Snapchat and Instagram aren't just the future of social media. They're the present.
Anybody who's been paying attention knows that among young users - high school students and college students - Snapchat and Instagram are the most popular platforms. Everyone's on Facebook, but Facebook stinks for real-time live events (because of the algorithm). Twitter? It's becoming increasingly clear that Twitter isn't growing at all. It increasingly feels like the platform is reporters talking to each other. Twitter’s not all bad, but it’s clearly got issues. Also, it promotes bad news habits.
So if Instagram and Snapchat are our present/future, how can we cover sports with these apps? Not the way we’re using it now — not in a way that complements the “real coverage,” but in a way that stands on its own?
I'll be the first person to admit that I don't get Snapchat. I've tried, but it hasn’t clicked with me
But my students are on these platforms in a big way. Their peers are. That feels important. It feels like we should, at least in an experimental way, use them in our sports coverage. Which presents a challenge. Facebook and Twitter are mainly text-based social media. Twitter, in fact, is a natural fit for journalists. It incentivizes real-time updates and breaking news — both behaviors that were already a huge part of journalism but have been accentuated by Twitter’s speed.
Instagram and Snapchat are different. They’re photo based. They’re non-linear. They don’t lend themselves to traditional sports journalism practices.
That’s why they’re so exciting. They’re not made for me. They’re made for my students.
It seems like a losing battle to teach them how to cover sports solely the way I did a decade ago. It seems like a better use of their time to let them figure out how to cover sports with these newer, image-heavy platforms.
The McGuffin, of course, is that it's not about Snapchat or Instagram. It's about thinking of new ways to cover sports that go beyond the traditional mold.