As iHeartMedia was in pre-production of its new podcast, The Ten News, they were immediately faced with a challenge. George Floyd had just been murdered. The question arose: how do we talk about news like this with our audience? Especially as that audience consists of kids ages eight through 12. Floyd’s death thrust myriad issues to the fore. Could kids grasp all the intricacies? Should they?
As a mother, Tracy Leeds Kaplan, The Ten’s creator and founder of Small But Mighty Media, had an approach for the podcast in mind. “My children are very direct; there isn’t a lot of talking around topics,” she tells Parentology. Initially, the gameplan had been, “We ask what kids need to know and get right to it.” Leeds Kaplan found herself questioning this tact.
The Ten News host Bethany Van Delft brought her perspective to the table. An award-winning comedian and host for The Moth and Nova’s Parentalogic, Van Delft grew up in a Black/Puerto Rican family of civil rights activists. “As a child, it was really overwhelming to hear news as it was broadcast for adults, but our parents helped us work through it,” Van Delft tells Parentology.
At some point, Van Delft realized most white kids didn’t have the same knowledge of current events she did. “My mom could have avoided telling us these truths and she would have, too,” Van Delft says. “But that’s not how we make change. Everybody has to know the true story in order to make change.”
It was these types of conversations The Ten wanted to spur. Leeds Kaplan says, “We position these stories in a way for families to open the door to thought-provoking conversations.” The team made it their mission to include heavy-hitting stories in their episodes in a way that wasn’t overwhelming.
“We discuss important topics in a way that’s palatable for everyone,” Van Delft says, “adding levity where it’s appropriate and allowing space and weight where it’s important. This allows for bridging the gap between one story about a zoo story and another about undocumented children.”
Balance is key when planning episodes. Topics can range from explaining how a vaccine works and why there’s a coin shortage to the impact of COVID-19 on the climate. Young guests make appearances, too, including 15-year-old, LGBTQ activist Ewan Barker Plummer to teen activist and founder of Earth Uprising, Alexandria Villasenor. Added to the mix — a combination of trivia questions and condensed news on topics ranging from sports to gaming, all of which are presented in the span of about 10 minutes.
As for the episodes’ 10-minute length, Leeds Kaplan says she took inspiration from pockets of time spent listening to the radio together with her kids in the car. “[The time limit] makes us really mindful of every word, every second, that’s put in the show.”
The Ten team believe the podcast has come at the “right time and the right moment.” “Kids like hearing news stories they’ve seen their parents watching on TV, but that are broken down in a way that’s relatable for them,” Van Delft says. “They’re growing up knowing what’s going on in an age-appropriate, non-traumatic way, and understanding the truth of the society we live in.”
The Ten News is available for free on iHeartRadio.com, on the iHeartRadio app and everywhere podcasts are available. New episodes are released on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Writer Rani Chor is a 16-year-old from California. You can read more from her here.