Visual Storytelling: navigating digital platforms for journalists

Stories are an essential part of our society.

We hear stories, we share stories, and we create stories through our daily lives. But the formats in which we tell our stories has dramatically shifted even through the last few years.

Social media has created new platforms for people to tell their personal social-media-icons-the-circle-setstories. Whether they post on Facebook Live, Instagram stories, or “vlog” about it on Youtube, people are finding more ways to express their experiences on a global platform.

Journalists have recognized these platforms as crucial aspects of modern day storytelling and the significance of visuals in these platforms. Because of this, journalists have to be able to not only create a narrative with words but through video and images as well.

Snapchat: the Immediate Video Journalism

Journalists have adapted videos for storytelling through documentaries, news forecasts, and the 24 hour news cycle, but when Snapchat introduced Snapchat stories in 2013, journalists had a new format that could produce immediate, unfiltered videos of events happening across the world.

snapchat0.pngAccording to Tayla Minsberg, social editor for The Times, each journalist takes the NY Times account for a specified amount to tell the story from their advantage. In this time, they have to create a narrative that is both personal, visual, and pulls in the viewer.

A large appeal of Snapchat is not only the ability to tell an interesting story, but to see how these stories show an unfiltered view of people’s lives. Due to the informality of this platform, it really creates a great areas to show softer topics and broadcasters. Could you do breaking news that more hard news? Maybe, but maybe not. Although it provides a great outlet for showing breaking news as it is happening, in real time, it doesn’t seem the audience that uses Snapchat is particularly interested in politics or those issues (at least to an extent).

To maximize the use of Snapchat, reporters need to understand:

  1. What stories can be conveyed through a visual platform like this and still be captivating
  2. How to balance authenticity instead of just amateur filming
  3. Keep their eyes open for live streaming or events that can make great opportunities for Snapchat stories.

Instagram: Storytelling through Imagery  

It appears that Instagram saw the success that Snapchat received after releasing their “stories” features and decided to do that exact same thing. Instagram users can share real-time life updates, news media have a “new opportunity to report from the field while giving behind-the-scene glimpse” into the stories they report, according to Taylyn

Washington-Harmon emphasized that the main difference between Instagram and Snapchat is Instagram used for high quality photography (with curation after the fact).

The strongest brands and accounts on Instagram use two concepts to effectively tell their stores:

  1. Consistency
  2. Passion

These two concepts are so crucial to building a presence and an audience on Instagram because people will have a clear and distinct idea about what your story is: whether it’s your mission, values or purpose. Using imagery to build that narrative will not only capture the attention of people, it will attract the target audience that will want to hear your stories or the stories you share.



Building a Personal Brand

Our internet presence is apart of our identity.

Whether or not we want to admit it, everything we post online is open to the public. Every. Single. Thing. And pretending that our posts don’t reflect us is ignorance.

That’s why news outlets, journalists, and every blogger on the internet is trying to build their personal brand.

Recently, I’ve started narrowing in on what my personal brand will be since I am approaching graduation. I know that I want to carve a profile emphasizing professionalism without losing the authenticity of my voice, but the ability to incorporate both has been difficult to find.

As of late, I’ve been using advice from media professionals and bloggers to compile a strategy for how I will build my personal brand and begin narrowing my niche to appeal to my target audience.

My strategy includes:

1. Stating objectives

According to Evan LePage, every strategy needs “to establish the objectives and goals that you hope to achieve.” These objectives can be simple goals such as gathering more followers or page views. Or the goals can be as complex as building credibility and influence around a targeted audience.

He recommended using the SMART frame; SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Using this frame can create achievable goals and keep people focused. For me, my goals center on building a niche for myself and finding what my voice can be on my social media platforms. Once I do this, I can expand to establishing an audience, developing techniques, and other goals.

2. Finding a niche

Aviation blogger Benet Wilson emphasized the importance of finding your niche. It’s not enough to write solely about fashion; you have to differentiate your content to fit your voice. For example, Wilson discussed her friend’s blog that focuses on vintage clothing from the 1940s. It’s very specialized, but it attracts an audience that enjoys the unique components to it.

I find this component to be the most difficult aspect as of now. I know that I have skills and beliefs that many journalists have. So what makes me different? My passion for food? Creating content with a camera? An interest in international relations? As of now, I continue to slowly narrow in on what I want to write about, but it will take to to establish my niche and voice.

3. Choosing the right medium

Don Stanley from 3 Rhino Media really honed in on the importance of choosing the right medium for your brand. Stanley mentioned that many businesses try to do every social media platform because “that’s what everyone else is doing”. His advice was to find where your audience is at, whether that be Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and etc, focus on that medium. It will making your platforms easier to manage and better quality.

Matthew Barby also emphasized the point in his article that keeping your focus and mediums condense will naturally expand your target audience and appealing your content to more viewers. As of now, I’m on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, WordPress and Instagram. Although many of those accounts are private, personal accounts, I will need to decide if I really need all these platforms to express my personal identity or now.

4. Making original context 

I think it’s obvious that if you want to have an authentic voice, you need to create original content that let’s your voice be heard. Mindy McAdams recommends that many first time bloggers miss the opportunity to integrate material from influencers and point out new insights in their personal posts.

For my strategy, I hope to incorporate my articles, projects, and blog posts to represent the work fields that I would love to contribute to. Whether I write about restaurants experimenting with food or the newest travel destination in Asia, I want people in the industry to see that I can create original content that attracts readers.

5. Getting engaged with your audience

Rachel Bartee, a content marketer, said one of the biggest mistakes bloggers make is automatization of their posts. They forget that it’s about engaging with the platform and your audience. Social media is meant to be social. The more you can engage with your followers and commenters, the more you’ll attract others to engage with you as well.

Once I actually gain followers, I intend to keep my engagement level high. Until then, I will engage with influencers and reporters that inspire me, so I can show people why they might want to follow me, as an individual and a professional.

I’m really excited to further my brand and craft my personality online. This way, I can better recognized in the field and as a professional.

Gap’s Backlash on ‘Racist’ Ads

Gap Inc. apologized on April 5 after receiving backlash over an advertisement that some critics called ‘racist’.

The ad was released on Twitter for Ellen DeGeneres and members of the preteen group, Le Petit Cirque. In the video, the four girls, ranging from 8 to 12, discussed their humanitarian work, their troupe and girl power.

The infamous Gap Kids advertisement

While the campaign was meant to be empowering for young girls while selling Gap’s new line of children’s athletic clothes, but many people saw the only black girl in the ad, in one photo, was used as an ‘armrest’ by her older, taller troupe member.

The other girls featured in the photo are in strong, powerful stances, but people complained that the black girl appears passive and more as a ‘prop’ than a person.

Though the advertisement has drawn criticism from a large audience, especially from the black community, others argued it’s an over-exaggeration.

The filmmaker Matthew Cherry posted the Gap Kids ad and a similar ad featuring a black girl resting her arm on the head of a shorter white girl. “Does the @GapKids pic on the left pic on the right okay? Let’s debate,” Cherry tweeted.

It’s too simple to say that the picture on the left justifies the concerns of the black community nor to call the picture on the right is racist, with unpacking what that means.

It seems to simple to call this ad racist. When seeing the advertisement and strong reactions to it, I knew that this wasn’t the best PR move on behalf of Gap, but I didn’t immediately think, ‘racist’.

Although I don’t see the pose as intentionally harmful, it’s unfair to say that people who are offended are ‘over-reacting’. It’s not just about a white girl putting her arm on a black girl’s head. It’s an advertisement that is messaging certain ideals through these images. The message in this conveys that black girls are inferior to white girls, and it’s a fair reaction for people to address what this ad is representing.

In a society where black women are rarely represented in advertising, it makes sense that many are reacting to the negative portrayals. Even if it seems like an ad isn’t ‘racist’, it can impact the viewers and strike a nerve within the black communities. Maybe if there was a stronger and more positive of black women and people of color in media and advertising, controversies like this wouldn’t happen.

Analyzing the editorial style of Jon Sopel

Jon Sopel was the lead anchor of the of BBC World News and BBC1 presenter before he was promoted to the corporation’s North America editor in 2014. He went from being a lead news anchor in London to covering breaking news and events in America.

Currently, Sopel is known for covering the US presidential elections and major issues across the nation: including gun control and climate change.

If you go to his blog, many of his posts and articles focus on the political realm in the United States, especially his coverage of the most recent presidential election, and incorporates broadcast videos, op-eds and in depth articles.

Sopel seems to write his blogs in the professional journalistic standard while still emphasizing the varying opinions and debates that appear in the US. One example is his coverage on President Obama’s dissatisfaction with gun control. Although this is a very subjective issue that has no clear answer, Sopel tries to approach both sides of the issue while expressing his opinions.

Another signature of Sopel’s posts are he incorporates that broadcasting element by using videos, either other broadcasts, interviews or etc, to add another multimedia element to his writing. That’s one area that I would really like to explore because I love media production and controlling was goes on the camera. And it makes sense for him since most of his career was spent in front of the camera, doing news broadcasts for BBC News in London.

One thing that I would like to grow from his work is experimenting more with digital storytelling for my articles and broadcasts. I’ve seen creative videos that use music, art, photographs and interviews to create a visual article/story for the audience to watch and engage with. I think that a lot of larger media sources are only starting to use these new methods to approach certain stories, so I would like to see it grow more and become more pronounced in our media.



Digitalizing the World of the Editor

In A Day in the Life of a Digital Editor, Alexis Madrigal, contributing editor of the Atlantic, hashes the struggles of editors are currently dealing with journalism’s shift to online platforms.

Madrigal weighs the major concerns editors constantly deal with since the “digital transition”. Including: advertising, producing content with quality and speed, increasing traffic, larger competition and all with a low budget.

Now, he mentions, “this is not the life most journalists imagined when they were looking at 1970s magazines” (Madrigal, 2013). And despite my childhood centered around “type-to-learn” and “Where in the world is Carmen San diego?”, I still imagined editors sitting in an old office, crossing off oxford commas with a bright red pen.

Journalism will never be this, as the writer pointed out. It’s going to always involve crafting tweets, posts and viral hits because it’s the digital age of journalism. Our audiences want news that’s quality content and posted efficiently. Digital editors have to compete with the millions of online writers and journalists reporting all over the world.

This article doesn’t emphasized the beauty of journalism. It doesn’t paint journalists as free-spirited investigators chasing their next story. It can be scary. It can be difficult. And you can be eating ramen noodles well past your college years.

As a digital editor, you aren’t just proofreading articles or brainstorming ideas. You’re posting new articles, hourly most likely, tracking traffic on your site, optimizing speed and quality of your content and pay your writers.

The author worries about the future of print magazines, like the Atlantic, and other traditional news sources. But, I feel that without print, the internet won’t thrive in quality news. It will be unverified sources circling the same audiences over and over again.

None of the less, the crucial roles of digital editors will continue to grow and become more of just “editors” as the media continues to rely on the internet to provide and cultivate news.