The benefits of mobile journalism (mojo) are clear: all reporters are able to harness the power of their smartphones to produce high-quality content on the go, while newsrooms can engage with audiences more frequently for less.
However, while the majority of people have a smartphone in their pocket, implementing a mojo workflow into the newsroom can be a challenge. There can be resistance from editors, fellow colleagues, and that's after you've tackled the ever-changing technology yourself and found the way to use it.
So, how do we begin to successfully implement mobile journalism in the newsroom? After speaking with mojo trainers, delegates and journalists from all around the world, we have listed some of the main challenges below, together with suggestions of how the issues can be tackled, as presented at MojoFest yesterday (29 may 2018).
We've also included tips and advice from mobile journalist and trainer Wytse Vellinga, who has successfully introduced a mobile journalism workflow into Dutch regional broadcaster Omrop Fryslân, where 45 journalists use it daily.
1. Don't go into "mojo overwhelm"
We all know what it's like to get excited at all the new apps and tools on the market – many can produce effects that we have tended to associate with desktop editing software and 'professional' camera crew equipment.
Indeed, it's easy to get carried away and download hundreds of apps, buy more equipment than we need, and attempt to do five mojo newsroom projects at once. But this is a sure-fire way to get into what we call "mojo overwhelm".
So how can we avoid this?
Trainers advise not to bite off more than you can chew.
Remember, it is better to use a few apps well, than multiple apps and tools poorly.
When faced with a new app or feature, always ask yourself: ‘How can this format/tool/app specifically help my news organisation? Why do we need it?’
"You should first get comfortable with what your phone can do – look for its limits and research online," said Vellinga.
Watch the live stream of this session below, from 1 hour 10 minutes in.
Once you have a goal in mind as to what you want to use mobile journalism for, begin to experiment with one project and build up from there. Maybe you'd like to produce 360-degree videos for Facebook, or perhaps a weekly podcast is more appropriate for your audience?
"Experimenting is the way to learn. Fail, try again, and then make it work," says Vellinga.
Constantly evaluate your content – what are the reactions of your audience, boss and colleagues? 10 minutes a day will help you ensure you're staying on the right track, and ensuring that one project is done well, as opposed to taking on too much too soon.
2. Develop a sustainable workflow
Workflows – how you go from A to B to C – will of course differ depending on the needs and facilities of your news organisation, including financial circumstances, size, internet access and where material will be published.
It is essential you establish, practise and perfect the right workflow for you if you're going to be effectively using mobile journalism out in the field and in the newsroom. Don't wait until you're in a breaking news situation, or you have a short deadline looming, to figure out how you're going to shoot, edit, upload and publish your material.
Will you be doing everything on your phone, or will you be editing on desktop software? Will your content be compatible for where you’ll be publishing it? Which are your go-to apps for adding subtitles, and will all your footage get saved in a storage app like Dropbox or will you be directly sending it straight to the newsroom?
3. Train, train, and then keep on training
Although one-day courses are an effective introduction to the apps, tools and practices associated with mobile journalism, they are not enough to ensure newsrooms can deliver an effective mobile journalism strategy.
And even if you attend longer courses, there are new apps being developed all the time, while our favourite apps update frequently, and audience needs continue to change. These are all factors which can really affect a journalist's workflow.
Get regular training online and in person, and practise using mobile phones for content creation in spare time and at work. Why not have a few newsroom champions that can keep on top of app updates, tools, and the latest tips and tricks?
Many trainers highlighted that delegates often attend their courses without a background in visual storytelling. They explained that this is a craft that cannot, and should not, be taught as part of a mojo course, so it is essential that reporters expected to produce video news packages get training in this. Apps should be thought of as a piece of professional journalism software, not just something in your pocket that anyone can use. Most editors wouldn't expect a journalist to whip out a news package on Final Cut Pro without any training.
Vellinga noted that mobile journalists can benefit hugely from getting involved in the mojo communities online to share advice, tips and training.
"It is only worth training those that are willing to learn. Educate, don't force," he said.
"Be patient. It took time to learn how to use a broadcast camera, so it will take time to use mobile technology."
4. Resistance from editors and colleagues
If your boss and colleagues haven't had mojo training themselves, or aren't involved in the mobile journalism community, how can they be expected to support a reporter's mojo venture?
Delegates to mojo training courses say that editors still prefer sending larger camera crews to stories, which is unsurprising, but in many cases unnecessary.
"Editors need to release the shackles and let journalists go out and develop their own workflow. Most bosses will be very reluctant to release their control, but this is going to get you the best results," Vellinga said.
He explained that advocates should encourage bosses and colleagues to take a closer look at the type of content that can be produced with a phone and how it can benefit them.
Convincing yourself, your boss, the tech people and finally your colleagues (in that order)to introduce #mojo to your newsroom according to @WytseVellinga @mojofestival #MojoFest #mojofest2018 pic.twitter.com/h70pAhwI9Z— Ruth Kennedy (@ruthkennedy1) May 29, 2018
"Take your time and show your editor the money," said Vellinga.
"Mojo is probably a cheaper way of doing it – but don't show them too much or they'll go too cheap. You need good quality tools."
Often, videos produced on a smartphone can be so good audiences and editors can't tell the difference between those shot on a larger, traditional camera, and those on an iPhone.
Trainers have therefore advised that it would be useful for newsrooms to have a system where mojo works, and the learnings from it can be shared and seen between staff, especially within large organistions that have many different teams. This will encourage journalists, and your newsroom's technicians, to see what can be done with a smartphone.
And finally, if you're an editor or team leader, ensure you provide your newsrooms with the right equipment: mics, tripods, lights etc., and don't expect your journalists to use their own phones – this can result in different quality footage being shot, and different apps being used.
Free daily newsletter
- Tip: Hone your investigative journalism skills in the digital age
- Newsroom diversity, storytelling and photography: Here is your weekly journalism news update
- 'Human connection is key': The importance of building trust in street portrait photography
- Open-source investigations, mobile journalism and Netflix: Here is your weekly journalism news update
- Tip: Improve your smartphone stories