How media companies are embracing social media
Posted August 1
Despite its economic woes in the digital age, the news industry is slowly making headway in unraveling how social media fits into its overall mission to inform the public about important issues.
The Columbia Journalism Review reports that Chicago-based freelance journalist duo Jon and Jeff Lowenstein (who are also brothers) are bringing their unique investigative voices to Instagram, capturing the faces and issues of Chicago’s South Side.
They’re not alone. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Paul Salopek and The New York Times have also embraced Instagram, using photos and captions to both tell a story and accompany larger works elsewhere.
Not everyone is thrilled about this, as CJR reported, because most media outlets are more concerned about driving traffic to their websites rather than engaging an audience on outside apps. But the brothers show “what’s possible when you go to where the community is literally and geographically by incorporating the people into the conversations alongside those photos,” Fernando Diaz, a senior editor at the Center for Investigative Reporting in California, told CJR.
Yet, the use of social media in a meaningful, investigative way is actually a throwback to journalism’s golden days, Columbia University associate professor Nina Berman told CJR, “like the old days when magazines understood that having a tight word-image duo who were in sync was a very strong asset.”
According to the Pew Research Center, an increasing number of Americans get their news online is some form, yet news outlets still struggle to get their own employees on board for official purposes. The Poynter Institute reports that flagship publications like The Washington Post are jumping on platforms like Snapchat to try and acclimate their reporters to using the app as millions of their potential readers do.
“The mistake news organizations often make is asking journalists to try something new in a way that doesn't feel natural or organic,” Poynter’s Kristen Hare wrote. “Post editors chose Snapchat because it's relatively easy to use, but newcomers to the platform sometimes still feel overwhelmed.”
Hopefully, more newspapers — and reporters — will feel inspired and follow suit.
"We often find that once a journalist has spent some time playing around with the app and getting comfortable with it, they’re soon confident to use it consistently,” Post foreign desk embed Jen Hassan told Poynter. “I think the main thing is ‘don’t be afraid.’”