YouTube Sponsors Progressive Outlet to Create Nonpartisan ‘Academy’ for Local News

The Young Turks radio show host Cenk Uygur (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Progressive online outlet The Young Turks, run by California congressional candidate Cenk Uygur, is being funded by a six-figure investment from YouTube to start an online course called “TYT Academy” to create digital local news.

YouTube’s funding of Uygur’s outlet is part of the platform’s $25 million commitment to support news — housed under the $300 million Google News Initiative announced in 2018.

The program consists of two tracks of eight videos each — one track focused on the tactics and responsibilities of a journalist, the second on best practices for producing online video content. Users can earn a “TYT Academy certificate” after a watching the videos and taking a final exam at the end.

Steven Oh, TYT’s Chief Business Officer and the creator of TYT Academy, told Axios in a phone interview that, despite its explicit progressive stance, TYT is “not interested in cranking out journalists who share our political viewpoint whatsoever.”

The videos, which are already on YouTube, are not explicitly partisan, but prominently feature Uygur and members of his staff. YouTube announced in September that content created by political figures and leaders will be allowed to remain on the site even if it violates the company’s “community guidelines.”

The initiative is not the first to promote “local news” from a progressive perspective.

Tara McGowan, a former journalist and the founder of the group behind tech firm Shadow Inc. — which developed the faulty application that Iowa Democrats tried to use to report caucus results — started a for-profit news organization called Courier last year to roll out pro-Democrat coverage under the guise of “local news” in key swing states.

“When we don’t have those shared sets of facts, when we don’t read shared headlines, then we also lose sight of having trust in each other,” Courier editor-in-chief Lindsay Schrupp explained in a podcast with McGowan in December. “Local news, in that context, is a way to get people to start takings steps that are real meaningful steps.”

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