For a year, the Google News Initiative backed Project VidSpark, an effort designed to help newsrooms reach Gen Z through shareable videos. Leading the charge of this Herculean effort was none other than Ahsante Bean, a YouTuber who first rose to fame in the early 2010s when she chronicled her Harvard University application process.

The year-long program kicked off in March 2020 — just as the United States was beginning to go into lockdown over the COVID-19 pandemic — and was done in conjunction with the Poynter Institute.

Each of the three participating newsrooms — The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 89.7 GBH News in Boston, and 10News WTSP in Tampa — received $25,000 to build out and promote their video production efforts, while Poynter provided the training and consultation.

However, they couldn’t have done it without Bean and her efforts.

“Poynter had established the partnership with the Google News Initiative on this project, and was looking for someone with production chops and experience in online video strategy to shape the project and bring it to life,” she told AfroTech. “My expertise from launching educational social-first series like “Say It Loud” with PBS Digital Studios, and from being on YouTube myself as a creator eight years, made the role a great fit.”

The end result of these efforts was a “playbook” that gave traditional newsrooms a good social strategy that allowed them to engage with Gen Z. Bean, for her part, led the initiative about that as well. In so creating this playbook, Bean helped newsrooms see that reaching her generation — and beyond — required a new paradigm.

In the past, newsrooms — especially those with their roots in “traditional” media, such as print and radio — have been resistant to these changes. However, Bean hopes that this initiative — and the resultant playbook — changes that.

“Ultimately, I’d love to see newsrooms around the country using the playbook as a reference and starting point for new social-first video endeavors,” she said. “Changing traditional practices can be tough for legacy media, but my hope is that by seeing the work we’ve done with the VidSpark newsrooms, and the lessons we’ve learned along the way, other local newsrooms will be inspired and empowered to try new types of storytelling and take an audience-first approach to create content for social platforms.”