There are moments in life when everything comes together. Years after she got her start working in broadcast journalism, Fernita Wynn (pictured, bottom) found herself chasing headlines once again when Nickelodeon revived Nick News with a new special addressing racism.
Kids, Race and Unity: A Nick News Special premiered on June 29, with Wynn serving as showrunner and executive producer for the hour-long special.
In addition to news programs, Wynn’s resumé spans daytime talk shows and primetime specials. Before joining Nick, she served as supervising producer for two specials on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. Wynn has also worked with Warner Bros., Sony Pictures Entertainment, FremantleMedia, ABC, BET and NBC.
Wynn knew her passion for current events and experience in producing authentic interviews could be used to highlight kids’ voices in a way that rarely figures into conversations many adults consider too mature for children.
Hosted by singer/songwriter/producer Alicia Keys, Kids, Race and Unity focused on the voices and experiences of Black children across the US. The special also featured leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement answering questions from real kids, and highlighted teen activists fighting against racial injustice.
“There has been content talking to kids about racism and the unrest, but not in a format like this,” says Wynn. “It’s always adults talking about how adults are dealing with things, and this was an opportunity to come up with a show that would let us hear children’s voices.”
Following its premiere, the special was made available on Nickelodeon’s YouTube channel, Nick On Demand, the Nick App and the Nick Pluto TV channel. Additionally, a discussion guide and anti-racism resources—put together in partnership with educational organization The Conscious Kid and family therapist Dr. George James—are available online and through Nick’s social channels.
It was crucial to work with these experts for the special, Wynn says, to ensure families have the resources they need to continue conversations about race that were sparked by the special. But too many talking heads would feel like another standard news show, which might not appeal to kids. This was especially a concern because the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing quarantine meant all of the interviews had to be done virtually. Clips were pulled from social media in an effort to break up the interviews, as well as to illustrate some of the points being made in the special.
Aside from limiting what Wynn could do visually, the direct-to-camera interviews also made things difficult from a technical perspective. The team had to rely on each participant’s internet connection, and issues around lighting and camera quality had to be addressed on the fly. One of the interviews required subtitles due to difficulties with sound that simply couldn’t be fixed during filming.
In the end, Wynn knew the answer was always to bring the focus back to the kids.
“I wanted to make sure I didn’t dilute what was being discussed, but still did it in a way kids could understand,” says Wynn. “It was important to break [the issues] down for the kid audience, because they are making their mark and want to make change. If they’re going to be on the front lines, we need to arm them with information.”
Nick News originally aired from 1992 to 2015. Kids, Race and Unity: A Nick News Special is the first in a series of Nick News specials set to air on Nickelodeon in the coming months. Wynn says she hopes to collaborate with Nickelodeon on upcoming specials. Bullying, in particular, is a topic she would like to tackle with the team.
“Bullying, and especially online bullying, is something many kids experience and may have experienced more being quarantined at home and spending more time on the computer,” she says. “I think it’s important to talk about the effects of bullying and how kids can help deter it.”
While Wynn hasn’t yet decided on her next project, it’s clear that more kid-focused content is on the horizon. She is particularly passionate about finding a project for young girls, specifically something that builds self-esteem and motivation.
And working with so many young activists using their talents to call for justice on the Nick News special also sparked an idea for a new kid-focused music series. For example, teen gospel singer Keedron Bryant was featured on Kids, Unity and Race after his song protesting the killing of Black people by police went viral. Wynn says working with him was inspiring, and that she hopes to incorporate her love for music into a future family-friendly effort.
“I’ve never had a chance to work on a show that highlights kids’ talents and their powerful voices. It would be heaven for me to be part of a show that focused on kids and music,” says Wynn.