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The awkward rise of Instagram as a news site| GuyWhoKnowsThings

On a recent Wednesday in Brooklyn's Dumbo neighborhood, Mosheh Oinounou, a former CBS, Bloomberg News and Fox News producer, took to Instagram. He had started the morning reading the major newspapers and more than a dozen newsletters. He then spent much of the day turning many of the articles into posts on his Instagram account, under the handle Mo News.

A Wall Street Journal article about older Americans was conveyed through an image of a cake that read, “A record number of Americans will turn 65 this year: rich, active and single.” At times, Oinounou, an affable 41-year-old, also appeared on camera with the co-host of his daily news podcast to explain the importance of how the Republican presidential candidates were polling and why President Biden was a frontrunner. written. candidate in New Hampshire.

The content has earned Mo News 436,000 followers on Instagram, turning what had been a pandemic side project into a company with three full-time employees and increased attention. In December, the State Department offered Mo News an interview with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. Oinounou said the agency had told him: “We understand how people receive news.”

“People are very critical and cynical about the information they get from traditional media,” Oinounou said in an interview. “It resonates where this guy on Instagram is breaking the news.”

Oinounou is part of a group of personalities who have figured out how to package information and deliver it on Instagram, increasingly turning the social platform into a news force. Many millennials and Gen Xers, in an echo of how older generations used Facebook, have become more comfortable reading news on Instagram and reposting posts and videos to friends on Instagram Stories, which disappear after 24 hours.

Traditional news organizations, including The New York Times, have large Instagram accounts where they share reports, but these news accounts have a different appeal and have become more visible in recent years.

They curate content like old-school blogs and talk to the camera like TikTok and YouTube influencers. They pull headlines from many major media outlets and add their own analysis. They talk to their followers in comments and through direct messages, using the comments and questions to shape additional posts. Many promise not to be partisan.

“For many people, they have the chefs they trust, the doctors they trust and then there's a category of news and information they trust,” said Jessica Yellin, former CNN chief White House correspondent. Ms. Yellin, who has more than 650,000 followers on your news Instagram account and a media brand called News Not Noise calls itself an “informer.”

All of this makes Meta-owned Instagram an increasingly important media outlet in this year's US presidential election. As of last year, 16 percent of American adults regularly I have news on Instagramsurpassing TikTok, X and Reddit, and rising from 8 percent in 2018, according to Pew Research. More than half of that group were women.

News influencers have become popular on Instagram even as the platform has attempted to deemphasize political content. Instagram and its sister platform, Facebook, have been plagued by accusations of spreading misinformation and inflaming political debates. Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, has been reluctant to have the app partner with or promote news accounts.

This month, Mosseri said Instagram would not recommend “political content” in different parts of the app unless users opted to see it. The platform said the political content included posts that were “potentially related to things like laws, elections or social issues.”

In the week following Mosseri's announcement, news accounts saw a decline in shares, comments, likes, reach and video views, according to an analysis by Dash Hudson, a social media management company. Post shares of 70 major news accounts on Instagram, including The Times and NPR, fell 26 percent week over week on average, the firm found.

In protest, Yellin made a video denouncing Instagram's changes and wrote in his newsletter that the measures would “inevitably impact how well-informed the electorate is and could have far-reaching repercussions for the future of the media and even democracy.” .

An Instagram spokeswoman declined to comment beyond Mosseri's statements. Mosseri has previously praised some influential people in the news for his work. Follow a paid, subscriber-only Mo News account on Instagram.

Other notable news influencers on Instagram include Sharon Mc Mahon, 46, a former high school teacher in Duluth, Minnesota, who has attracted more than a million followers by explaining the fundamentals of government. There are more overtly political influencers, such as Emily Amick, 39 years old, lawyer with more than 134,000 followers. Other news accounts include Rock Newsfounded by 20-somethings who see Instagram as a key way to reach their peers who feel alienated by traditional news media.

McMahon said she was inspired to start her Instagram feed after seeing misinformation in the run-up to the 2020 election. She recently posted graphics about migrant encounters at the US southern border on her Instagram account. obtained from Customs and Border Protection, garnering more than 30,000 likes, as well as an interview with Rep. Dean Phillips, a Minnesota Democrat who is a long-shot challenger. to President Biden.

“I don't really see myself as a journalist, but more like a teacher,” Ms. McMahon said. “I'm explaining what's going on instead of getting the scoop, digging up the story and finding sources.”

Instagram is a starting point for expanding into newsletters and podcasts, where accounts can earn money from ads or subscriptions. Many news influencers also accept paid sponsorship deals that they incorporate into Instagram posts. McMahon runs a private book club for subscribers, which has a waiting list to join, and offers paid video workshops to learn more about government and current political issues.

Yellin, a former CNN correspondent, began posting news on Instagram in 2018, around the time of Brett M. Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation hearings. She explained to people what had happened at the hearings and published explanations during the Trump administration, such as defining terms such as sanctions for her supporters.

Yellin's rise was helped by celebrity fans like Jessica Seinfeld and Amy Schumer. Seinfeld, who has about 600,000 followers on Instagram, found Yellin's news account and urged people to follow her.

“My idea was that we can engage those who avoid the news and we can also engage people who are partially paying attention to the news but are panicking,” said Yellin, who has five full- and part-time employees.

Their ethos when it comes to providing news on Instagram is summed up in their motto: “We give you information, not a panic attack.”

When the White House hosted an inaugural party for internet influencers last year, Oinounou, Yellin and Amick were invited. Christian Tom, director of the White House digital strategy office, who helped come up with the idea for the match, said the administration regularly worked with Instagram news accounts.

“There are so many accounts that share news and information that have an audience of millions of people who may not hear from the White House or follow the White House at all,” he said.

Tom pointed to Instagram-first news brands like @Impact and @Betches_News, meme and entertainment accounts like @Pubity, and progressive media publications like MeidasTouch and A More Perfect Union.

“Each generation makes these tools and uses them in their own way,” he said.

Even with Instagram's changes to news content, users can still see news from accounts they already follow and through their friends' Stories.

“Everyone has become a kind of broadcaster or source of information for their friends and family,” Oinounou said.

Amick said he had seen his peers gravitate to Instagram for news as “social media apps have become stratified by generation.” She considers herself a sort of “general opinion editor,” rather than a news source like Mo News or Yellin, and sees Instagram as a place to mobilize millennial women around issues like reproductive rights.

“My friends who are millennial moms are busy: They have jobs, they have kids, they have to put food on the table,” she said. “They don't have a lot of extra time to consume news and they were already on Instagram. So this is the way for them to consume news through a modality that they are already using.”

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