Sunday, May 20, 2007

Youth News

A couple of weeks ago I came across a quick blurb on Media Bistro about a news magazine show that NPR is launching in September, called--tentatively--"The Bryant Park Project." The program is self-described as targeting 25 to 44 year olds and will be a daily, 2-hour news show.

Jay Kernis, the senior vice president of programming at NPR, describes it this way on NPR's website:

“When we first announced this program, we said it would serve a generation of public radio listeners and online visitors who want the high-quality, fact-based journalism of NPR News, but in a different voice."

The voice he's talking about is a younger, hipper, tech-savvier one.

This is a concept that intrigues me from the start. I have always been frustrated by the lack of strong, young programming available through traditional media outlets. What frustrated me even more were the constant reiterations that media giants are trying precisely to find new ways to engage and attract my demographic. From the looks of it, they haven't been trying very hard. At least not when it comes to news.

Since reading the quick blurb about the NPR launch, I've been thinking about my frustrations even more. And this project--for once!--seems to be exactly what I want: smart, thoughtful news programming that has a young, fresh perspective. Now all that remains to be seen is whether this show will really be all it says it will, or could it be just another gimmick? A way to attract a particular audience without, ultimately, doing anything to keep it?

Even with the research I've since done on the show, I'm not quite sure. Alison Stewart will be one of the hosts. She comes off of MSNBC's "The Most." which was a creative show that did it's best to blend online and broadcast. It's clever and certainly spunky, but is it at the end of the day really a fresh take on the news? In my opinion, it's all about packaging. But the more I think about it, the more I conceed that packaging is not only a large part of it--it's a legitimate part. Sure, the news I care about as a young person might vary somewhat from the news my parents care about. But, at the end of the day, a good and important story can resonate with anyone if told from a perspective she can relate to.

Whether mere packaging or not, NPR's endeavor is one that I find truly worthwhile and long overdue. I'm crossing my fingers that it's fresh from start to finish. But even if it's just a young wrapper on an old package, at least it's a start.