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Mobile journalism, the organic frontier in the news world

Mobile journalism (MoJo) is a revolutionary and disruptive way of doing journalism. Smartphones put a complete production studio for radio, television, text and social content in your wherewithal. Accoutred with only a smartphone, journalists are enfranchised to cover almost any story within time and safely. With this device, reporters capture and transmit news content, particularly in areas where traditional media outlets may be inaccessible or unreliable.

Historically, the evolution of mobile journalism can be traced back to the 1990s when the internet came into being. But the real developments began in the early 2000s, when smart mobile phones began to embody cameras and text messaging capabilities. The smartphone evolution has matured to capture videos in ultra-high definition (UHD) and high dynamic range (HDR), and the broadcasters employ these features in their production workflows.

Classical news gathering ensembles reporters, camera teams, and OB vans on the scene. It used to consume time, manpower, and finance. Spectrum charges of digital satellite news gathering unit (DSNG) is another financial stress. Delay in arrival of all infrastructure at news site has been a regular concern. Sometime the news gathering with canonical method used to be inefficient and warranted a fast and convenient mechanism. The mobile journalism has arrived to democratize the news-gathering headway, which gives more people the agility and ability to tell their own stories and share their own outlook with the world.

In recent years, it has increasingly been easy to source contributions from numerous sources. A significant experience was observed during the Covid-19, when the user-generated contents(UGC) were used in news and storytelling. A series of contents on climate change-related disasters have also been generated. With high-quality mobile phones, stories can be captured in a matter of minutes and subjected to editing before being sent back to the newsroom. The technological advancements will accelerate as 6G connectivity becomes more commonplace.

The unobtrusive nature of an iPhone or any latest mobile on a tripod reduces the apprehension of the people to be interviewed. Smartphones can be advantageous to get effective and realistic stories when filming interviews. The people who take refuge at the shelter for the night, or riots hit are more comfortable and less afraid having to talk with reporters. The most notable advantages of mobile journalism are that it enables the journalist to overcome frequent challenges and barriers, often strengthening freedom of speech and access to information. It is a flexible, agile, efficient, and fast system of news gathering.

Arsenal of mobile journalism
The MoJo kit includes latest iPhone or any latest smart phone with suitable apps and storage capacity, lapel mic or an external mike with stand, a selfie stick/stand for mobile, light mounted on camera, an extra battery, extra storage, etc. These days, broadcasters, news agencies, and even newspapers are increasingly using the MoJo kits. The notable organizations include BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, Doordarshan, India Today, The New York Times, etc. Thus, a single person riding on a motor bike and MoJo kit can shoot, edit, and send the story to its organization. Even people have welcomed the interview using smartphone.

Organic strongholds of mobile journalism
Today, news gathering mantra’s is anywhere, anyone, and anytime. Reporters with MoJo kit are most effective for gathering contents of instant happenings/news or views during elections and disasters. The unique news finds most relevance, where time of shooting is essence of news happening. A few examples may be like sighting a UFO, a student reading in the light of a funeral pyre, a swelling river likely to break its banks, a crime scene, localized significant happenings, etc. India is the country of promiscuous cultural mosaic and people rejoice in the glory of nature in all its pleasing hues and vibrant colors. The common people generate short films/documentaries for public awareness. Even live coverage of small sporting events find its relevance. So, a large number of trained journalists using MoJo kits are required.

Challenges of MoJo
Some of the challenges in this news frontier includes availability of smart mobiles with high-quality cameras, more storage space (about 5 GB), efficient software application for editing and transmission, training of journalists, protection of equipment during rains and windy conditions, safety of the reporters, difficulties while filming objects from a far distance, inability to monitor audio quality while shooting interviews, inability to make sudden movements with the device or use the zoom to reach the athletes and failure or interruptions of the internet access. Ironically, the reporting from war zone is both the strength as well as weakness of MoJo at the same time. The reporter’s technical competencies must be accompanied by core journalism skills, such as storytelling, corroboration and verification, and effects/packaging the content for mobile devices.

Future scenario of MoJo
Specific platforms and reservoirs of video contents submitted by anyone need to be established. We may foresee the trends of software with IP stream ingest solutions that may allow multiple compressed streams to be ingested into a broadcaster’s production environment from anywhere. With trained journalists, better internet using 6G/7G technologies, all stages of the news production cycle may be done on a single mobile device. With smartphones in their back pack or pockets, journalists need not worry about setting up large cameras or satellite transmissions, etc. They can go almost unnoticed. Every broadcaster should have at least one chunk of program for news gathered through MoJo kits by its journalists or submitted by common people, which may be curated by their journalists.

Thus, the combination of the flexibility offered by technology, IP, and cloud, the changing attitudes of journalists and citizens, lower-cost technologies, and viewer’s passion for live content would result in better visually appealing stories with clarity of sound, multi-tasking journalists, and unique content controlled by audience will evolve an enchanting organic news frontier. The future of journalism is certain to make big impact and acceptance in the broadcast industry and restore media’s credibility. It will provide sight and sound of common masses to prove the effective role of fourth pillar of democracy.

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