Q and A: CBS Newspath’s Omar Villafranca on Vine

Last October, at Twitter’s New York City headquarters, journalists’ use of Vine took front and center like never before.

At the first Vine Journalism Awards, winners (some actually best described as citizen journalists) were honored for harnessing six seconds of video to deliver news with the Twitter-owned app. Omar Villafranca, now a Dallas Correspondent at CBS Newspath, emerged as a finalist for shooting the July 2013 video below that shows pro-choice advocates protesting an anti-abortion bill.

Villafranca gave more background on the video and shares other ways he uses Vine.

When and why did you decide to use Vine?
I started using Vine about a year ago. I was already using Twitter and posting pictures for reporting purposes, so video was the next thing I wanted to try. I was looking for a quick and easy way to quick bursts of video into my Twitter timeline.

Can you give a brief backstory on the Vine you won an award for?
I was covering the Texas Legislature and the abortion rights battle that was brewing. I had posted about a dozen Vines that day on the proceedings, the votes and the crowds in the rotunda. After the measure passed the Senate, a large crowd was outside the gallery. Tensions were already high after a long week of emotional debate.

A large group of Pro-Choice folks were sitting down and chanting. They didn’t want to move after Texas [Department of Public Safety] troopers asked them to disperse. A scuffle ensued and it quickly turned into a scene with troopers dragging away members of the crowd. Some members allowed the troopers to move them, some put up a fight.

I just grabbed my phone and used the app and posted it to my Twitter timeline. I was also taking pictures with my phone. Two photojournalists I was working with were getting video with a [much] better camera, but I knew I could get these images out must faster with my phone.

How has your Vine usage evolved over time?
My Vine usage hasn’t changed too much. I’ve always used it for work and for candid moments. A way to tease to a story or show what is happening now that we’ll show more of later.

If I see something while my photojournalist partner is shooting with the big camera, I’ll record it on my phone and post it to Vine. A lot of what I shoot on my phone won’t make it into the story because of time constraints, but sometimes it’s a little extra nugget, or perspective for a story.

Also, I don’t always post Vines to Twitter. Sometimes I just post them on my Vine account. I’m pretty sure there is no journalistic value in a Vine showing my dog, but if it’s a way to get me to practice using the app, the little hound will be my test subject.

One major concern is having context, and other journalistic principles, in a six-second video. How can journos use Vine to report news ethically and accurately?
I can understand the concerns about using Vine ethically. If it’s any place a camera is allowed, I’ll use the app. I’ll also type some text with the video to give context of what I’m showing.

See more of the award-winning Vines, as well as other Vine videos covering the ceremony, here.


Could Vine boost readership of traditional news?

Increasingly more journos have used Vine, some doing so to post behind-the-scenes glimpses into their newsroom, others to report news.

But USA Today has shared videos that not just spread their news, but draw attention to it in a surprisingly creative way.

January marked one year since USA Today joined the six-second video sharing app and started posting videos that featured glimpses of the paper’s headlines.

“When any new social platform launches, we’re eager to try it out and see if it’s a fit for USA Today. Vine gave us a unique opportunity to tell stories in a fast and colorful way,” said Mark W. Smith, USA Today’s Senior Manager of Social Media Marketing.

“Being on Vine is a way to be in front of people that we might not be in front of otherwise. There’s power in that, even if they aren’t clicking right from there to our website.”

Because their Vine followers are not clicking to USA Today’s website, Smith disagrees that the platform drives traffic.

He also says it does not get followers to read their paper, and that “Vine isn’t actually a traffic-driving platform at all.”

But Nick Westergaard, Chief Brand Strategist of Brand Driven Digital, felt differently when he ranked the paper among the most innovative brands on Vine.

“Beyond being a simple teaser, these glimpses may inspire you to go find a paper to get the rest of the story,” he wrote in the April post.

USA Today has pulled the plug on the original style and now uses stop-motion animation in their videos.

Westergaard praises the new look, but said USA Today’s tactic of featuring quick shots of the headlines could benefit publications on a tight budget.

“I know papers are strapped for time and resources, but this would literally take just a bit more than six seconds to put together with no special breath or anything,” he said, even noting that weekly papers could try it out.

Tom Brokaw echoed a similar theory of Westergaard’s about social media getting people to consume news traditionally. Read more here.

Washington Post’s Cory Haik tackles Snapchat for Super Bowl live-snapping

Last Super Bowl Sunday, Cory Haik, a digital editor at the Washington Post, got creative with Snapchat. During the big game, Haik took to Snapchat, live-snapped the TV ads, and finished with 133 seconds worth of photos.

The live-snapping came roughly three weeks after the Washington Post started their Snapchat account.

Masuma Ahuja, who produces the Washington Post’s Politics section’s Snapchat presence, said they joined the social network to better engage their readers.

She also noted the Stories feature, which allows posts to remain for 24 hours (as opposed to regular ones vanishing in seconds), “has real potential to be a powerful tool for journalists.”

And Washington Post is not the only news outlet that has arrived on Snapchat.

In this podcast with Journalism.co.uk editor Rachel Bartlett, Haik, Mashable’s Jeff Petriello, NowThis News’ Maya Tanaka, and Vice Magazine’s Jonathan Hunt, describe the intimate ways they interact with their Snapchat followers and share their future plans in harnessing the platform.