By ANDRES CORREA
If you hadn’t heard of Instagram before last April, you definitely knew about it after. In April 2012, Facebook acquired the photo-sharing program for approximately $1 billion, forcing the whole world to pay attention. The wisdom of that purchase can be debated, given that Instagram currently has no business model, but there is no arguing that Instagram has quickly become one of the most important social networking tools on the market. This, of course, has motivated us as journalists to examine what kind of benefits this program can bring to our industry.
Like all social networks, the main advantage of Instagram is that it makes the average citizen a part of the journalistic process. Before a journalist can even reach a big event, there may already be hundreds of photos available on Instagram. This program, like so many social networks, has allowed people to experience the news together and feel closer to their community and, in many cases, their country.
Instagram also allows amateur photojournalists an opportunity that has never before been seen. The array of filters on the program allow them to put a professional touch on their photographs before instantly sharing them with the world. Hashtags like “#breakingnews” allow them to categorize their photos, making it easier for users to find and view them. The best part? They can do this all in the spur of the moment on their phone while standing at a breaking news site.
However, like every other tool a journalist will use, there are some things you must be aware of when using Instagram. A journalist should not use someone else’s pictures from Instagram without first asking for permission and asking questions about the authenticity of the photograph. Just like with any other information a journalist uses, all your sources should be checked before using a photograph to assist in reporting a story. There can also be some danger in using filters on your photos. Some consumers of your information may feel cheated due to the difference between a filtered Instagram photo and the original image. The importance of providing an accurate story should always be the first priority and the images provided should be true to life.