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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How social media can cretae its own story

How social media can cretae its own story

Well. Today is Veteran’s Day. And I cannot help but feel bad that I did nothing to honor our troops. Sure I saw flags flying, but one, it is hard to take a day of remembrance when you still have 4 classes to attend, and two, being away from my family on a day like today seems unjust. Though I am sure most were sincere, my Facebook and Twitter feed filled up with status of reflection and photos of recollection. On national holidays social media seems to be swarming with timelines, family photos, famous quotes and features.


This year, as I searched through my pages, I found a unique article. An angle I had never seen before, and timely enough to be making its way around the web on this holiday.

With the headline: “A Veteran Died with Nobody to Attend his Funeral – What happened Next was Incredibly Moving.” I couldn’t help but be intrigued. Journalistically its not entirely optimistic, but I am not sure that the author had this intention. Either way, it wasn’t revealing, thus grabbing my attention.


The story is about a man named Harold who was a WW2 Vet. He died last month at 99 years old. His name and story appeared in a local paper. Not highlighted with a large photo, or placed on a primer page, but under the obituaries, as normal. Harold did not have any close friends or family around to bury him. The obituary called upon local servicemen to please attend in his honor.


Now, one reader found Harold’s story incredibly disheartening. He took a snapshot of the newspaper article and tweeted “So sad …. I do hope someone can attend.”

No where in the original post are designated intentions for the photo to go viral … but it did. Thus again displaying the inevitable power of social media. Buzzfeed, the news forum in which I uncovered the article, shows photographs of the image being circulated across Twitter.

Not only for the death announce, but for the funeral as well. As recorded via mobile journalism, hundreds of people showed up to Harold’s funeral. Photos were published of mourners young and old, servicemen and community members. Each telling its own story.


Not only do I think this is an amazing example of what good journalism, and social media can do for the community, but I think it is an example of decency. No photo was meant to attract a profit, suggest a bias or draw in readers. Rather it was a simplistic means of expression to honor someone who fought for our country.

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First Instagram Ad will be Michael Kors

First Instagram Ad will be Michael Kors

The caption:  “5:15 PM: Pampered in Paris #MKTimeless”

When news broke that Instagram would begin accepting paid advertising, many users were outraged. The media platform was unique due to the fact that its forums were able to transform the average photo taker to a self-proclaimed artist.

The company promised that ads were not going to be too intrusive. But c’mon, who would believe that? Throughout history ads had to become more colorful, more bold, more graphic to outshine competition.

But, the question is, how does a marketing department shift the norm and create non “intrusive pop-ups but rather “beautiful, high-quality photos and videos?”

After reading this piece presented by the Huffington Post, I am pleased to announce that Instagram kept its word. The first ad, sponsored by Micheal Kors, features a gold watch, classically-styled, outlined in diamonds. Its background is equally as colorful, but not the overwhelming boldness we, consumers, are used to. Using a slight blur, we see golden china and pastel pastries. Just enough focus is given to the object, and product at task.

In all honesty, the ad looks nothing like its selling a product. More an artsy attempt at displaying a gift. This changes consumer thinking. It captivates the eye longer without text displayed across the screen. And though the image does look perfect, its setting is much more natural.

The caption, listed above, also does not come off as demanding. No catchy lines are used, it’s simple and includes a message/brand name is a hashtag. This is useful in my opinion, on a marketing front, since images with the same hashtag can be grouped together. Instagram users can search for hashtags and see photos tagged with the same content.

Mobile is becoming the dominate news information choice. Companies are changing their philosophy.

According to the article, people who followed Michael Kors on Instagram saw the photo as a normal Instagram post. But to other users, it comes with the label “sponsored.” In the comments section on this post, a lot of people critiqued the thought of an ad invasion, but to me, its a mode of discovery. I never would have thought to present a watch that way and it is absolutely affective.

What this article does not answer is how Instagram will decide what ads you will see. If it will be geared toward things you like, tracking your interest. Perhaps then attitudes will shift.

Time will tell.

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The importance of sound

The importance of sound

They call it being a visual learner right? The idea that one can better interpret material and retain it by being witness to visual stimuli?


Then why do viewers pay more attention to content with audio? Particularly, natural sound.


This thought has been on my mind a lot lately. As a natural debater, I just could not find myself aligning with these principles…. until now.


This work, done by The New York Times, is titled “Illegal Logging Thrives in Peru, Environmentalists Say.” Now before I even go into the lesson I’ve learned, and ramble on about how this work proved me wrong, that headline… it diminishes their credibility in the sheer fact that they feel they must attribute it so prominently. I understand its purpose, but find it would fit better later on, it does not lure me to the slideshow, which has FANTASTIC SHOTS.

The photographs are unique. The coloring often sets the tone, and no one shot appears similar. The photos’ order, though I am unsure if it is purposeful, tells a story from one angle to the next. A rare, but interesting take from the usual chronological style. The captions are short and for a tough topic to cover, are simplistic enough to allow some take-away. What this story is lacking however, is crucial audio. I cannot say I was satisfied with just images. I wanted to hear that chainsaw tearing down trees and hear the cries of people from the community affected by it. I guess I wanted something real. And just looking through the eyes of a subject, you can tell there is a deeper story than what meets the eye.


That, I’m afraid is what audio is for.


If I were to do this piece as an assignment, I would not change one thing regarding the content and quality of the images, but instead would record and report on the multiple perspectives from the community. It could take a more humanistic angle. Telling viewers over seas, why THEY should care.


But alas, perhaps one day I too will receive the opportunity to report abroad.

Until then —

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Evans’ Family – A father’s love

Evans’ Family – A father’s love

It’s said that a picture can speak a thousand words. And I guess I believe it. I’ve seen it before within professionals work. But I think most great examples are seen overseas, perhaps instances of war, of heartbreak or loss. I find it less often that photos speak to us in moments of love. Not particularly an overcoming triumph, but in moments relatable. This slideshow features Fred Evans a man who was given months to live after being diagnosed with Melanoma following a double lung transplant. It does an amazing job of telling a moment of his story on all accounts. Below I will address those that stood out most to me.


Captions. I never undermine their value beneath photographs… but what about slideshows? The words have to be carefully selective to encourage a viewer to click on the movie. This caption reads: “After learning he had just months to live, Fred wanted to surprise two of his daughters and wife with a special gift. An inspiring story of  Father’s love to his family.” I find the language delicate and not too revealing. It does not explicitly say what this gift is, making viewers want to click the movie to find out.


The text. Though we will not be working with text in our slideshows, the perfect amount of text appears. It is easy to read, timed well with the background music and gives us enough information to pick up right where a scene leaves off – in the church aisle.


The photos. They capture emotion. The photographer wasn’t afraid to show us a deeper side of the characters. There is variety between black and white photos, and while I cannot figure why the photographer chose to do some some way and others another, the attention to detail is complimented by each. The transitions are fluid as well. It acts as a story would, from beginning to end. The shots vary in depth of field and perspective as well.


The audio. Though it is said that natural sound catches the ears of listeners, this piece worked perfectly with the music. The photos were timed to the lyrics and its tone fit the message of the story. I think natural sound would have interfered with the story the photographs were telling. It called for further attention to detail. That sometimes its not the things we say that have the biggest impact on our lives, but the things we do.

The combination of emotion and careful placement of photos and music allow for a remarkable story to be told. It picked at a detail of Frank Evans’ story and told it in a way that made viewers focus on a message and the sights before them.

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Witnesses to history

Witnesses to history

It’s been 50 years since the March on Washington. That’s nearly 8 years since I learned the story myself, out of a history textbook. The New York Times published a multimedia piece in honor of the anniversary and they did a fabulous job in an area that so commonly rubs historians the wrong way – the story telling.


We talk about objectivity. In terms of reporting. The questions we ask. The sources we highlight. But there is also objectivity in the way the story is told, how we, as reporters, compile all of the information together and what storyboard we lay. And in that sense, we try for objectivity, but strain to do so.


History therefore, written by man, may not be all that objective.


Our textbooks are full of selective memories based off of accounts and judgements of persons who may not have been first-hand witnesses to the events we document. They’re often told from the “average American.” The middle-class man with the family; the one who’s fluent in English but reminisces about where he came from. The wording  is risky. And it is too often that stories, culture and development is lost along the way.


That all changes with this piece.


The stories of strangers. Ordinary people. The world, and specifically the March on Washington through their eyes.


We get to know the story-tellers. The inclusion of their name and hometown make them appear all the more real, all the more like us and all the more relatable. There are photographs of artifacts and family. And they are placed appropriately so that they appear when we start to wonder what our characters/setting looks like.


Each blog is organized like its own beat, with its own headline. They are simplistic, but strong, and diction is chosen wisely, not just to fill space.


There is variety among bloggers. Whether its by age, gender or hometown. It gives a wide perspective, something a history book leaves out.


The project is also organized, with a categorized panel on its side to quickly access and scan through stories. Being visually pleasing aids to the high quality content found inside each post. It draws attention and captivates it.


History is retold and analyzed, but it has not been re-written to include personal accounts of people, whose stories are normally swept under generalizations that classify time periods, and historic movements, under one bolded heading.

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