How stories tailored to Instagram are following in the footsteps of newspapers

Like old-school papers, news stories created specifically for the photo- and video-sharing social network have built-in accountability.

Hey y’all! Anita here. It’s been just over two weeks since I pre-launched The Green Line, a new local outlet that investigates the way we live to produce journalism that helps young Torontonians survive and thrive in a rapidly changing city. To date, we’ve published five stories on our Instagram account 🖼️

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My team of four fellows and I created an original format for short-form Green Line stories that are tailored to the photo- and video-sharing social network. We have two kinds of short-form stories: engagement-focused pieces that highlight community members in the city and more in-depth pieces covering systemic issues that impact the lives of Torontonians, especially gen Zs and millennials. 

I came up with the concept for this format after observing the evolution of my own news-consumption habits, as well as those of other young Torontonians, including my students. I noticed that I was less and less interested in reading the kinds of 400- to 500-word articles that you’re taught to produce in journalism schools and at daily outlets, and gravitated instead towards getting my news from social media. Instagram, in particular, seems to be the preferred platform for people in their 20s and 30s.

Because Instagram is a highly visual platform, my team and I wanted to leverage its features, rather than try to shoe-horn a format originally meant for another platform into it — something that many news outlets are guilty of doing. That means lots of photos, audio, videos, data visualizations and succinct sentences written in bullet-point form. Here are a couple of examples:

This story by News Innovation Fellow Stephanie Bai is a companion piece to The Green Line’s very first story about why so many Torontonians with disabilities are having trouble getting vaccinated on their own. It tracks the commute that Andrea Boghina would’ve had to take via transit if her friend hadn’t driven her from Scarborough to a vaccine clinic in Mississauga. This is a perfect example of the kind of story that our original format brings to life. Video clips that capture Boghina navigating the stairs at subway stations, and audio clips in which we hear her describe how intimidating the commute would’ve been, plainly show Boghina’s physical and emotional struggles with commuting long distances.

This engagement piece by News Innovation Fellow Alex Varoutas is the first in a new Instagram-exclusive series called What’s In My Fridge? The idea behind this series is simple: We learn about Torontonians across the city by going through the contents of their fridges. Because the series profiles individuals, it’s important that their unique voices shine through. That’s why we leaned heavily into video, which is the best medium for showcasing someone’s personality.

There’s another benefit to creating stories for Instagram: It’s the ideal format for modern times when misinformation is rampant and trust in news is at a low. Why? Instagram — or at least our original format tailored to Instagram — is very much like a newspaper. If there’s an error on one of the slides, you can’t just quickly edit it and update the piece as with an online news article. You have to either take down the entire post or more preferably, leave the error and add a correction in the caption section (then republish a corrected version of the post).  

In other words, this format holds The Green Line accountable to our followers by effectively forcing us to be transparent about our mistakes. There’s something comfortingly nostalgic, not to mention trustworthy, about a public correction in the vein of old-school newspaper corrections.


Follow The Green Line

My team and I are having a blast building The Green Line. So, join us and tune in to our Instagram (short-form news), TikTok (comedy, op-eds, BTS), Twitter and Facebook to see how The Green Line develops.


Shout-outs

Thanks to The Morning News, an independent web ’zine founded in 1999, for featuring my newsletter on memes in journalism in this roundup


In my community

  • The Institute for Nonprofit News approached me to lead their Startup Sessions, where I coach nonprofit media outlets on strategic planning and audience development. INN members qualify for a discount. Here’s a list of my services.

  • The 100-day Journalism Creators Program at CUNY’s Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where I teach, is now accepting applications. Join a global cohort to strengthen your media entrepreneurship skills and network, while learning how to build a newsletter, website or podcast. Apply by Aug. 29. Scholarships are available. 

  • Check out this article from The Creative School at Ryerson University, which describes how my colleague Kris Alexander and I combined our areas of expertise to explore the ways video games can intersect with journalism to enhance digital storytelling. Then revisit this newsletter in which I feature Kris and his work.


Cool stuff I like

  • Since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called an early election, I’ve been thinking about this recent Andrew Coyne op-ed in The Globe that discusses how the Conservative Party’s "temperament" is "putting off voters." I don’t care where you fall on the political spectrum — I can get down with anyone who emphasizes the importance of character, especially in our leaders.

  • I loved the latest edition of Heated, one of my top three newsletters, which provides concrete suggestions for how people can make real attempts to tackle climate change on a systemic level.

  • Canadian-American actor Brendan Fraser — best known for starring in The Mummy film series and my favourite video on the internet — is making a comeback and I am here for it. Apparently, as seen in this sweet TikTok, the entire internet is here for it.


How you can support The Other Wave

My professional mission has always been to support the global movement towards more thoughtful, impactful news coverage, and all the ways that manifests. If The Other Wave gets you to think even a little differently about journalism, especially in Canada, then I will have accomplished what I set out to do. And if TOW gets you to take action and support Canadian media outlets — especially ones that strive to be innovative and inclusive — I will have exceeded my expectations.

If my values and goals resonate with you, please consider supporting fiercely independent media analysis that fills in gaps in coverage of the Canadian journalism landscape. How? Feel free to provide feedback, pass along resources, donate money or simply share this newsletter with your friends.