Nick Garnett of BBC Radio 5 Live has been championing mobile broadcasting over the past few years, producing stories both in England and abroad, from Nepal to Iraq, with an iPhone as a primary recording and editing device.
Recently however, his role at 5 Live has changed, shifting the format of his journalism from radio to digital-first storytelling. For every story he covers, Garnett now aims to produce both a video and a radio piece, and the equipment he works with has changed. The new role has required a lot of learning on the job and familiarising himself with new equipment, and there are still challenges coming up in his day-to-day work.
Journalism.co.uk caught up with Garnett at RTE's Mojocon event in Galway, Ireland at the beginning of May, to find out more about his current role and his experience transitioning from a radio journalist to a digital reporter.
How did this change come about?
"Rozina Breen, the news editor at 5 Live, came to the station this year and was very keen on pushing our social media content and our social media message. But we're not in the luxurious position where we can get rid of me as a radio reporter and just have me doing video, so the idea was that I become a digital-first reporter.
"In November, I went to Iraq. Working there, we were able to turn those films around, and we had fabulous video that we were able to turn into fabulous radio as well. The key is making sure that the sound is recorded well. So often video content has terrible sound, but you have an idea, you've got some signpost to tell you what's happening.
"In radio, you don't have that signpost, it's got to be on the words. So it means that you're having to do a lot more work. You're having to film an awful lot of stuff in the hope that your audio is good and that's a struggle. The big successes I've had have been stories where I've got time to actually report."
What's your job title now, and what does it mean?
"I am digital innovations reporter. It is innovating, mostly in ways that won't be apparent to people who are watching or seeing it, because it's the way that we're putting that together. So I am filming on fairly big cameras now, Sony a6300, and then I am putting it into an iPad and editing with an iPad.
"The majority of people gather their video and then put it into a laptop and edit it there. I am trying to do away with that completely and there's good reason for that. I was in South Sudan two weeks ago and we were without mains power for four days, and so you couldn't do that with a MacBook because you'd run out of battery in two and a half or three hours of video editing. But with an iPad, using the Luma Fusion app, we were able to keep charging it up off USB battery packs and it meant that I could work right the way through."
What was your kit before and what do you carry with you now?
"I carry so much gear now. I used to have an iPhone in my back pocket. All you needed to do was take a sock and put that over the end of your phone and it will cut out the wind noise and you're fine.
"Now I carry a tripod with a video head on it, a Sony a6300 with about three different lenses, an iPad Pro, a couple of iPhones, an Osmo mobile, an Osmo with a camera on as well, and so many microphones. I have got maybe four or five microphones that I carry around with me because each one does different things.
"And yes, you are getting away from the ethos of the mobile reporter being able to use the mobile phone as, to use Glen Mulcahy's phrase, 'the Swiss Army knife'. The iPhone is still useful as a product because you can edit video well on it, but a lot of the time you're now using the device merely as a sending tool.
"In that respect, maybe we are moving away slightly from the idea that everything's got to be on an iPhone, and it's got to be an iPhone. All it's got to be is some way of moving data at 4G speeds or Wi-Fi speeds off to the cloud or back to base. Perversely, after years of saying the iPhone is the only thing that we can use, actually it can be any device, it can be a Samsung, an LG, anything."
Are you still a mobile journalist?
"That's a really good question and I am struggling with the answer. Yes, I think I am, because I think that mobile journalism is a way of operating, it's the workflows. What I've taken from this is the need to have absolutely solid workflows that you can follow through.
"So how do you get the material off the device that you've gathered it on, how do you get that onto one machine that you can then work and play around with it? Once you've finished and you've compiled it, how do you get it off that, and how do you get it back into your own content management system? Having those workflows in place means that the job becomes easier."
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