BBC News India uses WhatsApp, WeChat for election coverage

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have played a significant role in election news.

But for India’s presidential election, now underway, BBC News India is delivering its news on two less-traditional social media apps: WhatsApp and WeChat.

Both are among a cadre of apps that allow private messaging, which has become increasingly popular in social media.

BBC News India will post three messages a day to WhatsApp and one a day to WeChat so they don’t “appear intrusive,” BBC News India’s Trushar Barot told

BBC isn’t new to using WhatsApp to report, as it first began doing so last year when Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines. The experience revealed WhatsApp’s diverse array of users, he said.

“One of the things we [realized] is we’re reaching a very broad demographic and in certain parts of the world the people who use WhatsApp are actually quite poor…That’s a demographic that we don’t generally tend to reach through traditional social media.”

WeChat has also drawn an oppressed demographic, as the Nieman Journalism Lab reports it emerged in China as a citizen journalism tool to basically share news that traditional journalists were getting paid to cover up.

Tutorial offers newsrooms useful social media advice

Less than a week after the release of Pew’s revealing State of the News Media study, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism has followed with a tutorial, by multimedia professor Paul Grabowicz, advising news orgs on how to tackle their social media efforts.

The research-rich guide, called “the transition to digital journalism,” covers virtually all forms of digital journalism. Some of what the social media section explains is when to tweet, how some under-the-radar social networking platforms are being used, and to what extent social media is driving people to news websites.

Click here for the part on social media, or here to begin at the tutorial’s intro.

ESPN’s Grantland gets artsy with Steve Nash documentary, ‘The Finish Line’

NBA player Steve Nash joined the Los Angeles Lakers in July 2012, but since then has spent most of his life off the court recovering from injuries.

The 40-year-old’s journey tending to these injuries, as well as facing his grim, NBA future, is chronicled in a YouTube documentary series called “The Finish Line.” The surprisingly cinematic series, presented by ESPN’s Grantland on their YouTube channel, debuted February 14 13 with its second and most recent installment coming February 28.

Sports media blog Awful Announcing calls the series “outstanding.”

“We’ve grown accustomed to the site churning out articles with varying degrees of success, but this video series is a step in a new and refreshing direction. They’re no stranger to video (Grantland has 561 videos on their YouTube page), but this is new territory. The feature on Nash is a personal look at one of the most familiar names in the NBA at the end of the career.”

The production team behind the project, Hock Films, is led by Emmy-winning filmmaker Jonathan Hock and has specialized in sports docs, making some with ESPN. However, the Nash project apparently marks the first on social media. Hock discussed his experience reporting for the series in this ESPN radio interview.

Q and A: CBS Newspath’s Omar Villafranca on Vine

Last October, at Twitter’s New York City headquarters, journalists’ use of Vine took front and center like never before.

At the first Vine Journalism Awards, winners (some actually best described as citizen journalists) were honored for harnessing six seconds of video to deliver news with the Twitter-owned app. Omar Villafranca, now a Dallas Correspondent at CBS Newspath, emerged as a finalist for shooting the July 2013 video below that shows pro-choice advocates protesting an anti-abortion bill.

Villafranca gave more background on the video and shares other ways he uses Vine.

When and why did you decide to use Vine?
I started using Vine about a year ago. I was already using Twitter and posting pictures for reporting purposes, so video was the next thing I wanted to try. I was looking for a quick and easy way to quick bursts of video into my Twitter timeline.

Can you give a brief backstory on the Vine you won an award for?
I was covering the Texas Legislature and the abortion rights battle that was brewing. I had posted about a dozen Vines that day on the proceedings, the votes and the crowds in the rotunda. After the measure passed the Senate, a large crowd was outside the gallery. Tensions were already high after a long week of emotional debate.

A large group of Pro-Choice folks were sitting down and chanting. They didn’t want to move after Texas [Department of Public Safety] troopers asked them to disperse. A scuffle ensued and it quickly turned into a scene with troopers dragging away members of the crowd. Some members allowed the troopers to move them, some put up a fight.

I just grabbed my phone and used the app and posted it to my Twitter timeline. I was also taking pictures with my phone. Two photojournalists I was working with were getting video with a [much] better camera, but I knew I could get these images out must faster with my phone.

How has your Vine usage evolved over time?
My Vine usage hasn’t changed too much. I’ve always used it for work and for candid moments. A way to tease to a story or show what is happening now that we’ll show more of later.

If I see something while my photojournalist partner is shooting with the big camera, I’ll record it on my phone and post it to Vine. A lot of what I shoot on my phone won’t make it into the story because of time constraints, but sometimes it’s a little extra nugget, or perspective for a story.

Also, I don’t always post Vines to Twitter. Sometimes I just post them on my Vine account. I’m pretty sure there is no journalistic value in a Vine showing my dog, but if it’s a way to get me to practice using the app, the little hound will be my test subject.

One major concern is having context, and other journalistic principles, in a six-second video. How can journos use Vine to report news ethically and accurately?
I can understand the concerns about using Vine ethically. If it’s any place a camera is allowed, I’ll use the app. I’ll also type some text with the video to give context of what I’m showing.

See more of the award-winning Vines, as well as other Vine videos covering the ceremony, here.

Could Vine boost readership of traditional news?

Increasingly more journos have used Vine, some doing so to post behind-the-scenes glimpses into their newsroom, others to report news.

But USA Today has shared videos that not just spread their news, but draw attention to it in a surprisingly creative way.

January marked one year since USA Today joined the six-second video sharing app and started posting videos that featured glimpses of the paper’s headlines.

“When any new social platform launches, we’re eager to try it out and see if it’s a fit for USA Today. Vine gave us a unique opportunity to tell stories in a fast and colorful way,” said Mark W. Smith, USA Today’s Senior Manager of Social Media Marketing.

“Being on Vine is a way to be in front of people that we might not be in front of otherwise. There’s power in that, even if they aren’t clicking right from there to our website.”

Because their Vine followers are not clicking to USA Today’s website, Smith disagrees that the platform drives traffic.

He also says it does not get followers to read their paper, and that “Vine isn’t actually a traffic-driving platform at all.”

But Nick Westergaard, Chief Brand Strategist of Brand Driven Digital, felt differently when he ranked the paper among the most innovative brands on Vine.

“Beyond being a simple teaser, these glimpses may inspire you to go find a paper to get the rest of the story,” he wrote in the April post.

USA Today has pulled the plug on the original style and now uses stop-motion animation in their videos.

Westergaard praises the new look, but said USA Today’s tactic of featuring quick shots of the headlines could benefit publications on a tight budget.

“I know papers are strapped for time and resources, but this would literally take just a bit more than six seconds to put together with no special breath or anything,” he said, even noting that weekly papers could try it out.

Tom Brokaw echoed a similar theory of Westergaard’s about social media getting people to consume news traditionally. Read more here.

Washington Post’s Cory Haik tackles Snapchat for Super Bowl live-snapping

Last Super Bowl Sunday, Cory Haik, a digital editor at the Washington Post, got creative with Snapchat. During the big game, Haik took to Snapchat, live-snapped the TV ads, and finished with 133 seconds worth of photos.

The live-snapping came roughly three weeks after the Washington Post started their Snapchat account.

Masuma Ahuja, who produces the Washington Post’s Politics section’s Snapchat presence, said they joined the social network to better engage their readers.

She also noted the Stories feature, which allows posts to remain for 24 hours (as opposed to regular ones vanishing in seconds), “has real potential to be a powerful tool for journalists.”

And Washington Post is not the only news outlet that has arrived on Snapchat.

In this podcast with editor Rachel Bartlett, Haik, Mashable’s Jeff Petriello, NowThis News’ Maya Tanaka, and Vice Magazine’s Jonathan Hunt, describe the intimate ways they interact with their Snapchat followers and share their future plans in harnessing the platform.


Covering the use of social media in journalism