Instagram and RJI partner for Instagram Local News Fellowship

Missouri School of Journalism students will help three metro newsrooms refine their Instagram strategy during a summer fellowship offered by the social platform and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute.

The Instagram Local News summer fellowship pairs a student fellow with a mentor from the newspaper’s newsroom, who will help guide their work to further develop an Instagram presence for the paper. The program provides newsrooms with extra hands that are users of this technology, while offering students real-world experiences in top newsrooms.

The fellows and their fellowship locations are:

  • Magdaline Duncan, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
  • Emily Dunn, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • Grace Lett, The Boston Globe

“There’s great interest in learning more about the intersection of social media and news,” says Randy Picht, executive director at RJI. “Who better to help figure it out, than the digital natives that are right in the middle of it?”

The fellows will help craft an Instagram strategy designed to jumpstart participating newsrooms’ presence on the platform, extending their reach and building new audiences, particularly younger audiences.

“We are thrilled to work with RJI to support local news and the next generation of visual journalists,” said Lila King, head of news and publishing partnerships at Instagram. “At Instagram, we find that news publishers’ success on the platform is often a reflection of how well they serve young audiences, and part of serving young audiences is allowing them to be part of the process. I look forward to seeing how the fellows, together with their newsroom mentors, imagine local news for a new audience.”

“We want to reach our audience wherever they go, and the potential of Instagram is endless,” said St. Louis Post-Dispatch Digital Editor Amanda St. Amand. “This can be a great platform for storytelling and sharing our journalism.”

Additionally, the student fellows will be working with high school students, from a high school without a student newspaper, in proximity to their assigned newsroom. The high school student will work on a small Instagram story project about a Gen Z specific topic. Nico Gendron, a 2018-2019 RJI Fellow, will oversee this element of the Instagram Local News Fellowship.

“Instagram is such an essential platform for Gen Z. They’re a visually driven generation whose news and information needs are best served by a platform like Instagram,” says Gendron. “It will be exciting to see how the three participating newspapers’ grow their Gen Z and younger audiences with a defined Instagram strategy.”

Meet the fellows

Magdaline Duncan

Magdaline Duncan, of Rolla, Missouri, is graduating in May with an emphasis in emerging media. She will be working with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Duncan says she is excited for the opportunity to work creatively and collaboratively with the Star-Tribune on their social media channels. “In our media saturated world, it’s essential for journalists to constantly come up with new ways to reach our audience and hold their attention.”

She hopes to spend her summer fellowship helping significantly grow the Tribune’s Instagram following, improving her design skills to create eye-catching and informative content for their newsfeed, and to doing some original mobile reporting for their Instagram Stories.

“I’ve developed a love for politics during my time at the journalism school, and I want to use Instagram to convey important information about the Minnesota state government in a way that’s engaging and entertaining for younger audiences,” Duncan says. “I can’t wait to explore Minneapolis and learn more about the city through the Star-Tribune’s content and my own reporting.”

Emily Dunn

Emily Dunn, of Coppell, Texas, is graduating in May from the School’s documentary journalism program. She will be working with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Dunn says she is excited for the fellowship because “young people should see themselves in the news, otherwise they will not have an interest in keeping up with it.” She believes that by targeting a youth demographic, newsrooms are able to broaden their readership and help create engaged citizens.

Dunn is looking forward to telling video stories via Instagram, using the skills she has learned thru her studies. “Instagram has evolved so much recently with the advent of Instagram TV, and I see a lot of opportunity to tell long form video stories through the platform,” Dunn says. “I think there is a huge opportunity to connect with the youth of St. Louis, and younger crowds especially engage well with videos online.”

During her fellowship, Dunn hopes to learn from the veteran reporters she’ll be working beside and get an up-close experience with a fast-paced newsroom environment.

After her summer fellowship, Dunn aims to work in advertising or film production, creating documentaries that “help enact change.”

Grace Lett

Grace Lett, of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, is graduating in May with an emphasis in convergence journalism and emerging media. She will be working with The Boston Globe. Lett says she is looking forward to learning more about audience engagement and social strategy while utilizing Instagram as another avenue for journalists to reach younger readers.

“Newspapers generally struggle to reach a younger demographic when it comes to news consumption,” says Lett.  “However, Instagram, and its features, can be a new and innovative way for newspapers like The Boston Globe to cover events and promote their stories while also growing their audience.”

After her summer fellowship, Lett wants to pursue a career in audience engagement, social strategy or public relations. 


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