The scarlet flames are bright against the sable night skies. From the broken-out windows, billowing smoke can be seen crawling throughout the three-story building. A single firefighter stands in the bottom right-hand corner of the picture as a lone paint stroke in the devastating masterpiece.
The storeroom’s fire is the night’s top story. Later in the evening, a full package on the blaze will lead off the 10 o’clock broadcast and before that, the station’s Twitter and Facebook accounts will update the public on all breaking news.
Yet while reporters wait for new information to share, photos like the one described above are keeping the audience’s attention. Thus, thanks to the visual capabilities of Instagram, the media’s coverage is informing as well as engaging the public longer.
This is just a glimpse into a possible future, depending on how journalism decides to utilize Instagram going forward.
The history of Instagram
In the wee hours of October 6, 2010, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger officially launched a brand new photo-sharing phone application known as Instagram to the consuming public. According to Christine Lagorio-Chafkin, what happened next changed their lives (2012).
“We crossed 10,000 users within hours, and I was like, ‘This is the best day of my life,'” Systrom stated (as cited in Lagorio-Chafkin, 2012). “This is amazing, right? At the end of the day, it kept growing so much I thought, ‘Are we counting wrong?'”
As Lagorio-Chafkin quickly points out, they weren’t. Within its opening 12 months, the platform had built up a user base that reached more than four million (2012). By 2012, that number scaled to 30 million according to Rusli, and the company’s success didn’t go unnoticed (2012).
On April 9, 2012, Facebook officially announced it had purchased Instagram for nearly $1 billion in cash and stocks reported Rusli. The acquisition was the largest purchase made by the company at that time (2012).
According to Rusli (2012):
In a post on his profile page, Facebook’s chief Mark Zuckerberg said Instagram would continue to work with rival social networks. That will allow users to post on other services, follow users outside of Facebook, and to opt out of sharing on Facebook.
“For years, we’ve focused on building the best experience for sharing photos with your friends and family,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote. “Now, we’ll be able to work even more closely with the Instagram team to also offer the best experiences for sharing beautiful mobile photos with people based on your interests.”
Since the purchase, Instagram has forced itself into the upper echelon of the social media hierarchy, thanks to its current 200 million active, monthly users states Smith (2014c).
Instagram as a social-sharing platform
At its core, Instagram is simply a digital photo album cites Kelly Lux. A user captures images within the app or just utilizes snapshots already on their phone. There is then a quick editing process wherein the user can crop, transform color filters and write a caption among other options (2012).
Besides the easy-to-use photo manipulation, the platform is integrated with several other social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter states Lux, making it simple to share across the medium’s spectrum. Also within the platform, users can follow others, comment and like photos they enjoy as well as connect with other photographers (2012).
“People ask questions in the comments, like ‘Where was this taken’ or ‘What app did you use for that?’” Lux stated (2012). “Once you get into using Instagram, you will see how laid back people are and how much fun they are having. It’s currently a very friendly community.”
Perhaps that’s why the platform has gained so much popularity. On a monthly basis, 69 percent of the application’s registered users are active according to Luca Della Dora. At a daily clip, 35 percent are active (2013). Also per day, at least 40 million photos are posted on the site with 8,500 likes per second claims Saya Weissman (2013).
“It’s easy to see why millions of people are drawn to Instagram,” Sonderman stated (2012a). “Its camera tools and filters give amateurs a shortcut to elegant, expressive photography. More importantly, the social dynamics reward the user with appreciation and serendipity.”
Reporting through Instagram
For Sonderman, the marriage between reporters and Instagram is a no-brainer (2012a).
“A thriving social network, an imaginative content-creation app and an innovative tech startup — any one of those ought to get a journalist’s attention these days, but especially when one company combines them all,” Sonderman stated (2012a).
User content, news sharing and crowdsourcing are just a few of the benefits that reporters can gain from the platform reports Rachel Bartlett. She lists CNN as a great example of this due to its coverage of U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2013 inauguration, where the news organizations asked followers to tag their Instagram photos #CNN (2013).
The result was hundreds of user submitted images, which in effect allowed the audience to create their own story about the event according to Bartlett.
“Another example is how the Boston Globe used Instagram content to give readers a taste of life within a particular community, by selecting images shared on the platform by those living there, and enhanced further with audio of the Instagram users,” Bartlett said (2013). “Speaking to Journalism.co.uk at the time, creative technologist at the Boston Globe Chris Marstall, said the idea served to really add “value… meaning and context to Instagram.”
Coverage like that can add great depth to an organization’s product. Toss in the fact that 28 percent of U.S. Internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 can be found on Instagram (Weissman, 2013), and Sonderman’s belief in the union between the platform and journalism makes sense — especially for high school reporters.
Thus, for high school journalism teachers, the question becomes: how can student reporters efficiently and effectively be taught how to utilize Instagram? READ MORE