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By Lisa Diethelm
Cronkite News has launched the experiment “30 TikToks in 30 Days” with students leading the effort to produce TikToks that share the media outlet’s headlines, twists on viral trends or music videos, among other content.
TikTok is a video sharing, social media platform where people connect over short-form videos varying from comedy and education to dance and social discourse.
Since launching the experiment on March 15, students have posted at least one TikTok video each day and will continue to post videos filmed at the Cronkite News studio based at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication for the remaining 30 days of the experiment. The experiment already has shown signs of success, with one student-produced TikTok reaching 10.3K views on the app.
Despite the experiment's title, Cronkite News Executive Editor Christina Leonard said Cronkite News will have produced more than 30 TikToks after the 30-day period because students have enjoyed the creative boost involved in making these videos.
“Beyond reaching audiences and potentially introducing them to Cronkite News, our students are having a blast with it,” Leonard said. “They’re showing their creativity, and it’s awesome to see them run with their ideas. They’re way more tapped in to what’s cool out there, so why not let them run with it?”
The experiment has multiple goals, according to Leonard. By using the app, Cronkite News aims to not just promote its content, but also increase the outlet’s transparency. The experiment also could improve media literacy by sharing informative and fact-based news as well as connect more with Generation Z.
Amna Subhan, a junior at the Cronkite School and a member of the “innovation squad” running the experiment, said using TikTok is also a way for Cronkite News to channel the fun side of journalism into the newsroom.
“Big picture wise, I think TikTok is such a powerful tool, and we, as college students, can relate to it more than any other platform that we use to promote Cronkite News,” she said. “People can do fun things and show what it’s like to be a student journalist.”
Another goal of the experiment is to share its findings with other news organizations that have not tapped into the popular app. Subhan and Katelyn Keenehan, a senior at the Cronkite School and the innovation squad member who pitched and launched the effort, are tracking the analytics to gain valuable insights. Isaac Easley, Cronkite’s instructor in video and innovation and one of the squad’s co-leaders, said the newsroom already has learned some important lessons about creating the videos.
“It’s truly amazing to see what gets views. Sometimes you can put some time and production into a TikTok and receive very few views while other times a very simple concept or trend can explode in viewership,” he said. “Discovering what audiences want from TikTok is always surprising and fun for me.”
At the end of the experiment, Cronkite News will share key takeaways and effective practices that can be used in newsrooms across the country.
“We hope we can do the hard work for other news outlets that want to get into TikTok. We’re investing the time and energy into this experiment so they don’t need to – and they can learn from both our successes and our missteps,” Leonard said. “But we’ve seen our very small numbers continue to grow, and we’re excited to see where we land in mid-April!”
People can connect with Cronkite News and the experiment by following @cronkitenews on the TikTok app, or online.