Tag Archives: Disasters

Using Instagram to cover breaking news

Using Instagram to cover breaking news

Covering breaking news is tough. Often times it starts with the big fish and their connections, slowly trickling down to local media sources, who do little of their own reporting. However, national disaster stories offer a great opportunity for local media. They are times that they can prevail and beat major news sources to the punch.

An example of this are the tornadoes that swept through southern Illinois this past weekend. Reports from news outlets went back and forth on damage records and fatality counts. Though major news networks were tweeting up a storm (puny, I know), the photographs and personal accounts came through local networks. The more accurate numbers came from Chicago-based papers.

Sifting through the coverage is important to those who may have been or know someone who may have been affected by the disaster, but to others, far away with no connections, it’s of less importance. That is until relief efforts are underway.


That’s why I found the attached article, by NPR so striking. It used Instagram photos to tell the story. The photos present different angles, are quick to read, and are powerful as stand-alones. And now, with the Instagram update, they can include video! I commend NPR for being original in its coverage, and judging by the comments on the site, I think it paid off.

I suppose the only thing I question with including tools like Instagram is the sense of organization and selection (why pick those photos? is there a profit bias? a selection bias?) and how can we, as journalists, ensure they are valid and accurate. Plus, I wonder, and leave you with this question: was it ethical to take the photos? Is a formal attribution necessary?


Being from Chicago, my thoughts are with the people whose lives have been affected.

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