When Stephanie Kelmar’s son was eight years old, he became interested in current news and started reading his parents’ New York Times newspaper at the breakfast table.
While this was an exciting milestone — her son was curious about the world and taking an active part in becoming informed — it was also an eye-opening moment for Kelmar.
“Often the front page of the newspaper would feature frightening headlines and photographs,” she tells Parentology. While she acknowledges the importance of those stories in the paper, she didn’t believe they were always appropriate for a young child to see.
Wanting to foster her son’s budding curiosity, Kelmar searched for something she could present to him, but found herself facing a common struggle many parents share.
“When I looked around for a daily dose of news geared towards kids,” she says, “I couldn’t find anything.”
Presented with this dilemma, Kelmar decided to use her experience as a long-term television news producer and writer to do something about it. So she set out to create her own news outlet, with children as the audience.
Kelmar shared the idea with Rosemarie Schwarz, a long-time colleague and fellow Emmy Award-winning newscast reporter.
Schwarz is also a mom with four kids and shared Kelmar’s concern of what her kids were exposed to due to the nature of her work.
“Because that was a 24/7 job,” Schwarz recalls of her time as executive producer of Mornings on 2 in the San Francisco area, “my kids probably heard and saw a bunch of stuff they shouldn’t have. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shield them from it all.”
So the idea of creating something just for children appealed to Schwarz, and she jumped on board as co-creator.
KidNuz – The News Podcast for Kids
The two decided on a podcast as the medium and created KidNuz. The daily podcast features an average of five stories presented over the span of about five minutes, along with a quiz.
Kelmar lays out a few of the main ingredients that go into creating a news podcast for kids.
“Our thinking was to create a newscast that could be easily digested over breakfast or on the way to school,” she says, thus the short five-minute length per episode. “Our podcast is nonpartisan and we don’t feature the scary stuff that often ends up in the news. We cover topics ranging from politics and current events to sports, entertainment, science and kid-centric human interest stories.”
Recent episodes, for example, include an update on the ozone hole over the Antarctic that’s shrinking in size; to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg winning the 4thannual Berggruen Prize for Philosophy & Culture; and Google’s AI division new invention the media company claim beats the fastest supercomputer in solving a complex problem, with IBM challenging that claim.
In finding and writing the stories, Schwarz emphasizes the importance of remembering the audience.
“Kids are smart and kids are curious,” she says. “KidNuz gives them a safe space to learn new things, ask questions, and hopefully develop into savvy little news consumers who can distinguish real news from fake and who demand both sides of any story.”
“Our goal is to inform, educate and entertain with short stories that can, in turn, spark longer conversations between kids and their parents or teachers,” Kelmar says. They aim to simplify complex stories so they’re simple enough to understand, but don’t talk down to the audience.
KidNuz is hosted by co-creator Tori Campbell, an award-winning TV news anchor and radio reporter, and Kimberly Hunter, also a former award-winning television reporter, part-time correspondent for CNN. Both edit KidNuz stories.
Between the four women, they have nine Emmys and 12 children.
Both Campbell and Hunter share a zeal for sparking curiosity in their young listeners.
“I hope we’re helping to create a generation of responsible news consumers who will learn to question sources, critically think about what they hear, and perhaps engage in civic discourse or activism to make their community, country, and the world, a better place,” says Hunter.
Campbell who has been a broadcast journalist for 27 years, echoes the importance of having a platform like KidNuz that filters out the alarming or disturbing content that often ends up on regular outlets.
“This podcast is the ideal launching pad for kids to get news that is appropriate for them. We have kid-appropriate books, G-rated movies and TV shows. Why not a kid-friendly newscast?”
As for the response, the podcast is well-received and has experienced incredible growth in a short time.
“Our listeners run the gamut from five-year-olds to many adults we know,” says Kelmar. “We often hear from teachers who play the podcast daily for their third to seventh-grade classrooms.”
They also received the coveted Seal of Approval from both Common Sense Media and Parents Magazine soon after the launch. Over the course of a year, KidNuz has been downloaded 300,000 times, speaking to the need for such a platform.
KidNuz is available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and Pandora. Parents can also go to the website and sign up to get a free email reminder each morning. Here’s a past episode for your enjoyment. Subjects covered include FAST Call, Milky Way Exit, Inquiry Twist, Questionable Dish and Bye Bye, Bei Bei!