Mobile journalism or mojo is a new form of journalistic activities. The gist of it is using portable devices for sharing and broadcasting news as fast as possible. They usually transmit news from the epicentre of events using mobile phones or laptops. The major benefits of such an approach are portability, affordability and the ease of access.
A Brief History of Mobile Journalism
The first portable tool used by journalists was a 35mm Leica camera manufactured in 1913. It was the start of both mojo and photojournalism. The camera gave reporters real freedom for the first time. They were not tied to a desk and could capture the news almost anywhere.
Later, developments in technology, and the invention of new, lighter still cameras, and more professional equipment for TV, meant broadcasting was no longer limited to studios with heavy cameras. Walkie-Lookie, from RCA, was the first black and white portable camera that allowed journalists to go out and capture what was happening on tape.
Years passed. Photo and video cameras evolved and transformed the world of journalism. Then the Internet appeared, and mobile phones were invented and developed and became wide-spread.
Many sources name the first iPhone release, in 2007, as the start of the mojo epoch. People began to produce and share information with ease and in a global way. Journalists used the new, so-called ‘smartphone’ to instantly share stories with society in general on sites, and on social media.
Modern Mobile Journalism
Phones with built-in, high-quality cameras now allow journalists to carry everything they need in their pockets. The benefits of mojo are that it is:
The quality of video is no worse than on TV, and there are special professional applications which allow video editing. Marc Settle, smartphone reporting trainer at the BBC College of Journalism, teaches future mojo’s (mobile journalists) how to produce high-quality content for TV and radio using just an iPhone. He says a small bag, containing things like a microphone, a tripod, and some additional storage, is enough for creating news. Journalists may also have a ‘hotspot’, an additional battery, and a light, but these are not absolutely necessary. The bottom line is that only three things are vital – a phone, a tripod, and an external microphone.
Even if you carry an external light and several filters, they won’t weigh too much. Mobile journalists are free to choose where to go without weight being an issue. They can produce high-quality news from almost any location on Earth – provided there is a stable Internet connection. However, even if news is being created in some remote area where no internet connection exists, that news can still be made available to the world as soon as the reporter reaches a place where there is internet access. In general, a small bag, containing everything necessary, will weigh under three kilograms.
Accurate news and real facts are broadcast by mobile journalists as watchers are able to see a situation as it happens, online and without formatting or editing. Smartphones become the watchers’ eyes; people can fully trust such reporting.
Another point is that people don’t hesitate to speak in front of mobile cameras. They do hesitate when faced with professional equipment. It is for this reason that interviews conducted in front of a smartphone tend to appear more natural.
The Mobile journalism manual states that a smartphone is ‘an holistic journalism device’. Reporters can use their phones to cut videos, record audio, take photos, and upload it all to the Internet (to appear on sites, social media, etc.). This allows news to be broadcast in a timely way, facilitates discussion with the audience, makes the receipt of instant feedback possible, and means clients’ requests can be fulfilled.
Ivo Burum, an Australian journalist and former ABC executive producer and one of the founders of mojo, shared his list of suitable tools for the creation of outstanding reporting:
An iPhone, or a powerful Android phone, with a 12Mp+ camera It’s always a good idea to upgrade a phone as soon as companies announce new flagship models.
External tools As we mentioned before, you can upgrade your working phone without switching to another model. For instance, Ivo Burum’s kit consists of a Zeiss exolens with wide angle, a Manfrotto tripod, a Rode Video microphone, Smart Lav microphone, external Lumie light, a transferrable USB stick, and headphones. In general, a kit like this will cost around $700, however, it is possible to start with just a tripod and a microphone.
Ivo recommends beginner mojos shoot videos with built-in apps first. However, for professionals, he recommends:
- Filmic Pro, which includes light metering, white balancing, focus points, real-time monitoring and changing frame rates.
- Camera+, which offers image high-quality control with stabilizer, focus and exposure settings, white balance, brightness and color settings, etc. Prices for these are low ($4-$10), so even mojo newbies can afford them.
Video editing apps
Ivo states that at least two video tracks are needed to create professional videos. He names three applications for iPhones and iPads:
- iMovie is a built-in iPhone app that allows the editing of video stories quickly. It is easy to use and free for many iPhone owners. However, mojo requires more tools, such as keyframe editing, if audio is involved.
- Luma Fusion is a powerful tool that offers editing facilities for three video and five audio tracks in a run. It also has anchored edit features, strip-trim, layered title tools, a color correction feature, and the opportunity to insert and overwrite editing functionality.
- Kinemaster is an app present on both iOS and Android OS. It includes nearly all the features of the previous app, plus Chroma key, blur, much easier titling tools, audio manipulation and other professional tools. The free version does show a watermark, however, this can be removed after purchasing.
For recording voice-overs or separate interviews, it’s crucial to have high-quality audio apps. Ivo Burum recommends these two:
- Ferrite allows the recording of audios in different formats and sharing. It is free, however, you can make other in-app purchases.
- Rode Record has special filters which allow the user to work with compression thresholds and markers and offers a choice of different playback speeds.
Examples and Practices of Modern Mojo
To inspire you in your future achievements, our IO team has gathered the most motivating practices from the world’s newsrooms.
And here is a podcast by Dougal Shaw and Eleanor Mannion – a program-maker with the Irish state broadcaster, RTE. The podcast includes detailed instructions on how to make your mojo work.
Watch one of Dougal’s video stories about a new technology hub used for the Olympics in east London. This was filmed on his iPhone.
This is an example of how mojos can be the eyes of watchers and show people breaking news. Harriet Hadfield broadcast this live from Geneva Airport using her iPhone.
This is Ireland’s national broadcaster. One of their journalists, Philip Bromwell, is a professional mojo. This is an example of his work that is nearly impossible to distinguish from any common video story filmed with pro cameras. This story, called ‘The King of Coffee’, was shot on an iPhone 5S and broadcast on RTÉ News.
Behind the Scenes
We want to end our mojo article with a mention of what happens behind the scenes. Glen Mulcahy, who used to work as Head of Innovation at Irish RTE, and who is still one of mobile journalism’s pioneers, shared the experience of his colleague, Philip Bromwell. Take a look at how it all works and decide if mojo is suitable for you.
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