Opinion: Can a Popular Instagram Account Be Considered Journalism?

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October 11, 2021

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A popular Instagram account called ‘impact’ claims to provide what it calls, “Digestible and socially impactful content,” for its 1.8 million followers. Recent posts range from shared photos and information about the recent treatment of thousands of Haitians seeking asylum in the U.S. and students protesting against their high school after a coach was pressured to quit after he revealed his sexual orientation as gay. Students stood outside their school with signs showing support for their coach and asking for him to come back. 

Other posts on impact explore the difference between the terms “Hispanic,” “Latine/x,” and “Latino/a” and how “White Veganism” disregards the history of veganism in other cultures. This seems like standard fare for many mainstream glossy magazines and popular news websites. But should impact be considered journalism?

Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel describe journalism in their book, The Elements of Journalism as, “Storytelling with a purpose.” Kovach and Rosenstiel expand on this and share, “That purpose is to provide people with the information they need to understand the world.”

Just recently, impact shared a post that covered the issue of Madagascar experiencing a food shortage linked to climate change. Images highlight how the climate crisis has led to famine in the region. From crops drying up and people relying on insects as their food source to people having to collect water from a puddle, the way that impact relays this information to its followers gives readers an understanding of what is happening in parts of the world.

impact also has shared an educational post on ‘White Veganism,’ which informs its followers of what it is and how, “White veganism is a form of veganism that is catered towards predominantly white and wealthy groups of people, ignoring intersectionality and the cultural roots of veganism.” 

With this information backed by sources and its use of images to show exactly what white veganism is, impact goes beyond the service of its posts for its followers and serves as an educational resource for unfamiliar topics. Kovach and Rosenstiel also share in their book that, “Journalism has always been more of a service — a means for providing social connection and knowledge — than a fixed product.”

impact has also posted on their account information regarding how essential workers in a meatpacking plant in Nebraska were denied Covid-19 protection as well as coverage on National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the importance of breast self-exams. As impact utilizes Instagram’s format, in creating the content that they have, the account has created a resource for its followers to easily follow, read, but also stay engaged in. Just as Kovach and Rosenstiel shared again in their book, “Part of journalism’s responsibility is not just providing information but also providing it in such a way that people will be inclined to listen,” a feat that the account does, which therefore allows the platform to serve as a journalistic force on the crowded social media stage.

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