In a bid to experiment with mobile journalism and digital storytelling, CBC Calgary conducted a 90 minute Facebook Live special, produced entirely on iPhones, to "flip the traditional broadcast-to-social workflow on its head".
"We wanted to start with the idea of producing a digital online show, and then repackage it and put it on television," said Erin Collins, senior reporter at CBC Calgary, who anchored the coverage.
"The internet is our priority, because that's where our viewers and listeners are, so why are we not starting with that and then going the other way?"
The regional station, which sees digital as a priority, placed four reporters equipped with iPhone 6 smartphones and Sennheiser wireless microphones in different locations around Calgary – including one on a moving train.
Using the Dejero Live+ mobile app, the journalists were able to individually connect to the TV station's control room, where staff were able to direct the coverage and switch between live footage and 12 pre-recorded iPhone packages.
"We all had an earpiece connected to a second iPhone which linked us through to the control room so they could talk to us," he said, noting that it also acted as a way for the presenters to respond to viewer comments and questions that were being read out to them as the stream went on.
Interviewees, who were lined up throughout the event, spoke about the issues facing the population of Calgary, which CBC hoped would spark conversation and debate among audiences.
"The entire thing was completely unscripted but there was an order, and we had planned spaces for responding to viewers – we were just hoping there would be comments, and thankfully there were."
The producers in the control room were able to use the comment section underneath the video to start conversations with viewers on Facebook, along with apologising for, or explaining any technical hiccups that were encountered during the stream.
"About 20 minutes into the show, my audio went off, and we couldn't figure out what was going on – but something happened with the wireless mic, which was a major problem as I was the host," Collins said.
"We had to hard-wire into the phone during the show – it worked really well but it limited my ability to be mobile; we couldn't move around as much, which was the idea."
Luckily, Collins had multiple backups to prepare for such an issue, but unexplained technical issues like this are holding the advancement of mobile journalism back, he added, as the equipment available for the masses is not always reliable.
"Mobile journalism is great, there are real advantages, but there's real risk – it's just not there yet. The biggest problem is the gear," said Collins, who also works as a mobile journalism trainer in Canada.
"The number one thing that I tell everybody is that these are consumer products, not the $50,000 cameras we're used to working with, so expect failure – you need to have a backup, and then a backup for your backup."
There were often times when the audio would cut out or the levels weren't ideal, but Collins and his team brought the audience into their experiment with them, and explained from the start that they didn't know what was going to happen, and that they should expect problems.
"The one thing we've learned from social media is that if we are really having a dialogue with the audience, instead of the broadcaster preaching to the masses, there needs to be more honesty.
"I think the way that people are consuming information online now on YouTube and other social media platforms, they will put up with mistakes if the content is OK," said Collins.
The stream, which currently has 15,000 views, will now be condensed into an hour-long programme for television.
"Of course we should be trying to correct any mistakes for the future if we try this again, but in the meantime, I don't think the possibility of making an error is a reason not to try.
"With that in mind, we were pretty happy with it even though there was some blemishes."
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