Instagram as a News Source?

Instagram has taken our worlds by storm, first looked at as an artsy outlet is now taking on new roles. You can now follow your local news stations on Instagram and more and more reporters/ writers and multimedia outlets are developing their own professional accounts.

Last night,  my Northeastern J-school buddies and I took a trip to The Boston Globe Media Lab. The joyful trek out to Dorchester proved itself to be well worth it!  Creative Technologist Chris Marstall and his staff were incredibly knowledgable and informed us of all the innovative plans the Globe has to morph along with our increasingly digital world.

What I found the most surprising about our visit was how news outlets are using Instagram and Vine along with geo-tagging as a tool. Marstall has us gather around a large television screen showing all of the Instagram photos geo-tagged in Boston over the past 24 hours. We are able to use this information to learn about users and more about the communities we live in. The lab had done the same with Vine videos posted in the past 24 hours and one of  the videos that came up in their search was filmed along Northeastern’s campus.

I think the use of these outlets for News is exciting and a I am curious to see how other news outlets begin to use it. One project by Time Magazine that was incredibly well done in my opinion was using Instagram to document Hurricane Sandy. Time Magazine actually hired 5 professional photographers to go out,  shoot and Instagram photos before, during and after the storm. “Why” is the big question I had- why Instagram instead of just publishing the photos directly to Times website. Time’s photography director, Kira Pollack called the whole thing a big experiment. Having lived in Manhattan and experienced Sandy’s wrath firsthand  I think Time did an outstanding job!

Instagram is providing the world a whole new level of communication and dissemination of information that can be used in countless ways and its exciting to see just how many different and unique ways innovators out there are coming up with.

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Mapping as a Graphic Tool

Mapping  and other graphic visuals like infographics and charticles (articles themselves that are entirely a graphic) I think are a beneficial tools that can be overlooked in classic print journalism. I think the idea of incorporating visuals into their written pieces for some journalist can be daunting, for fear that their writing will be overlooked or seen as less as important in comparison. Graphics are more commonly used in broadcast pieces naturally and sometimes in longer feature writing for magazines – but in this ever-changing world of journalism we need to play to the trends of the future by being more multi-media and graphic oriented.

Written content, posted online through a newspaper website, blog or forum should not be overlooked or debased by incorporating graphics, they should be used as a tool to enhance the written story – to make information more easily conveyed as well as just to offer more visual stimulation.

In the world of broadcast journalism you are expected to be a one-man-band. You are your editor, your camera man, your script writer as well as the reporter.

In print and multimedia journalism you are now also a one-man-band. You are your writer, your editor, your graphic designer as well as your reporter.

There are certain areas in stories that lend themselves well to the incorporation of visual graphics and maps. Trying to explain in an article the recent budget-cut plan approved by President Obama  would lend itself well to a graph. Another example I found that worked well is explaining where relief aid went geographically after Hurricane Sandy rocked the greater New York City area and eastern coast. Graphic courtesy of ProPublica.org.

An ‘oldie but goodie’ trend in visual graphics is a US map during presidential races and campaigns– showing party allegiances in the 50 states. Writing out in a lengthy article which candidate has ‘won’ what state and which are still being contested would take a while to read through but taking that same information and displaying it as a visual graphic is not only more immediate but also more impactful and concise.

Mapping and graphics are beneficial on a global scale of large stories, but also in smaller local stories. Boston.com used an interactive map to display reported pot-holes in the Greater Boston. The information seems a bit comical, but being informed that there is a huge pothole along your daily route to work could certainly save you a lot of aggravation. Similar to the map above, this information lends itself well to a graphic because writing out where every pothole is in Boston would make for an extremely long article. With an interactive map you can jump directly to the areas of the city that you travel through daily and see if you need to make adjustments to your morning commute.

The use of interactive maps, graphics and visuals is a way to add a new level to a body of written work. As well, it is an innovative way to appeal to dominantly visually receptive world.