How the Old Trafford bomb scare was reported on Snapchat: live stories vs Dream Team

On Sunday the 75,000-capacity Old Trafford stadium was evacuated 20 minutes before the last game of the season kicked off. I found out on Snapchat: it was, if you like, my ‘Hudson River moment‘.

But what was striking was just how little space Snapchat itself devoted to the event. So I took screenshots of the ‘snaps’ and am publishing them below for the record.

By way of contrast, the Dream Team Snapchat account covered the event in much more depth, and the two are worth contrasting.

The context

First, some context: every weekend and on matchday nights on Sundays and Mondays Snapchat publishes a ‘live story’ about the key matches. Snapchat’s live stories feature is a series of snaps from users’ accounts curated by Snapchat itself. In other words: user generated content (UGC).

The evacuation, then, took place in the middle of the live story’s build up to those matches (the only 4 games with anything at stake: Manchester United’s home game at Old Trafford; Manchester City’s away game; and the two games featuring Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur).

Snapchat’s live story switched between action around all four grounds: fans snapchatting their journeys to the ground, drinking in pubs, eating food from street stalls, snapping merchandise and each other.

Suddenly we see a snap of a man in a red Manchester United-branded top walking down one of the stairwells, telling the camera: “We’re being evacuated!”

old trafford live story

Snapchat devoted 5 snaps to the evacuation before normal coverage resumed

The next snap shows video taken by a man in a cap outside the stadium, explaining what has happened and adding the detail that the executive boxes had also been evacuated. Then, footage which seems to be shot from a departing car, showing the arrival of the “bomb disposal unit”.

The fourth snap is a still shot, but this is taken inside the ground, perhaps from a section of the ground which hadn’t yet been evacuated. And in the final Old Trafford-related snap, a man records himself confirming that the match has been abandoned.

And after that, the story moves back to the other football grounds and we hear no more from Old Trafford.

The coverage is gripping, immediate and raw. But it is also unattributed and unconfirmed: the accounts whose content has been used are not attributed in any way; it is not clear whether the caption about the bomb disposal unit was factually accurate or idle speculation.  Only the Snapchat sticker ‘MAN U / 3:05pm – match abandoned’ indicates any editorial role by Snapchat itself (it’s not clear if this is a geofilter added by the user, or by Snapchat afterwards, but either way it has almost certainly been created by Snapchat).

Finding other accounts

At the same time I began searching Twitter for mentions of Snapchat and Old Trafford, and found the Dream Team Snapchat account was also covering the game.

Below I’ve collected snaps from their coverage both building up to the evacuation, and the evacuation itself.

old trafford dream team

Dream Team’s snaps provided more information on the evacuation

The first 7 snaps are a selection (the original story used more) to give an idea of how Dream Team created a narrative of their journey to Old Trafford (starting in London) and the ‘football tourist’ perspective as they rate the best and worst merchandise and other curiosities.

Then, the ‘presenter’ records a video explaining that he was in the pub when he heard the ground was being evacuated, and had emerged to find out what was happening.

The following snaps add extra details as he finds them, plus still and video footage of events.

UGC or man on the ground?

I’m not suggesting that one story or the other was better. The purpose of the live story was to follow the day’s key games: the curators made an editorial decision to stay with that purpose, with dozens of snaps over 3-4 hours from fans around the country, just as Sky Soccer Saturday might remain focused on games rather than policing.

The purpose of Dream Team’s story was to follow one game, and also one man’s journey to that game. When the game was abandoned he had no option to cut to another ground, or another presenter.

But the events at Old Trafford provide one of the first opportunities I’ve had to compare different editorial approaches on the platform. Let me know if you’ve seen any others.

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One thought on “How the Old Trafford bomb scare was reported on Snapchat: live stories vs Dream Team

  1. Pingback: Snapchat Memories is nothing to do with memories – but it changes everything | Online Journalism Blog

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