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Using a Mobile Phone for Reporting

The future of news is mobile. According to ComScore, 37% citizens of Europeans read news on a smartphone and  this perhaps gives an indication how the mobile phone market and the use of applications are increasing.

For journalists a mobile phone is now an essential multimedia and social media work tool. So how can can journalists use a mobile phone and or tablet for their work?

Guy Degen is a freelance journalist and videographer based in Berlin. At a workshop he presented at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia (IJF), Italy, he gave some insight about how he uses a mobile phone for reporting.

Smart phones are not just phones but pocket computers with a camera and can record video and audio, as well as run applications for editing video, audio, photos and texts.

Degen explained the importance of understanding how smart phones work and knowing how to adjust basic settings for accessing mobile internet networks and email. He also guided workshop attendees through a range of free and low cost applications useful for news gathering and reporting.

Along with discussing apps for writing e-mails and storing files (Opera Mail and Dropbox), Degen suggested to look at the blogs and Twitter feeds of mobile journalists for production ideas and finding out about new applications. But he urged journalists to keep things simple to begin with: “You have to make experiments. Start with free apps, see if an app suits your phone and your methods of work.”

Degen suggested 6 points for journalists to consider when thinking about using a mobile phone for reporting and looking to develop an effective work flow.

– Purpose: Think about what is your story? What am you trying to do? What materials do you need to file, and in what medium – text, photo, audio or video?

– Plan: Think about what are the essential story elements. Who are your interview partners? What are the locations? What social media sources are useful? Are there hashtags to follow or location services to use? What smart phone accessories do you need? How long will this take to produce and will have you enough battery power?

– Production: Think about what you need to produce and what applications would work best. Degen suggested to keep it simple to begin with. For the iPhone he showcased a number of useful production and editing apps including Audioboo, Soundcloud, Bambuser, FiLMic Pro and 1stVideo.

– Publishing: Think about how you will publish and from where? Live? Or by file transfer protocol (FTP) or to blog or a video or audio sharing platform. Will you use wifi or mobile 3G? Or do you need a wifi personal “hotspot” to upload and file?

– Cross-posting: Think about how many social media platforms you are using to share or distribute your story and keep track of these connections. Quite a number of production or editing apps allow users to export or publish a story directly from the application. Degen suggested that journalists note carefully where they are cross-posting their stories and to check for any unnecessary duplicate postings.

– Positioning: Smart phones and applications can make use of location services, for example Foursquare to see where people have checked in or to geo-tag the location of a photo.

Degen also pointed out that smart phones, particularly if they have a good camera, let journalists take advantage of being in the right place at the right time to take a photo.

He gave the example of a filming trip in South Sudan where he was able to take photos with his iPhone of Arrow Boys – local village defence groups who try to protect their communities from being attacked by the Lords Resistance Army. Degen was using his larger video camera to record interviews but was able to take good photos with his iPhone which he later used in an online story.

So, it is really amazing. But there are few reasons why many journalists might not use a mobile phone so actively. First of all, a good smartphone is still expensive. Secondly, some media outlets demand better quality images and video than even from the latest iPhone 4S. On this point Guy Degen said smart phones have already proven that they are capable of delivering good quality multimedia materials.

“There are dozens of good examples of smart phones being used effectively for news gathering and reporting. Al Jazeera recently produced a documentary shot in Syria using an iPhone. BBC journalist are set to use the iPhone more and plenty of media outlets have published photos taken with mobile phone.”

Eleonora Kirkizh

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