Snapchat as a Tool for Reporters?

It doesn’t sound so likely when you first think about it. Snapchat is an application for smartphones that allows the user to send pictures or video to other users. This is where the magic of the app comes in: after a certain amount of time, the picture or video disappears forever and there’s no way to bring it back up. How can an app based so much on impermanence be used to help journalists?

If you asked me that when Snapchat first came out, I would say it couldn’t. Snapchat, inherently, is not meant to be used as a professional tool. With the latest addition of filters, the app’s primary purpose is sending wacky pictures to your friends. Furthermore, if you wanted to reach a big audience, you would have to add them all as friends individually, and check each of their names before sending a picture.

But, there’s a new feature to Snapchat which makes it more viable as a tool: Snapchat Stories.

For their privacy, I’ve blocked the names/thumbnails of my friends.

Snapchat Stories are very simple to understand. Instead of uploading a photo or video to specific friends, you upload it to your Snapchat Story, where everyone can see it. You can put as many stories and video on your story as you want, but like Snapchat it will not be visible forever. Notice how the thumbnail next to my story is just a small section of a circle? That means it’s almost been 24 hours since I posted it to my story. After 24 hours, a picture or video on a Snapchat Story disappears.

Allow me to walk you through how a reporter could potentially utilize Snapchat for their audience. The first step a station would take it advertising their Snapchat, usually on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

This is mine, for example. Users can scan the Snapchat icon or add me by my screen name.

Reporters could share their own “icon”, much like Jacob Soboroff of MSNBC does.

Easy to follow, easy to stay up-to-date. A big benefit of Snapchat.

Or, entire news stations could advertise their Snapchat like WCAX does below.

Oh, and before you ask, WMUR doesn’t utilize it.

Now that people could follow the reporter, they can share some relevant information. Say there was a weather advisory going on in Vermont’s Caledonia County. As an example, the reporter could take a picture like this:

Notice the “10” icon on the bottom left. That means the picture will show up for ten seconds. This can be changed, but for news it shouldn’t be necessary.

The picture and story could be of anything, of course, not just weather. In fact, reporters can do video teases as long as they are ten seconds or less. There are many ways that both pictures and video can be professionally utilized.

The process of sending out a Snapchat is very simple. All that needs to be done is selecting the “My Story” icon.

The “My Story” icon is right at the top, making it easy to find.

Once it’s on the reporter’s story, anyone who has added them can see it for 24 hours, and the reporter can add as many pictures or video as they want. It’s almost like Twitter, but quicker and more based on media than text. This would be a simple idea to teach to anyone in the news industry; make an account, share it, and post stories and videos to it. Quick and easy.

But this begs the question: Is this really necessary?

I’d say it’s worth a shot, at the very least. The big appeal of Snapchat is that it’s quick and easy. You don’t need to swim through multiple posts just to find one video tease or picture that you’re looking for. Throughout the day a reporter or station can upload what’s happening around the area, and users can easily access and receive these posts. The best part is, by the next day these posts, which would then be outdated, are deleted for convenience.

I almost feel like Snapchat has to be jury-rigged to be a journalistic tool, but it actually works well. More people with smart phones means more people can start looking at apps like Snapchat. Millions of people use Snapchat daily, so this app is no joke. It might be hard to consider Snapchat nothing more that a silly way of talking with friends, but there is serious potential here for stations local and national.

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