Five questions about Snapchat journalism

Snapchat, journalism, social media, Alex Veeneman, Kettle Mag
Written by Alex Veeneman

Earlier this year, it was revealed that Snapchat would be hiring content analysts to help with its coverage of the forthcoming presidential elections in the United States. The announcement came as the Pew Research Centre in Washington D.C. said in a study that Facebook was the number one source of political news for younger audiences.

Snapchat is still an up and comer in the field of social media journalism, as it tries to evolve its media offerings, notably its Discover feature unveiled earlier this year. In addition, the Los Angeles based social network hired its first head of news, Peter Hamby, who worked for the cable network CNN in their Washington bureau.

In the UK, organisations like Radio 1’s Newsbeat are utilising Snapchat as part of their social media presence.

So what does this say about Snapchat and its role in covering the elections, and, more broadly, about journalism on the platform? Kettle recently spoke with Talya Minsberg, a social media editor with The New York Times, about its role in journalism and how it would affect international coverage of these campaigns. Below is that conversation.

What do you find drew publishers’ interests initially in Snapchat? What caught your interest?

When Snapchat premiered the Snapchat story feature in 2013, I think many publications started paying attention a bit more closely (myself included). Journalists are storytellers at their core. Snapchat stories provided a new, innovative way to share highly visual stories. They give reporters a new way to engage a new audience.  

How do you see Snapchat influencing how the Times looks at the campaign? Do you think social media has challenged how news organisations should cover the campaign, and perhaps more broadly, politics for younger audiences?

Since the Snapchat user base skews younger than the audience that may seek out news elsewhere, I think that news organizations are going to have to think creatively about how to present political news in a mobile first (and in the case of Snapchat, mobile only), and visual way. Snapchat stories are definitely pushing for news organizations to think a bit more out of the box, emojis, geofilters and all. [Canadian communications scholar] Marshall McLuhan’s words ring true: the medium is the message.

Irrespective of what is being covered, do you think Snapchat can be viable when it comes to social media journalism?

Absolutely. Most recently, we’ve seen how Snapchat has ventured into news by curating reactions to the Charleston shooting and to the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage. 

At The New York Times, we’ve given journalists the opportunity to “take over” thenytimes account, using the medium to tell their stories in new, highly visual ways. To name a few: Ari Isaacman Astles and I took followers to the streets of Washington DC and NYC following the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, Nick Kristof reported from Angola, Vanessa Friedman has taken viewers to the front row of runways and Fashion Week events around the world, Mike Isaac has taken viewers to technology conferences in Silicon Valley, Valeriya Safronova shared a Snapchat story from the Met Gala, and Marc Tracy has brought followers to March Madness and the NBA draft.

We’re doing some experimenting with Snapchat at The New York Times. To kick it off, The New York Times Opinion columnist Nicholas Kristof takes you to Angola.Want to see more? Follow us on Snapchat, username: thenytimes. I’d love to hear what you think! Comment below or send me an email at

Posted by Talya Minsberg on Saturday, March 14, 2015


When it comes to younger audiences, do you think Snapchat can still maintain its footing among other platforms?

I believe so. I think Snapchat is providing one of the best mobile video experiences out there. 

How do you see Snapchat changing the lens of covering the campaign from a global perspective?

Snapchat live stories have a massive global audience. If Snapchat can figure out how to best curate stories about the US election to interest the global audience that tunes into Live Stories every day, you may find a more global audience tuning into news on the US election cycle. The same goes for news organizations using Snapchat to share stories. Journalists must think about how to best engage their audience and best share their stories, whether that’s for a young global audience on a visual mobile app like Snapchat or in print. 

What do you think? Can Snapchat become dominant in the world of social media journalism? Have your say in the comments section below.

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