By Lisa Diethelm
“Alexa, play Cronkite News.”
Listeners will now be able to use this phrase on their Amazon smart device to access briefings from Cronkite News, a news outlet embedded within the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
Cronkite News, the world’s largest media outlet operated by a journalism school, has implemented the voice-activated “play” feature on devices such as Amazon’s Alexa, which allows users to immediately listen to news briefings without sifting through updates from multiple news outlets.
The student media outlet made its smart speaker broadcast debut in late fall 2019 with its Cronkite News 2Go briefings. When it did, it became the first student-powered newsroom in the nation to broadcast by smart speaker.
And now, by utilizing the “play” feature, users are able to listen to the news briefings by simply asking Alexa to “open Cronkite News” and “play Cronkite News.” The command takes the listener directly to Cronkite News, eliminating a two-step enabling process, an auto-feed of top briefings or a search that brings back multiple options.
“By allowing our listeners to simply ask Alexa to ‘play’ our briefings, we’ve made the delivery of our broadcasts even more efficient,” said Christina Leonard, executive editor of Cronkite News. “We’re so glad we were able to work with Amazon on this initiative as we continue to look for new ways to put our students in touch with innovative technology.”
The Cronkite News briefings cover the biggest topics of the day in news and sports, offering exclusive programming that won’t be available on other platforms, and providing a snapshot of larger, enterprise efforts that tackle statewide issues about the environment, politics, and borderlands.
To mark the achievements of the milestone, nearly 300 Cronkite first-year and transfer students will receive their own Echo Dot, a puck-sized smart speaker sold by Amazon.
“We’re all about innovation at ASU, and there’s no question ‘voice’ will play a huge role in the evolving media landscape. We need to make sure our students are prepared for the future of journalism, and they’re thinking strategically about how to lead the way,” Leonard said. “I’m a huge fan of audio briefings. In fact, that’s how I start each morning. I love hearing what the students have done on Cronkite News 2Go, and it’s an excellent way to stay up-to-date on important, relevant local news.”
By engaging with this new platform, Cronkite News is entering a broadcast arena that is quickly gaining steam as more media outlets produce on-demand news for an increasingly on-demand culture.
A recent Edison Research report showed that 73 percent of smart speaker owners use the device to listen to news and current affairs. Statistics indicate that smart speaker ownership will continue to grow at a rapid clip, with an estimated 76.5 million users expected this year.
“We are consistently looking for new ways to integrate real-world applications into our educational environment, and smart speaker broadcasts are just one example of that commitment,” Cronkite Interim Dean Kristin Gilger said. “The media landscape is an ever changing one, and this new platform puts our students at the leading edge of the field they’re entering.”
Cronkite News, with bureaus in Phoenix, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., provides students with the opportunity to report and produce important national stories for Arizona audiences. The stories are shared online, on social media, through larger media outlets and during a daily newscast on Arizona PBS, which reaches 1.9 million homes in one of the country’s largest media markets.
These stories reported and produced by students are recognized locally and nationally for their quality and impact, receiving awards from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the Broadcast Education Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Hearst Journalism Awards, and many others.
“Our students tackle some of the most important issues facing Arizona residents – from the disparities in access to quality health care and water scarcity issues facing the Southwest to the rapidly changing border policies affecting our communities,” Leonard said. “Our students are passionate about this work, and they continue to amaze me with their energy, dedication to their craft and commitment to excellence.”