Gracie McKenzie (@graciemckenzie), a member of the volunteer ONA Resource Team, compiled these key moments from the ONA20 session on Oct. 7, 2020. To view a recording of the session, register for on-demand access to the ONA20 archive. Session participants included:
- Speaker: Jessica Yellin, Founder, News Not Noise, @JessicaYellin
- Moderator: Versha Sharma, Senior Correspondent, NowThis, @versharma
- “News Not Noise” is designed to help people determine what really matters from the “firehose of information that’s coming out them,” something that’s harder now than it was when she launched the project. Her small team of ~4 chose Instagram as the main platform in 2017/2018 because they wanted to reach a young female audience that was “turned off” by the outrage and negativity of the way they say most news operates.
- At first the growth was organic, but she saw a big spike in followers after Amy Schumer, who had started following her and DMed to ask whether she’d like to announce her pregnancy on her account as a way to drive more engagement with the election. It “doubled” soon after because other news sites writing about the pregnancy all pointed back to Yellin.
- What they post to Yellin’s account now: 1) 3 to 5 minute videos where Yellin talks directly to the camera, walking you through a story (here’s how everybody’s covering it, what parts are “noise” and what parts really matter, here are some facts and context you can take away); 2) Slideshows that are shareable, evergreen, and less nuanced than the videos; 3) Interviews with experts; 4) Top stories of the day with a swipe-up in stories, linking to “credible” news sources. The account has evolved, she says from her original goal of teaching news literacy and how to cut through disinformation.
- There are four members of the team now: Yellin, a producer (who used to be a microbiologist, but started DMing with the account during the COVID confusion and eventually left her job at a lab), a graphic designer, and a video editor. She funds it through a combination of Patreon/donations and a partnership with Spectrum News, currently, but plans to seek out sponsorships after the election.
- How she carves out time to take care of herself: “I have to remind myself my promise is to bring you the news. Not to bring it first, not to break it fast, not to rush to get it to you, and getting you what matters in the amount of time it takes to distill it. So I constantly remind myself of that.”
- “In the news they say conflict is what drives drama, that’s what gets people to engage … [but] I’d love to see more people doing news driven by empathy and compassion.” —Jessica Yellin
- The biggest challenges Yellin has faced in building her business: “First: Figuring out how to monetize because that’s just not my thing. Second: Making decks. I do not want to make decks.”
- “I have to exercise every day. If I don’t exercise every day. It’s just bad for everyone.” —Jessica Yellin
- “I’ve always been of the view that those press briefings should not be broadcast and don’t need to be publicized … We do not need a spokesperson to let us know what the President is thinking, because he is constantly telling us via his Twitter feed and all the other means. So, that is a propaganda show, run by people who have no credibility and broadcasting what they say is merely amplifying propaganda.” —Jessica Yellin
- “My first gig was in Orlando and I was a one-man-band reporter, where I carried my own camera, I drove myself to the story alone, I set it up, shot it, did the interviews, drove home, transcribed the interview, wrote the script, edited it, handed it in. That’s probably why I’m able to one-man-band this thing because it’s just second nature now, but I also think that gave me a kind of intuitive understanding of how to do a story. I used to say I could package grass growing if you needed me to. Like … it might not be great but I’ll get her done.” —Jessica Yellin
- “The future of news is increasingly following individuals you trust, rather than brands.” —Jessica Yellin