For the past year, CNN en Español has been running CNN en Marcha, two portable production and editing studios focused on producing social media coverage on the go.
The small teams are each made up of a producer, driver and reporter, have been using state-of-the-art vehicles equipped for social and mobile storytelling to travel up and down the East and West coast of the US, covering news and events for CNN's Spanish channels.
Juan Andres Muñoz, digital and social media director for CNN en Español, CNN's Spanish language operations, and his teams have covered a range of stories, from feature pieces and restaurant reviews, to live events and breaking news.
Their content, which can be anything from a Facebook Live, series of Twitter posts or more longform posts, is published on social platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Swarm, Snapchat and FourSquare.
"It's a 24/7 operation," Muñoz told Journalism.co.uk. "Part of the idea of en Marcha is that the whole trip is a story in itself, the audience are following us and we have to be ready to engage with any moment that is newsworthy – it has been a really interesting time."
When they started out last year, Muñoz and his team thought it would all go smoothly, he said, but just like any initiative, the project has evolved over time, and the team have learned best practices for covering stories on the road.
"One of the things we have discovered is that the truck is just like having another journalist with you – it is part of your team and has needs," he added, explaining that aspects such as vehicle maintenance played a big part in their plans.
They that found factors like traffic, last minute interviewee cancellations and the weather all need to be considered well in advance in order to make things go as smoothly as possible.
"It's easy to assume you'll have a perfect trip, but you learn very quickly that you have to change plans all the time, and you have to be comfortable with that.
"We have learned it is vital to plan, plan, plan, and factor in everything that might occur – you might be driving to do an interview, and then see something happening on the street, and have to stop, capture the story and re-arrange your interview. It's about being flexible and as prepared as possible."
The team also have an organisational structure laid out in advance, not just for the stories they are going to cover, but also for the parking permits they will need and the filming restrictions in each location, for example.
"We do a lot of research before we report on any main event, and spend a lot of time finding accommodation, securing interviews and making sure we know what is going to happen in the event we are covering – logistics are hard to nail down and technology can fail in the field, so planning is key."
Before they arrive at a destination, the production team aim to tell their audience where they are going to be, checking in online when they get there.
"Our reporter responds to every tweet and comment that we get on social media as a way to let people know what we are doing, answer any questions they may have and help to improve our coverage for what they want to see."
Most of the content produced by CNN en Marcha is done on iPhones, and the team edits the content on these devices while on the move, to make use of long journeys.
"You have to produce a lot of content to keep your social networks updated all the time, and those moments are the perfect ones to send a post or a tweet, and let your audience know where you are going next.
"These are also the perfect moments to debrief about what went well and what could have gone better, so we improve the way we work for the next day – we've amassed a wealth of knowledge that makes up a 'best practices' guide for any crews that might come in the future."
With the popularity of podcasting growing over the past year, they have also added mics and editing programmes to their editing suite, as well as more stable cameras and internet hotspots.
"For the next season of en Marcha, we plan to double down on audio storytelling, and plan to start covering cultural events like rodeos, possibly using 360-degree video, and doing niche stories on interesting characters that we meet on our travels – we get inspired all the time," Muñoz said.
"When we are on the road, we are constantly inspired and exposed to different people and ideas, so we are always looking to evolve – it is all about learning by doing."
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