone.

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