Peter Hamby leaving CNN for Snapchat
Peter Hamby, widely recognized by Beltway insiders as one of CNN’s best political reporters, is leaving the network to join Snapchat as Head of News, the On Media blog has learned.
The network is characterizing Hamby’s move as a changing role within CNN, which is true insofar as the network’s partnership with Snapchat will allow him to continue as a CNN contributor on air and online through 2016. But Hamby’s official role will be with Snapchat.
The rapidly growing social media application has been moving toward news with a feature called Snapchat Stories, which allows users to create stories through video clips, and Snapchat Discover, a similar feature for news and entertainment organizations like CNN, Vice and National Geographic. Between the two, Snapchat is sitting on seemingly limitless user-generated content that can be used to offer viewers an inside perspective on everything from the Coachella music festival to the Baltimore protests to the 2016 campaign trail.
While the move may frustrate and even confound Hamby’s readers, it is not altogether dissimilar from Ben Smith’s move to BuzzFeed, from POLITICO, in 2011. Like Smith, Hamby will be tasked with bringing credible news content to a social-facing organization that has pull with young audiences and hopes to broaden its appeal. Hamby has spent the last eight years as national political reporter for CNN, before which he spent two years as a producer on “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”
“Snapchat is one of the most exciting young companies in the world,” Hamby said in an interview on Monday morning. “They have a big and growing audience, and we’ve seen Discover is a huge success. Their live stories around big events, around places both here and abroad, the potential to take users to new places — we can see some application of that with news.”
Hamby declined to get into the specifics about his new role: “We’re still a ways away, so stay tuned,” he said.
Of CNN, Hamby had only praise, stressing the depth of its political reporting and the investment the network has made in its digital product over recent months: “I’m still going to be part of the CNN family as a CNN contributor through 2016. I’m super grateful to CNN and to [CNN President] Jeff [Zucker] and [CNN Executive Vice President] Andrew [Morse] for letting me take advantage of this opportunity.”
“It’s bittersweet to leave. I love the place, I love the people,” he said. “It’s a big opportunity and I wanted to go chase this.”
In a forthcoming memo to staff, CNN Senior Vice President Sam Feist and Politics Digital Editor Rachel Smolkin said Hamby’s “passion about politics and social media goes back to his first days at CNN. After starting his journalism career with the Situation Room, Peter became CNN’s South Carolina embed for the 2008 campaign. He was an early adopter of Twitter in campaign reporting and quickly became one of CNN’s go-to people in the brave new world of social media. He proved to be one of the best embeds in our history and has gone on to become one of the most respected political reporters in the country. Peter was a charter member of the amazing political team we have assembled for CNN Digital.”