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Snapchat and Reddit at The Washington Post


Social Media is changing the role and realm of journalism but this isn't news to anyone. Now though, all the media we consume is meant to be "social". Journalists are increasingly interested in how to incorporate interactive components to their storytelling. Whether or not a story is in print or on the webpage, The Washington Post specifically is looking to increase engagement with younger readers via Snapchat and the lesser-acknowledged readers via Reddit.

The speaker on behalf of the Snapchat team for The Post, Ryan Weber, discussed with our class about the importance of the curiosity gap.

"Giving your audience just enough information that they’re not unsatisfied but devoid of right information to encourage audience to click them", said Weber.

Interestingly, Snapchat has been used by The Post for both news and entertainment (commonly seen as a single entity by lesser media literate viewers). For entertainment, Weber explained how the team was experimenting with incorporating personality quizzes or with more "fun" stories rather than just the big news. On the other hand though, they were able to also cover The Parkland shooting and other very serious events with great visuals elements as well as including the original stories.

Yet keeping in mind that "70% of our audiences are between the ages of 13-24", said Weber.

So when Trump talked about “shit hole countries” led the team to discuss the topic of censoring due to the audience.

“We thought it was important to tell it that way, even though we had to keep in mind our audience", explained Weber.

Everything about the dynamic of Snapchat is different that the traditional "news telling" system. Rather than having long-form journalism, the team has to figure out how to incorporate data with information as well as intrigue.

"We spend a lot of time finding what’s the most important part of the story and we've found numbers do extremely well", Weber said. Any headline or shot that includes a number results in having longer attention to it or even allowing the viewer to go back from the beginning to figure out what that number means. "But at the end of the day, we write how people talk so everything can be shortened."

After Weber's visit, the class also met with Gene Park, the face behind The Washington Post's Reddit page. Unfamiliar with Reddit's layout, I was honestly a bit overwhelmed with the way that it worked but Park explained how the Post approaches Reddit. Engaging directly with readers, Park is able to explore the concerns or questions of the Post's devoted fans and critiques.

But this got me thinking: What is the future of social media in journalism?

First and foremost, I believe collaborative reporting will be the biggest hurtle and breakthrough for journalists in the realm of social media. This requires a shift in the mindset of journalists, who are used to deciding what news is and how it is covered, produced and distributed but now have citizen reporters contributing to this process. Which can be terrifying and helpful all at once.

Just as Weber talked about in class, citizen reporters make for great resources for live, in action content. Sometimes a journalist won't always be in the right place in the right time. But some kids snapchat story might be. And that's how we can collaborate.

Similarly, journalism becomes a community with the social dynamics intertwined with the reporting. Today, much of the news has become a conversation, and journalists are being required to do as much listening to the community as they broadcast to them. And that's huge. That's a monumental shift in the storytelling process today.

Figuring out how to be involved in the new platforms is critical in the journalism community today. With Ryan Weber and Gene Park coming into class, I learned that working at prestigious organizations not only encourage experimentation and exploration but require it. As a millennial, I'm learning so much more than just how to use social media, I'm figuring out how to implement it in reporting.

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