Snapchat has taken many by surprise by making its grand entry into the field of live news coverage.
On December 2, as the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, was unfolding, the ephemeral messaging app took the unprecedented step of creating a "California Shooting" live story. The Snapchat team curated the story by adding video and images from the app's users as news of the event was still breaking online and on TV networks across the U.S.
Whereas in the past Snapchat's live stories were dedicated to a particular scheduled event, such as the Pope's visit to New York or a political debate, this was its first attempt to position itself as a source for breaking news coverage.
The move has been met with mixed reception from viewers, reports Mashable. Some hailed it as a democratization of the news and another stepping stone on the path to integrating citizen journalism into the wider media framework. Others, however, were disturbed by the idea of watching coverage of an unfolding tragedy on a messaging app.
Commenting on the decision, Snapchat's VP of Communications, Mary Ritti, issued the following statement to the International Business Times: "We published [the 'California Shooting'] story because we felt that the content, which comes from the L.A. local story, was newsworthy and held national significance. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families."
Snapchat also illustrated some of the breaking visuals -- many depicting the experience of the app's users that were present in the vicinity -- with text (some using the app's distinct geofilters), including official statements from local authorities, to explain the context behind the images.
Although other media outlets -- including Digital Trends -- use Snapchat to break news stories and highlight their coverage without their own team of reporters on the ground, the app has to rely on the images from regular users. The advantage Snapchat has over other social networks, which are also trying to curate news events to attract users, is that it deals in visuals. Although a hashtag devoted to the mass shooting was trending on Twitter yesterday, users searching for video news coverage of the event would likely have had to trawl through tweets to find it.
The San Bernardino mass shooting saw 14 people killed and 21 more injured. The two shooters involved in the incident have been identified as Syed Farook, 28, and his wife Tashfeen Malik, 27. News continues to develop.