I walked out of the AM to PM with a fresh pack of gum and water bottle in my hands. In an attempt to beat the blazing August heat, I sat down on a bench located under the shade of a tree on the corner of Exposition and Vermont. Totally enraptured in switching between iPhone apps, the surrounding sidewalks and passing cars failed to capture my attention. Then, as if out of nowhere, Ebony showed up—a petite, stylish African-American girl who made herself comfortable on a bench about ten feet away from mine. Her green ombré hairstyle immediately caught my attention; her style had an interesting edge and I yearned to know more.
After about a minute of mustering up my courage, I got up and traveled to her bench with my backpack in tow. “Hello,” I said, plopping my bag down on the far side of the bench, “I’m Maddie, and I’m a student at Annenberg School of Journalism at USC. I’m working on a project where I need to conduct a short interview on my Snapchat. Would you be willing to help me out?” Confused but seemingly polite-by-nature, she said, “Sure, but I don’t really have interesting things to say.” A little voice in my head told me this was wrong.
It started out formally and I asked her the basics—her name, what she is passionate about, etc. In the beginning, she was shy and stayed humble with her answers. But as time went on, we shared giggles about fashion and her love for skateboarding and cooking and our conversations grew deeper. We gradually developed a sense of comfort with each other and I think she started to trust my intentions. Eventually, I didn’t need to ask any questions in particular, because she started opening up to me and began to reveal more than I ever expected.
“Well actually, I need a new skateboard,” the 17-year-old explained, “The [foster care] placement that I went to was really bad and the girls would steal my stuff and they took my skateboard.”
She continued, “I got abused by my foster mom. She was like, ignorant. All the girls got out. Every night there were roaches on the bed.” Suddenly feeling deep empathy for her, I wasn’t sure how to react to this, so I just nodded and listened.
“It was just terrible,” she said. “It’s not like home. Home is better when you’re with your parents.”
“I forgive people though… I have more opportunities. I’m still young.”
After wishing her well in her culinary and skateboarding endeavors, I returned to campus with tears in my eyes and a newfound sense of gratitude. Watching the story back, I realized how Snapchat has the potential to be used for more than just inside jokes with your friends and drunken debauchery. Everyone has a story, and thanks to this assignment, I was able to empower Ebony’s voice and lend a listening ear.
by Madeline White
After having a hearty lunch, I decided to ask people around USC why they did NOT use Snapchat. With over 100 million users, Snapchat in an elite class in terms of popular appeal, but a healthy portion of the population still do not use the application; some have never heard of the program, while others refuse to use it.
I went out to the crowd and asked whatever stranger was willing to listen if they used Snapchat or not, and if they did not, I followed up with a simple, “why?” I found that people were less willing to talk on camera than if it was an audio piece or a text interview.
I was still able to secure five quality interviews, but it was a lot more difficult to get testimony from people who were about to have their image out on a social media outlet that was not their own. I have a feeling that getting interviews using people’s images will be similarly difficult in the future.
Nevertheless, I will be using Snapchat for future mobile reporting because it is an incredibly easy platform to use to spread news. The simple point, shoot and instant upload function of the application makes it effortless to spread news in an enjoyable flow.
My usage of Snapchat will mainly be focused on breaking news because it gets video and images on the web quickly and seamlessly. Profiling people with interesting stories will also be a great way to utilize the program and tell their stories in short consumable snippets.
As a journalistic tool, mundane tasks should never be shown. Even with new technology, newsworthiness should still be a priority when exposing a story. If the story is not newsworthy, it should not be uploaded or spread through social media, including Snapchat.
I was not a voracious Snapchat user before this assignment, so there was a lot that I learned today. I learned to think like a consumer and built my shots and interviews around what I felt people would be interested in.
The assignment also opened my eyes to people’s apprehension about being on camera and having it be shown to the public. I’ve had little to no trouble getting people to talk on audio and in a text interview, but with video is completely different in terms of people and the protection of their image.
My original idea was to go around and ask the professors what they loved/hated about the master’s students so far, but that quickly got shot down by some professors (not mine, because obviously mine are the best).
So I decided to think of something that my audience would actually care about – and I came up with the question of “Who is Tommy Trojan?” So I walked over to the wonderful statue of Tommy and started by introducing my subject to my audience. Then I went about finding people to interview for my snap story.
People were generally very willing to donate 10 seconds of their time to talk to me about who Tommy Trojan is. Sadly my last snap, which was the official explanation of who Tommy Trojan was from a USC tour guide, the audio was corrupt and I had to take it out of my story.
I could honestly see SnapChat being used for a lot of different kinds of stories. I like that it’s still a democratic app that essentially crowd funds its material so that anyone can upload material to it. I think the crowd funded material is really interested because you get to see a lot of different perspectives that you wouldn’t normally have been able to.
I think if used correctly, it could be a really amazing way to tell short stories. I don’t think it could be used to do investigative or really deep pieces (maybe emotionally deep). But it’s really good for breaking news (like Charleston or Ferguson) or regular news like stories about larger events like the end of Ramadan. It’s honestly really good for both dramatic and mundane events.
I learned that although it’s easy to create a SnapChat story, you have to be very careful about making sure that its organized really well and planned out well, because you can’t upload something in hindsight (unless you have the third party app). The other thing would be that you have to be conscientious that you’re filming it correctly. It’s really easy to accidentally delete a snap before it gets posted. So you have to be really careful about making sure you have edited it and uploaded it and not accidentally deleting. There are issues with the fact that it doesn’t automatically save what you’re working on, so it’s easy to lose what you’re working on.
I chose to do a Snapchat video. I interviewed workers at the Natural History Museum about their favorite exhibits and then filmed the exhibits. I don’t know that this was the best use of Snapchat as it involved a lot of running around to get the story in chronological order, however after the initial learning curve it was fun to run around and talk to different people.
The thing that I liked about Snapchat is that it was liberating to not have to be quite so polished. I think the lower quality worked for this story as it gave it a more behind the scenes look and feel. I also liked that it made me think about putting a story together differently as I’ve never had to film anything in chronological order before.
Chronological order was also a little challenging. Once I started filming my story I wished I could have gone back and filmed a little intro. I also filmed a snake and somehow it didn’t get saved to my story until it was too late to go back and add it! Snakes are cool so that was a bummer (and now the visuals for the first employee are incomplete!) Next time I’ll make sure to go back and check the story before recording something else. I also started with someone who gave very specific examples and wrote text on the rats, spiders and snakes, but it didn’t work as well for the others so I wish I could have gone back and changed that to make it more uniform.
It was fun not to worry as much about the quality of the video, but as my work is normally really polished I think I would still want to play around with it to work on finding a way to do projects on it that I can be more creative or find a way to still have my style and aesthetic come through in the stories.
With what I do I think it will be fun to play around with some of these mobile elements a little more. I’ve done videos for Facebook and Instagram, but Snapchat has always confused me a little bit, so it was nice to get over this fear. I also plan to download some of the other movie apps to play around with a more traditional mobile video.
What Is Summer? – Snapchat Story
Having opted for option 2 of the mobile assignment, I thought of picking a topic that is current and light-hearted. It was a beautiful summer day today, so the theme of my Snapchat story was asking students around the USC campus what they thought about summer.
Like it or hate it, everyone has an opinion about seasons and summer is no exception. Most claimed that they like it, except for one person. While I faced a few rejections here and there, most people were welcoming and more than happy to take part.
Snapchat is meant to be fun, so I consider the app to be designed for such stories. Furthermore, with the temporary and self-destructive nature of the stories on this platform, the themes covered should be current and bound to have a viral effect, since stories only have a window of 24 hours to be seen.
Therefore, breaking news fit Snapchat really well, as the element of novelty is necessary to attract people’s attention. Besides being current, the stories should also be relevant to the youth, considering Snapchat’s demographic, and they have to engage the audience in order to generate the desired coverage, as users only share the most interesting and compelling pieces with their online social circles.
Personally, the experience was very intriguing and educational. This was the first time I used my mobile device to work on a story, and I see the appeal of this medium. Recent studies have indicated that among digital media, mobile remains the most under-explored, yet the most utilized portal.
For years, news outlets and advertisers alike have focused on traditional digital marketing (i.e. desktop and laptop) while ignoring the increase in mobile usage and the potential of mobile digital marketing. For this reason, mobile is expected to experience the biggest spike in terms of importance and take priority over other media in coming years. In that sense, apps like Snapchat do represent the future.
Through this assignment, I learned that covering stories through apps like Snapchat makes the entire experience lighter and more accessible for both the reporter and respondents. I do see myself using this app for stories that are shorter, more immediate and rather fun in nature.
I did an iMovie and also added a Snapchat for practice.
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