Sophia Smith Galer is a senior news reporter, book author, and TikTok creator working for Vice World News. With her reporting, much of it on issues around social justice, reproductive health, and environmental damage, she has attracted more than 450,000 followers on social media. Her videos have been watched more than 130 million times.
I am a general news reporter, but climate justice and climate action are very important topics for younger audiences. I did TikToks at COP26 in Glasgow, showing interesting protests, for example. I used the opportunity to highlight the record of COP26 sponsors, these were almost exclusively companies with poor climate records. The climate stories I have done since then were mostly about wrongdoing. I recorded when local or national authorities were not doing what they should be doing. The online space around the climate crisis is very active and vital.
The kind of journalism I do emphasizes wrongdoing, holding power to account. This is different to previous roles I held. In my personal TikToks I tend to focus on solutions journalism.
There isn't one kind of journalism that does better on there than the other—but you'd expect it to be delivered in a journalistic manner with rigorous research and the principles of journalism ethics rather than a lobbying one or directing users to do something, which is what you tend to see more with activism videos.
I helped to pioneer this kind of TikTok journalism in the UK. Getting eyeballs on climate coverage is a pertinent struggle. With videos the pressure is to find something good. But there is material out there. Sewage in rivers works well, for example. And then there is the technical thing: If a newsroom wants any of their coverage to be watched, they have to pivot to vertical video. The whole internet is turning to vertical video. And they should also add text, because then a lot more people engage with it.
I am on Insta and TikTok because audience needs are there. It is one thing just being there and another being native and organic on there. You need to own this space. I have learned what I learned from having a personal account. What works well is when journalists are creating communities around their reporting, around their beats. Everything cross-pollinates. But for traditional media, it will only work if other things get deprioritized which is still TV in most broadcasters. TV and radio always get priority to digital.
Vice is an online newsroom, that makes it easier. All in all, I have more than 450,000 followers on different channels. They all met me for different reasons. I have been building trust with them on my personal following because I have been holding power to account. You need an appetite to do that. Loads of journalists don’t see the existential need to serve young audiences.
Definitely early adoption. Do it as soon as possible, learn how to do this. Don’t follow other journalists on these platforms, follow content creators and see how they create engaging content for their audiences. People don’t come to Insta to follow journalists, for example.
No. It is just the way I like to do my work.
I think it does roughly the same as my general content.
I am massively invested in climate as a consumer. I don’t drive and I hope to spend my life not driving. I try to be a pescatarian at home. I fly a lot and I feel very guilty about it. But I have to do it to bear witness.