WIP INTERVIEW TaNews: the French local media partnering with Gen-Z to fight fake news

In the vast digital sea where Gen-Z sails each day, discerning trustworthy sources is the ultimate quest. As this art is not inherent, our generation yearns for guidance to distinguish fact from fiction. That is what TaNews has been teaching their readers for a school-year now. Originating from the picturesque town of Reims, France, the renowned newspaper L'Union has birthed TaNews—Your News—a revolutionary media platform that speaks the language of Gen-Z, enlightening and empowering them to navigate the treacherous waters of misinformation. The L'Union journalist Marion Dardard and her collegue Carole Lardot, journalist and Chief Editor in charge of innovation at L'Union are our guests today, here to discuss TaNews' aim.

Q: Tell us about TaNews: what is your media's approach to content and on which platforms are you present?

A: TaNews is a media created by and for young people, and in this aspect of "by young people," we have a whole contributory dimension that we need to develop. It's like the "second stage of the rocket." The contributory aspect seems important to us so that young people can tell us what topics concern them, what they would like us to investigate, and what subjects are not being discussed enough.

We need to focus more on subjects that are on the fringes of mainstream media like ours. Topics such as gender, economy, and isolation: through the lens of these subjects, we bring interviews, experts, practical advice, helpline numbers... We are working on this dual project: speaking to young people and giving the floor to them as well. We have created a vertical space on L'Union's website, a kind of bubble called TaNews where the information is 100% free.

It was very important for us to provide free access to quality information. It can be read either on our website or in video format (since digital videos are the most popular media) or on Instagram. We chose Instagram to start with, and we will expand to TikTok with a response-oriented media. As this project takes off, it will spread. Today, we have a community of over 700 followers on Instagram.

We decided not to choose for them. We observe what generates engagement and how we can tailor our project to address young people. We made a choice in this project that we needed to break away from our traditional ways. Young people are on Instagram, so it would have been difficult to bring readers to our website. However, they find they find their interests on Instagram, so we thought we musy develop our presence there, where they are. On Instagram, we offer links to our website. But the information we provide to them must be enough without linking on it.

TaNews is part of new methods that we are trying to work with: we bring the right people to the table to ensure the project progresses well and efficiently. The project originated in the vibrant economic zone of Reims. It is also where the schools are located, and for the past decade, in addition to the University of Reims and various programs, there have been prestigious schools established: the Reims campus of SciencesPo Paris, NEOMA Business School, the IESA School of Art, so we have a significant number of students. We asked ourselves, "How can we reach and engage with these young people?" We have the belief that young people are not distant from information. Perhaps they are distant from the image of our media, but it is up to us to find the best channel to communicate with them. To talk to them about their daily lives, their city, to advise them, to help them. Being a useful media outlet is very important. We can see it in the first months of TaNews: the articles that work best are the news articles. It is quite reassuring and reinforces our idea. Young people are not uninterested in everything, and they don't only stay on TikTok, that's not true.

Q: Who are your readers on TaNews?

A: They are young people, but "young people" is a broad term. We have defined our target audience: we need to adapt the information, angles, and treatments accordingly. We target the age group of around 18-26 years old. It's not just students who interest us. We want to reach out to all the young people: those who are studying, those who are not, those who are employed, and those who are not. We have a significant audience that is more difficult to engage with, more challenging to reach. Two years ago, our editorial team went through a rather dramatic episode when one of our photographers was severely injured while covering a story in a sensitive neighborhood. In Reims, incidents like this are a part of our daily reality. It was a shock for us, and we questioned how we could have reached such a level of distrust and distance. As a result, we have taken several actions, especially towards young people.

Q: Can you give us an example of these actions taken towards young people?

A: We organized a festival against misinformation called "Check Ton Info" (Check Your Information). We launched it at the beginning of the school year, and we recently awarded the first Check d'Or (Gold Check), Check d'Argent (Silver Check), and Check de Bronze (Bronze Check) to middle and high school students at SciencesPo's amphitheater. It's a great project that took shape thanks to the support of the Academy of Reims' rector and the director of SciencesPo, who offered us their amphitheater and involved their students in accompanying the classes. The students had the opportunity to learn how to use simple tools to understand what is factual information, what is opinion, and what constitutes fake news. This is one of the initiatives we launched. Another focus is TaNews as a media outlet. Since we are in a city with a significant student population and a strong presence in the job market, we decided to start in Reims, where we can naturally find our audience. We are convinced that this generation appreciates information, and we need to adapt our media, go where they are, and be a useful media outlet with good tips and recommendations. We also produce reports, such as our coverage of young people queuing at "Resto du Coeur" and "Secours Catholique" (charitable organizations). Once we observed this, we wondered how we could be a useful media outlet and how we could help them. This can involve contests where we offer tickets or provide shopping carts during Christmas. It also includes providing very practical and useful information. Sometimes we don't have the necessary environment to access certain forms of assistance, such as knowing how to apply for a scholarship or fill out our first tax return. That was the topic of our most recent article.

Q: How is your editorial team organized?

A: We have Alexis, who is around 22 or 23 years old, working with us as an apprentice, and Serena, who is slightly older, doing her final internship for her master's degree focused on digital media. Additionally, Audrey, a student at SciencesPo, joined us today and will be with us for about a month and a half. They may not necessarily be journalists or students specifically focused on journalism. We chose this direction because young people are multidisciplinary and can juggle between marketing, web development, journalism, and they are very skilled. Today, young people have this adaptability that some older individuals may not possess. Creating posts on Instagram takes them very little time, and it's almost reflexive for them. They are quite agile with these tools, and it's truly a strength as it allows us to showcase all our content on Instagram and Facebook pages. The project is gaining momentum, and we are pleased because we have seen encouraging numbers on Monday mornings. We have this young team that is full of energy. We are currently considering how the summer period will work for the young members of our team since they are still young and have their own questions and concerns. Some members of the team aspire to become journalists in the future.

Q: What do the numbers say about TaNews?

A: The numbers are still quite modest because they exist within the TaNews ecosystem. We haven't communicated about it yet, nor have we launched any marketing campaigns. It's our first year of operation, and things are starting slowly. We will work with partners to offer subscriptions on the website and encourage 18-25-year-olds to explore beyond their comfort zones and discover the strength of traditional media through TaNews. Perhaps this demographic doesn't identify with print newspapers or more traditional press titles, or they feel that those outlets don't meet their expectations. This is also an opportunity for them. Currently, there is no economic model in place, and we are not relying on it. We have received a very positive response from young people and our institutional readers such as the academic authorities, schools, associations, and educators. There are high expectations, and there are projects that will feed into one another.