When asked by curious journalism professors about how my generation consumes the news, most of my peers and I respond that we receive news updates first from social media. I can also say that most of my friends outside of the journalism major give similar responses. On social media apps such as Instagram and Twitter, I follow and read articles from trusted news outlets. These are sources not only with worldwide consumers, such as the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, but also ones more focused on local consumers, such as Annenberg Media and the Daily Trojan. These news outlets allow my fellow Trojans and myself to stay connected to what is happening on campus and in the surrounding USC area.
However, what I see has been especially effective for other viewers and myself goes beyond merely presenting the news to readers; it involves using social media to enhance the news by bringing the stories to life and engaging readers. I personally think the New York Times does such an amazing job of using Instagram stories to do exactly this. In fact, the @nytimes Instagram account’s bio is, “Telling visual stories.” The news organization has reporters specifically assigned to translate certain news to Instagram stories, which certainly reflects in the storytelling aesthetic and interactivity of each slide. The slides are also related to a story or series of stories by the New York Times, allowing for a deeper dive and richer learning experience than simply promoting the story.
Whenever I am the teammate producer for Thursday’s See it Live show, I try to keep in mind what my friends and I would find useful or interesting, and when news outlets such as the New York Times use social media well. I also think about how the social media medium matches the purpose of the news stories. For yesterday’s show about the USC-UCLA rivalry, I worked with Thursday’s Social Media editors (Maya Allunario and Matt Kreiser). Although I have created a Twitter thread before with videos, I knew that this show topic did not need as much text. Instead, the fun visuals and interactive elements in Instagram stories helped better play on all of the excitement leading up to Conquest and the last football game of the year. Many other Trojans and I were especially excited for Saweetie, a USC alumna and rising rapper, who headlined Conquest yesterday. The announcement had been made late the previous night. As a result, I wanted to help spread the news to USC students who may not have received the update and help build on the anticipation leading up to Conquest later that same day of our show. To do so, I included a quiz about Saweetie, her music and her alumna ties to USC, an element that fans would enjoy. I also intended for those who did not know much about Saweetie to learn something new in a fun way and to feel more connected to the musician, to Conquest and thus to the USC community. The Instagram story also had an active countdown to Conquest.
One of my favorite Instagram stories that I have created this semester was for our show about vaping. I used the New York Times Instagram stories as a model and, after each true/false or multiple-choice quiz question, provided an answer. To address any concerns about credibility and diversify the format so that students also received audiovisual elements, I edited different segments of a video interview with Dr. Jon-Patrick Allem from USC Preventive Medicine to provide the explanations for these answers. It gave the effect that a doctor was speaking directly to viewers. This same interview had been featured in the show itself, so the Instagram story added to the show by providing a deeper dive into questions commonly asked about vaping and allow students (the population most affected by vaping) to learn about a serious topic in a creative, less-accusatory manner.
For a more recent show about the one-year anniversary of the Borderline shooting, I created a Twitter thread because text allowed me to share more information effectively. However, I also included video testimonies from survivors and loved ones themselves. This way, viewers felt like they were receiving more direct interaction with and the Twitter thread focused more on the subjects of these stories. I tried to structure it so that the thread began with survivors and loved ones describing their testimonies of the shooting, but ended on how viewers could help support the community moving forward. It was one of the social projects that I felt made an impact in the community covered because members of the Thousand Oaks community themselves have interacted with the Twitter thread.
Looking back at all that I have learned in Annenberg Media and my journalism classes, I am surprised by how some minimize the importance of social media in news when it can draw in readership in more creative, effective ways than ever before. Engaging viewers and bringing the news to them can become more possible with the imaginative use of social media. Democratizing news is now in the hands of young people who actively use social media apps such as Instagram and Twitter, which include my generation and the generations to come, and I am unequivocally excited for the possibilities of our future impact.