mobile journalism mojo
Credit: Ondra Schneider

This year's Mojo Challenge in Budapest saw 20 journalists from across Europe come together to enhance their skills in mobile journalism (mojo), and compete to produce winning news packages filmed entirely on their phones. 

The competition took place from 4 to 11 October, and was hosted by CIRCOM Regional, a professional association of regional public service television in Europe, and MTVA, the national broadcaster of Hungary.

Competitors, divided into 'beginners' and 'advanced' categories, were provided with an initial few days of practical and theoretical training before being required to produce a short news package based in Hungary, using iPhones for filming and iPads for editing. 

The independent judging panel, consisting of a range of media professionals, had to chose three winning news stories from both categories, including a highly commended entry, a most creative news package and an overall winner. 

Navtej Johal, a video journalist for BBC East Midlands Today won the special prize for creativity within the beginners category with his piece about female football free-styling in Hungary

"It’s always great to be recognised, but especially as I had no experience of filming an editing on a smartphone before arriving in Budapest," Johal said.

Beginner winner of the 'special prize for creativity' award, Navtej Johal
He notes that his new skills within mobile journalism have opened his mind to the potential of using smartphones to film.

"There are certain shots that I could only have achieved with that device.

"The opening shot was filmed with the phone on the ground and a football on top of the lens so that my interviewee could flick it off and we’d get something really creative and cool with which to start the report. We could never have done that with a normal camera."

The competition, now in its second year, evolved from the previous success of CIRCOM's mobile journalism courses, which started in 2011.

The beginners arrived with no experience of mojo, whereas the 'advanced' category already practised mobile or video journalism in their professional careers, but looked to further their editorial skills. 

"You get a mixed bag" said Glen Mulcahy, lead trainer on the week's masterclass. 

"We had some people that had no previous production experience whatsoever – the closest they'd done in relation to content creation was taking photographs on their phone.

"But at the same time we had a guy who has been a full time video journalist for the past 10 years, but was used to shooting his own content on a bigger, more standard broadcast camera."
Technical challenges were experienced by both the competitors and the trainers along the way due to the iOS 9 update which was released just two and a half weeks prior to the competition. 

"Some of the apps that we take for granted for our workflow had bugs as a result of the update, and that really provided quite a challenge," said Mulcahy. 

"When the participants went out to shoot, they were on to us constantly saying 'this has just happened to the app', 'I haven't seen this before', 'what do we do?' – and we hadn't seen it before ourselves. We were debugging in the real world which is never a desirable outcome for something like this," Mulcahy said.

Regardless, the journalists in both categories were not fazed by the unfortunate circumstances and completed their tasks as they would have to do if the situation occurs in the future, he said.

"They kept their heads focused and every single one of them delivered in spite of those challenges. They all came back to edit the next day and all of them delivered really good stories."

All of the entries were watched by the competitors and trainers in a cinema at MTVA, where the team was impressed with the quality of the images when blown up on to a big screen.

They also got the opportunity to see the entries broadcast on television, with all the finished news packages offered for use to CIRCOM member stations. 

The competition has now opened doors for participants, with some of them already commissioned to make content for their respective stations on their iPhones. 

Ondra Schneider, a mobile journalist from Czech TV, won the highly commended prize within the advanced category with his package on the demolition of local housing. 

"In these international meetings, workshops and competitions, I learn lot of from the work of others," Schneider said. 

"Inspiration is very important. Doing news packages [on mobile] is always more interesting and challenging than working with an entire TV crew. I hope that I will inspire other people in Czech TV to do this."

Advanced winner of the highly commended award, Ondra Schneider.

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