Putting the ‘mobile’ in mobile journalism

Putting the ‘mobile’ in mobile journalism
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Konrad Adenauer Stiftung is a German organization, and I can’t help wondering whether one of the most persistent arguments in the mojo community might have been avoided altogether if mobile journalism had started in Germany.

The German word for mobile is “handy”- but it was a newsroom in the United States that coined the term ‘mojo’ in 2005, putting the words “mobile” and “journalist” together.  The English word “mobile” means both “smartphone” and “capable of moving or being moved readily”, and this has led to disagreements about what qualifies as “mobile journalism”.

Some have argued that content has to be both filmed and edited on a phone to be mojo. Others believe that if your production equipment fits in a backpack, it’s ‘mojo’ – and this can include DSLRs and lightweight camcorders.

There’s also a middle way argument, and it is the definition we use in the Mobile Journalism Manual for Reporters and Newsrooms, published by KAS Media Programme Asia in 2018.

Basically, it makes the case that you can be an agile journalist without a smartphone, but you can’t really be a “mobile journalist” unless your smartphone is a weapon in the arsenal you use to do your job.

I’d go a step further. I think every journalist who owns a smartphone is a mobile journalist. If you use your smartphone to make work-related calls, send emails, communicate with your editor via a messaging app, navigate to an interview using a maps app, or invoice a client with an accounting app, you’re one of us.

Those of us who work in mobile journalism education and training would also argue that mobile journalism is a vital skill for multimedia journalism in 2020, because a smartphone gives you access to a full production studio for radio, television, photography, online and documentary-making, in a device you own already, and which fits in your pocket.

More and more newsrooms are adopting smartphones into their workflow, and what we see is that different types of journalism jobs involve using very different smartphone apps and workflows. A radio journalist will use a suite of apps, microphones, and associated hardware – like portable mixing desks – which would be unrecogniseable to a photojournalist or TV producer using the phone as their primary production device.

And when journalists come together to talk about mojo – as they do at conferences like Mojo Asia and VideoMobile, or on Facebook Groups like MojoFest, we all learn from each other. A hack or workaround used by a TV reporter may help a radio journalist to do their job. Similarly, a smartphone lens used by a photographer may help a TV journalist get better quality images.

We also learn collectively about reducing our reliance on external equipment, and identifying the smallest and least expensive kit to produce multimedia of the same or similar quality. If an inexpensive clip-microphone can do the job of a heavy legacy handheld microphone, that brings down the cost of doing great journalism and makes it accessible to more reporters, and it reduces the weight of the kit you need to carry around, making you more agile and “mobile”.

These are the kinds of lessons we will be sharing – and learning from each other at this year’s Mobile Journalism Conference Asia. We are so thrilled that the event is going to take place again this year and we are confident that moving it to a virtual format will open up participation to many more journalists in Asia – and further afield – who might not otherwise have been able to take part.

About the author

Corinne Podger

Director of The Digital Skills Agency

Corinne Podger is the Director and Principal of the Digital Skills Agency. She is a qualified trainer for the BBC and Reuters, and holds an MA from the University of Cambridge (UK). She serves as a judge for the WAN-IFRA World Digital Media Awards, and as an advisor to the European Journalism Observatory at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Corinne co-organises the Mobile Journalism Conference Asia, in collaboration with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung's Media Programme Asia.

Corinne has worked in digital adult education since 2013, designing learning programs for newsrooms, NGOs, charities, businesses, universities and colleges in over 20 countries. Her clients include: World Association of Newspaper Editors, Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, CNN, Forbes, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, World Federation of Science Journalists, Journalism.Co.Uk, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development, World Health Organisation, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Oxfam, and the University of Oxford.

Her teaching draws on 30 years of continuous industry experience as a television, radio, online, social media and print journalist. She has reported for the BBC World Service, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The Economist and Daily Telegraph. She writes about digital technology and the future of news for the International Journalists’ Network, Digital Content Next, Journalism.Co.Uk, and WAN-IFRA.

Corinne lectures in Online Journalism at the University of Sydney, and has taught digital and mobile journalism at the University of Melbourne, and guest-lectured for RMIT University, Goldsmiths University, the University of Oregon, the University of Galway, University of Kings Halifax, and the Victorian College of the Arts.

She is the author of The Mobile Journalism Manual for Reporters and Newsrooms, published by KAS in 2018. You can contact her about training here.