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A journalist and new mom on the potential of Instagram

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Photo of the twins by Tynes

Lately, I'm struck by the massive potential that the iPhone photo app Instagram provides for journalists worldwide.

See, these days I'm into photos, especially baby photos, or to be more precise, twins photos.

When I had my twins last October, I wanted to document every step of their growth by taking pictures--lots and lots of pictures.

Instagram provided the perfect venue for posting and sharing my baby snapshots. Not only did it offer a variety of artistic photo filters to choose from, but it also provided interaction and sharing capabilities, whether you share with friends you already know or connect with other Instagrammers who share similar interests.

These features are bound to advance photojournalism in a massive way, especially when crowdsourcing is introduced. We've seen some of this potential with citizen journalists using the app to cover the London riots and Russia's recent elections. CNN's iReport frequently features Instagram pictures from its citizen journalists who cover timely events.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when ABC World News asked its Instagram account followers to post pictures of their twins using the hashtag "#wntwins" for the chance to be featured on a news segment airing that night.

Of course, I jumped on the opportunity and flooded the space with pictures of my dynamic duo. There were pictures of my twins napping, my twins playing, my twins eating, you name it. My portraits weren't selected, but my effort was not for naught: I managed to connect with other parents of twins whose pictures I continue to enjoy.

For news organizations, this represents a powerful opportunity to build community and brand loyalty.

I think the next step should be for news outlets to partner with Instagram to create a monetized system in which citizen journalists and Instagram split the costs of photos the news organizations buy. Photo news service Demotix provides a similar system, but it is mostly for traditional photographers and not for those who solely use iPhone cameras.

I believe if this system was introduced it would transform photojournalism in a major way. News outlets will be flooded with photos submitted by their Instagram correspondents around the globe, while citizen journalists will get the opportunity to make some money as well as get recognition.

Every time I take and upload a picture of my twins, I sing Instagram's praises and think about the many ways it can transform photojournalism. For now, I will leave this for you to ponder while I go chase the twins.

Natasha Tynes is a media professional based in Washington, D.C. Previously, she worked at the International Center for Journalists where she developed and managed ICFJ's online training and Middle Eastern programs. She also worked as a reporter and editor in the Middle East for more than a decade with Al Jazeera, the Jordan Times and Arabia Online. You can read her thoughts on journalism, digital media and the Middle East on her website, follow her on Twitter or email her at ntynes (at) gmail.com.

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