7 tips for budding mobile journalists

 

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Traditional journalism, long form writing and in-depth, is still the pinnacle of writing and reporting. But with the emergence of new media, news rooms across the world are experiencing a revolution like never before.

Today, one does not have to wait for the morning newspaper or switch on their TV to get their dose of news. Electronic devices like the iPad, laptop and even mobile phones have become important tools for news consumption.

Over the past few years, mobile journalism has emerged as the fastest means of communication for journalists.

And we are not talking about the ‘sting operation’ footage that the AAP has been flooding
the media with recently. Nor are we speaking of other grainy mobile phone material that most
Indian news channels pass off as ‘reports’.

We are talking mobile phone-wielding journalists reporting from the streets of Syria;
about the BBC’s reports from Stockton-on-Tees, the area of massive flooding.

Some argue that it’s simply an extension of what journalists have always done – use tools and technology at hand to do their job. Mobile journalism, also referred to as MoJo, is a single platform production – breaking news captured, edited and submitted on the go.

It might seem like a daunting task to move from print and online to MoJo. But once familiar, you’ll realise its cheap, fast, efficient and extremely accessible.

Here’s a list of basic tips to help you with mobile journalism and make the most of the camera you already have in your pocket.

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First things first: Before tapping record on your phone, ensure your device is on airplane mode. This stops calls and app notifications coming through and interfering with your reporting, particularly if you’re live streaming.

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Clean your lens: Mobile video expert and former BBC video journalist Mark Egan recently spoke at a MoJo conference in Dublin where he covered the basic checks you need to make while MoJo reporting.

Cleaning the camera lens is definitely a top priority. It’s not something smartphone users tend to do often, but even a small speck of dust on your lens can compromise the shot. And in journalism, like Egan pointed out, evidence – clear evidence – is paramount.

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Shoot the right angles: Mobile journalism can come under severe criticism if not executed well. There is always doubt cast on the footage and questions raised on the authenticity. A good mobile journalist knows how to shoot from the correct angles. Always film horizontally unless you’re using an app that makes it impossible to do so.

With the right software on your mobile phone, you can shoot, add lower thirds, create voiceovers, and incorporate nice transitions and more, on the go.

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Don’t forget the writing: Most mobile journalists think that their job ends with recording and editing footage. Wrong. There is still writing involved. Ideally, one should prepare pictorial or written descriptions of how they intend to cover the story.

Like a list of people to interview, or establishing shots to take. You can write those elements down in boxes and create a basic shell of a story. You can later go back to the field and fill in the blanks or do it in the studio.

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Take care of storage: Mobile journalists are in the habit of dumping footage on their laptops. But experienced journalists will tell you that storage is “really important”.

They recommends a cloud storage solution, to store audio and video while in the field without having to worry about going back home to them on a desktop, plus an external hard drive. Also, there is less chances of losing important footage. You don’t want to be the one who “lost the exclusive”.

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While shooting on the streets: It’s imperative that once in the zone of reporting, the reporter moves close to where the action is happening. This helps record the footage better.

“Film a variety of shots and different angles,” advised RTE news journalist Patricia O’Callaghan, at the MoJo conference. “You can never have enough close-ups,” she said. “And [you should] film in sequences, which really help you to tell the story. Use the special touches that apps allow, such as time lapses or other features that will make your report look really special.”

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Research well: Before going to cover a story, it’s advised that the reporter does thorough research, especially if you are reporting from an area of strife. Use apps like twitter, google maps and four square, to track events, familiarize yourself with the area and “check in”, so people now your whereabouts.

This saves your time from wandering around aimlessly and protects you from potential dangers on the streets.

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