Belfast Telegraph

Journalism finds its mobile mojo for the modern world

Future at hand: the smartphone
Future at hand: the smartphone

By Paul Connolly

Smartphones are conquering the world, if that's not stating the obvious, but did you know they're also transforming journalism, film-making and photography?

Today in Dublin a unique conference ( #mojocon  ) is exploring the space where the smartphone meets these three disciplines. Technology being the great leveller that it is, barriers are being eroded - stormed, perhaps - across this section of the media.

So much so that the techniques of film-making are being adopted in journalism, and even some journalism is crossing the barrier in film-making. The same goes for the relationship with photography.

The conference, organised by RTE's far-sighted chief innovator Glen Mulcahy, is called Mojo Con Ireland @mojoconirl. I'll be there. The Mojo bit comes from the moniker given to the new practice of 'mobile journalism' - the use of smartphones, tablets and other devices to produce multimedia reports.

A little movement is beginning to crystallise around the concept in an exciting way. I suspect it's starting to reach a kind of modest critical mass.

The rise mirrors the explosion in consumption of video on mobile devices. A little bit of Mojo history was made on earlier this month when the BBC's Newsnight broadcast its first report shot entirely on iPhone. This was a report by Technology Correspondent David Grossman about privacy in the internet age.

(Incidentally, Grossman's piece included an interview with Phil Zimmerman, inventor of encryption programme PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), a military-grade encryption programme so difficult to crack it led to a failed US government to prosecute him for illegally exporting a weapon. They lost that authoritarian manoeuvre in the courts, although whether the CIA has since been able to crack PGP is unknown.)

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RTE and some other broadcasters have been using smartphone filming for some time. But the Newsnight piece is significant because the BBC nationally had appeared to operate some sort of prohibition on smartphone reports (even though grainy webcam interviews have long been permitted on News 24).

The Dublin conference is incredibly timely and welcome, pulling together several strands of journalism, photography, filmmaking plus associated hardware and software developments.

It's a gadget freak's heaven too, with lots of smartphone accessories, plus nifty apps and tools to improve recording and editing.

I am a mobile journalism practitioner myself; wearing another hat I head up a service providing the Belfast Telegraph's website with daily news and sport reports. Videos for the Telegraph website are filmed mostly on iPhone and tablet, but DSLR and occasionally bigger video cameras are used when required.

It's pretty amazing what can be achieved with an iPhone, a microphone and the right training. And the right light - smartphone sensors are still very small.

Our video journalists can make short video reports in an hour. We can - but don't always - edit and send on the device, although a proper local 4G service would transform uploading.

In some respects, the mojo concept is a bit of a misnomer, as it's really only journalism for the modern, connected world. But feeling part of some kind of a movement, however abstract or ill-defined, gives practitioners a kind of spiritual home.

At the end of the day, it's all about two elements: storytelling and sharing. In that respect, it's nothing new, because that's what reporting - and film-making and photojournalism - has always been about.

Belfast Telegraph


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