Mobile and Video Journalism Viability
Reuters has launched a program in 2007 to determine the efficiency of mobile journalism. They equipped their journalists with a mobile phone which has the capacity to capture video and send files via Bluetooth, microphone and Bluetooth keyboard. These devices are aimed to aid the journalists in gathering, writing and publishing their news stories. They need not go to the newsroom to write their news stories instead, they just typed the news stories wherever they were using their mobile phone and keyboard. A mobile editorial interface that provides a link from the toolkit of the journalists to the in-house editorial processes allowed the news company to publish the stories instantly (Luft 2007).
After the Reuters experiment, journalism students from South Africa replicated the trial. They used mobile technology in order to distribute news content in the form of text, videos, and images to the mobile phones of students (Oliver 2008).
The experiments that were conducted using mobile phones to distribute news to the people highlight the evolution of news processing. It eases and simplifies the flow of news from the journalist to the people.
Traditionally, journalists create news stories by gathering data in the field. They conduct interviews, gather information and data that will support the stories they are writing. After they have gathered the necessary data, they will go back to the newsroom to write their news stories and submit to the Section Editor and the Editor in Chief for editing. If the story is approved by both editors, the story will be included in the lay out of the newspaper the following day. The lay out editors will determine the space that the story will consume and the part of the paper where it will appear.
Through the introduction of mobile journalism a news story will no longer have to go through the long process. The journalist need not go back to the newsroom to write his story he will just write the story where he is and send it to his editors. The story may either appear on a traditional newspaper or it can be distributed and published on-line or through mobile phones.
The process allows journalists to spend more time in the field and gather as much information as they can for the news story without worrying of the time. It also creates a more distributed newsroom and a new avenue of presenting the news.
Mobile journalism does not only benefit the journalists but it also makes access to news more convenient for the readers. They need not buy newspapers to update themselves on what is happening; they only need to press a few buttons in their mobile phones to read the latest events.
Aside from these advantages, mobile journalism also lessens the people who are involved in news gathering. The journalist can do a one man job–he can take the photos, videos, conduct interviews and write the story all by himself. It also saves more energy since he need not use bulky equipments for documentation (Woton 2005). The process also allows the journalists to give a blow by blow account of what is happening in an important event. The readers need not wait for the next day to wait for the news story. The journalist can relay the story as they happen.
In addition, mobile technology also saves money for the reader and the news company because they need not purchase paper products that are used for the newspapers. Costly materials for paper production and printing are also eliminated.
However, attached with the benefits of the technology are also set backs that may affect the quality of news being relayed. Since there is less interference by the editors, there is a possibility that there might be errors in the way the news are presented (Chainon 2008).
Editors play an important role in journalism because they are the ones who set the agenda and control the news that are relayed to the public. They determine whether the news article complies with the rules of grammar, ethics and other journalism guidelines. If a certain article defies these rules then there is a possibility that the news will be misinterpreted by the public or may yield to a negative feedback. The news that journalists create serve as basis of the people for demonstrations and uprisings. Unverified facts or misinterpreted points of view may cause chaos to the society.
Mobile journalism also has a counter part and this is video journalism. Just like in the former, the latter also uses mobile technology to relay the news to the people. Mobile phones are used to video and capture important events. They are also used to record the spiels of reporters and even to allow live mobile broadcast.
Just like in mobile journalism, the process allows the journalist to relay the news using mobile phones to the news centre. This is usually employed in remote areas where there is a limited access to electricity or the bringing of bulky equipments would make the coverage difficult if not, impossible. Mobile technology allows the journalist to proceed with a risky coverage such as jungle setting coverage, war zones, and mountainous areas. The journalist is also more mobile when there are less crew members. He can proceed from one place to another easily and conveniently (Alysen 2002).
The journalist need not bring his camera men with him on coverage; he can complete the video through the use of his tripod, mobile phone and microphone. Just like in mobile journalism, the process lessens the need for man power. The process also creates more intimacy between the reporter and the person being interviewed. Usually, it is harder to establish intimacy if there are more crew in a set (Alysen 2002).
Video journalism also widens the opportunity for the citizens to participate in news gathering. In the United States, video journalism was used to relay the latest update in forest fires. The citizens video the scene and narrate what is happening using only their mobile phones. This is an efficient way to knowing the updates on a specific site without actually sending a reporter to go there. Waiting for the journalist to reach the place might be too late to capture the scene needed (Catone 2007).
However, the process does not seem to be a viable option also in Australia because of the high cost of services for on line transfer. Unlike in other countries where the cost of transmission is cheap, none of the mobile companies in Australia offer unlimited data package. In the United States, the subscribers pay $70 per month for unlimited data sharing but in Australia the same cost will only allow an 8MB data sharing per day. Exceeding the limit will mean additional costs. An 8 MB data is not much because a combination of surfing and video sharing will eat the 8 MB limit thus, there is nothing much that the subscriber can do with the subscription. If this rate is not changed, then video journalism cannot fully thrive in Australia. The costs will be too high for transmission and not too many citizens will be encouraged to transmit news to media centres using their mobile phones.
There are additional setbacks in the employment of video journalism; first, the journalist might encounter difficulty in taking videos while reporting. The angle might not be properly set and the people that he wants to be seen on the camera might not be properly captured. Second, the quality of the picture that is relayed on television may not be as clear as the video camera quality. Since the mobile phone is smaller and more compact, there resolution might be weaker. Third, there are less video effects and lesser avenue for editing the news story. Unlike the traditional broadcast where the news company can edit the video that are relayed to the people for better resolution, picture, labelling and order; video journalism makes this difficult, if not impossible. The journalist will have to relay the unedited news piece to the people. Again, an unedited news item might give the wrong signals to the people, which is not good. Fourth, the voice quality of the news anchor might be poorer if mobile phone is used. Since mobile phones have not yet been fully designed to work for live broadcasts, there might be discrepancies or problems in the delivery of the news to the people. Fifth, mobile phones are more prone to technical errors. The battery might run out easily or there might be problems with transmission and connection to the news centre. The transmission signals may be weaker. The reporter might experience difficulty in finding a good signal that will transmit the news.
The problems cited are serious considerations that should concern the media outfits employing video journalism in their news broadcasts. It is important that media outfits relay news in good quality because this will determine their credibility and reliability. A news broadcast which is difficult to understand or to view is useless. People watch the news in order to be updated with the latest events and know the stand of the government and prominent individuals thus, news centres should fill in to this desire of the viewers.
Mobile journalism and video journalism gives a lot of promise since it provides a cheaper and more convenient way to delivering the news to the people. It simplifies the process and at the same time gives the journalist more time to gather necessary data. However, along with these benefits are set backs on the quality of news that is delivered to the public. With the rise of these types of journalism, anyone can become a reporter; anyone can deliver news as they happen. The difficulty with this process is not everyone knows how to practice responsible journalism.
Journalists play an important role in the society since they serve as watchdog and the fourth estate. They look into the activities of the different branches of the government and report them to the people. They reveal to the public the wrong doings of the government officials and make sure that there is a check and balance of powers. Moreover, journalists have agenda setting and gate keeping functions. Both roles refer to the duty of journalists to screen the news that they give to the public. The media has a tremendous power to shape the minds of the people. They can either make or unmake a country. Thus, care and responsibility should be observed. There are certain matters that should be revealed to the public responsibly in order to preserve peace and security in the country. There should also be sufficient data presented that would support a certain claim. The media cannot just make assertions without any reliable basis for it. Journalists cannot also use the words that they want and show the videos that they desire without thinking of the impact that these would cause to the readers and viewers as well as to the people involved in the story. Both sides should always be presented so as not to show bias. Certain rules of ethics should also be followed in delivering news to the people so as not to tamper on the rights of other people. These are basic journalism principles which must be embodied in every news story. It may be very simple however the effects, if violated, are enormous.
The engagement in mobile journalism and video journalism may place these principles to the test. Since the process does not require too much interference by the editors, there is a possibility that violation of these rules might become more prevalent. However, this is just a projection as the quality of news that these two types of journalism could provide still remains in the individual delivering the news.
Mobile journalism and video journalism spells the future of journalism. In this regard, proper attention should be allotted to it to make sure that journalists still adhere to responsible journalism. It may not be a viable option now given the kind of technology that is available but with the constant innovation in mobile phones, there will come a time that these types of journalism can match traditional journalism.
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