Contextual StudiesThe Rise of Mobile Journalism

How are traditional broadcasters adapting to new technology?

We have seen news broadcasters willing to use footage shot on mobile phones to illuminate news stories but are they willing to use mobile phones in the field with their own journalists?

Broadcasters have used mobile footage from natural disasters and terrorist attacks from people at the scene when it is not possible for a news crew to be there. In the aftermath of the London bombings on 7th July 2005, the BBC received thousands of emails with information and footage. Three of the attacks happened on the London Underground, meaning that news crews could not be on the scene. The footage sent in by eye witnesses was vital in telling that news story (Marrouch, 2014).

As better cameras and faster, more powerful CPUs are included in many mobile phones as standard, as well as the wealth of audio visual recording, editing and publishing apps available, perhaps it was only a matter of time until traditional broadcasters looked into using mobile technology.

Around 2013, some BBC News crews used JVC camcorders. They are lightweight but capable of capturing the high quality images the BBC requires (JVC, 2013).

It wasn’t until 2016, when in an experiment to test the quality and practicality of mobile journalism, that BBC journalist Dougal Shaw and Business Correspondent Joe Lynam filmed a news package using just an iPhone 6S which which was broadcast on BBC London’s 6pm and 10pm news bulletins. “Viewers didn't notice a difference in the video quality” states Shaw. (Scott, 2016). Joe Lynam admits that he had been recorded audio tracks for reports “for years” on his iPhone (Shaw, 2016).

Surely one of the advantages of using a mobile phone to film news reports is its portability. However, Dougal Shaw lists the kit used for this report: iPhone 6S Plus with the Filmic Pro app, iOgrapher rig to hold the phone, plus suite of lenses, Rode VideGo mic, Manfrotto Compact tripod, Rode i-XLR adaptor (Shaw, 2016). The problem here that this is as much gear as any news crew would take to film a report, albeit the camera is smaller.

Report on Syrian refugees in Lebanon
[© RTÉ]

Glen Mulcahy, RTÉ journalist and a proponent of MoJo (mobile journalism) explains one of the advantages: “One thing that you're going to find when you go to shoot with a mobile phone is that there's no sense of mystery about it: people understand what it is it basically now, it's a smartphone that they know can take photographs that they know can shoot video and they ultimately they just kind of accept it for what it is. The beauty of it is that when you've shot an interview with them you can flip it around and you can basically show it to them there and then.” (Mulcahy, 2017).

Irish broadcaster RTÉ has been using mobile technology for broadcasting for four years. One reason cited for this change was that a significant proportion of the audience only finding content online (Scott, 2017).

While the use of mobile phones means that anyone with a phone can create content, do they have the skills to produce something you’d actually want to watch. Mark Egan of Purple Bridge Media says that journalists have the story-telling skills that others lack (Sherlock, 2017). "At the end of the day, if you boil down what all this is it’s just connecting people with people. Can you make this person connect and care through storytelling. Having cheap, quality kit makes it much easier than it was before," said Egan. (Sherlock, 2017).

MoJo has “drastically increased engagement with their content” according to RTÉ Lifestyle lead Taragh Loughrey-Grant. MoJo is also cheaper, according to Egan (Sherlock, 2017).

Life for international students in Manchester.
Report for BBC Radio Manchester

In 2017, I produced a short piece for BBC Radio Manchester about the lives of international students in Manchester (Coleman, 2017). I was mentored on this report by BBC Journalist of the Years 2016 Richard Stead. Rather than using a portable audio recorder and microphones, Richard taught me how to record the interviews and background sounds with just a mobile phone, as he does as standard.

Each recording (three interviews and a piece of ambient sound) were sent direct from the phone to the computers at BBC Radio Manchester. It meant we were able to start editing my piece quickly and easily without the need to carry lots of bulky equipment and to transfer the files over physically. The quality of the sound was just as good using the phone as it would have been using a recorder and microphones, or at least good enough to be broadcast over FM radio.

"At the end of the day, if you boil down what all this is it’s just connecting people with people. Can you make this person connect and care through storytelling. Having cheap, quality kit makes it much easier than it was before," said Egan (Sherlock, 2017).

Mojo has “drastically increased engagement with their content” according to RTÉ Lifestyle lead Taragh Loughrey-Grant (Sherlock, 2017).

In 2017, I produced a short piece for BBC Radio Manchester about the lives of international students in Manchester (Coleman, 2017). I was mentored on this report by BBC Journalist of the Years 2016 Richard Stead. Rather than using a portable audio recorder and microphones, Richard taught me how to record the interviews and background sounds with just a mobile phone.

Each recording (three interviews and a piece of ambient sounds) were sent direct from the phone to the computers at BBC Radio Manchester. It meant we were able to start editing my piece quickly and easily without the need to carry lots of bulky equipment and to tranfer the files over physically. The quality of the sound was just as good using the phone as it would have been using a recorder and microphones, or at least good enough to be broadast over FM radio.

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