In recent years, an increasing number of people have started getting information—which may or may not be from accredited sources—from social media. That’s especially true for young people. According to 2022 research from Pew Research Center, half of 18-to-29-year-olds trust information from social media sites, which is only slightly under the percentage of those who say they trust information from national news organizations (56%).
While news literacy is a real issue, the problem is not that young people don’t care about the news. It’s perhaps that news from traditional outlets doesn’t feel super accessible to them. One TikTokker named Kelsey Russell seems to understand that. She’s emerged as the new It girl on the social media platform, with nearly 100,000 followers and more than 5 million likes on her posts for doing something relatively simple: reading the news.
Russell finds stories she’s interested in and enthusiastically reads them to her audience, which has developed over just a few months. “The newspaper is drama,” Russell said in an August video about why she wants younger people to start subscribing to print news sources. “That’s why I want Gen Z to read it. It’s literally gossip, and you know we love the gossip.”
Gen Z isn’t known for a love of newspapers. Only 5% get a daily local paper as of August 2022. For starters, it’s more stressful than, say, dirt on your favorite celebs. It can also be intimidating for younger generations, who may have never even read the comics in a print newspaper, to dive into hard news. By using TikTok and pitching her followers the facts like a must-read pop-culture column, Russell is hoping to tap into a new generation of interested, news-thirsty viewers.
She’s not the only one on TikTok breaking down tough topics for Gen Z. Kyla Scanlon, a financial analyst turned content creator, talks money in words you don’t need to have an economics degree to understand. She’s amassed more than 168,000 followers on TikTok alone. Some of her recent videos are about issues such as the housing crisis, government spending, and inflation, which she describes in ways like: “The bond market is freaking out.”
Both women are clearly engaging followers with information that is sometimes not so engaging to younger audiences. But while Russell reads the news, she’s also making newspapers look cool again in the process. Is it because she’s so dynamic in how she reads to her audience—telling them not to let anyone tell you “The Wall Street Journal is not for girlies”—or because Gen Z loves all things vintage? We aren’t sure, but they are definitely about it.
Meanwhile, newspapers are also seeing a rise in print subscribers, which could be in part because many people are trying to actively take time away from screens. Maybe it’s also because Gen Z is learning that it’s cool to care.