Reuters’ Mobile Journalism the Wave of Future?

    by Mark Glaser
    October 29, 2007

    Reuters has been experimenting with mobile journalism, testing out a way for reporters to file stories from the field using videophones. The news service has given reporters a Mobile Journalism Toolkit, including a Nokia N95, a fold-up keyboard and directional microphones. The idea is that reporters could do video, photo, audio and text reports without having to use a laptop. This effort mirrors an initiative by Ganett to outfit “mojos” with gear to report in multiple media from the field.

    But if you peruse Reuters’ special website to see the early reports from Reuters mojos, they are uneven, with blurry photos and choppy videos with poor sound quality. Does this mean that Reuters reporters need more time to work out the kinks, or that we as online news readers will accept poorer quality if it comes from an important breaking news event? The problem is that the events they cover — Fashion Week and the U.S. presidential campaign trail — are not hard news and we expect soft features to have a better production quality.

    What do you think about Reuters’ mobile efforts? Do you think this is the wave of the future, with journalists reporting using handheld devices more than laptops? Could news organizations outfit their pro journalists as well as top amateurs to report neighborhood-level hyper-local news online? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

    Tagged: gannett handhelds mobile journalism mojos reuters
    • is it that “we as online news readers will accept poorer quality if it comes from an important breaking news event?”

      Maybe 50 percent of all production values video news were wasted, but no one ever knew which 50 percent.

      I think you can do it two ways: send the troops out to report for the Web, but keep an eye on technology, and wait to outfit them based on observed need. Or…. outfit the troops based on where you see technology going, and then wait for the need to arise that shows the troops why you bought them all this stuff.

      It seems Reuters has chosen the second course, which is more pro-active.

      Either way, only when the tools and the news need for them come together will we know the potential.

    • I’d rather have new, blurry photos than old, perfectly tailored photos. You really can’t blame the technology either, as the N95 has a 5 megapixel Zeiss lens. Give ’em some time to iron out the rough spots.

    • The video quality of the one I skipped to, the protest against toxic toys, was reasonable quality. The finished video, not the raw footage.

      I think it was as good as most television news on-the-spot camera work. I’m not sure if my standards are low or what’s expected of online rich-media reporting now exceeds what we expect of television news reports.

      The greatest potential I see is exactly the potential they’re skipping. They link from the raw footage to the finished blog-with-video, but the public post doesn’t link back to the original video.

      It’s also interesting that the (lightly edited) footage is Reuters-hosted flash video, while the public video is YouTube. They must not want their infrastructure to take heavy viewing.

      Certainly we will continue to see more paid and unpaid reporters using digital video, audio, and pictures. Audio, in fact, is where the next better-cheaper-easier wave will have to hit (I hope).

      As suggested by the presentation of the student group funded by Knight that proposed a collaborative editing website for community journalism, Tandem, it’s actually easier to work with others on combining various media than on a written news story. NowPublic (that’s another Drupal plug) is another example of this trend toward crowdsourcing the multimedia aspects of news stories. (This is not to say actual over-the-internet editing of video or audio, although that will be massively cool too.) For this reason alone, handheld recording devices will become more and more used in community reporting.

    • I agree with Benjamin that the toxic toys piece worked the best. I think hand-held tech is best for reporting these tight, crowded situations. The camera really captured the jumpy energy of the rally.

      Conventions halls were designed to give fancy cameras and expensive production crews plenty of room to work. There’s no need for a lo-fi, nimble camera at these functions. I think Reuters’ reporters should stick with more personal, up-close events where the camera crew can’t go.

    • journalists need phones or mobile devices with inbuilt spot camera is needed to transmit live images and videos.a spot camera is the best product for this project.spotcamera.com is working on the same

    • The Reuters project is an interesting/bold one – but I don’t think the fit is right yet – not sure if whole reports are the best use mobile reporting.
      Previously accepted ideas of ‘quality’ will change/have changed as audience expectation changes – i think standards of photography arguments will dissipate as the audience begins to see some mobile journalism as the ‘first rough cut’ of a story.
      What we may see is mobile being used more successfully in breaking news, with great refinements on more comprehensive pieces.
      Mobile journalism in one form or another is here to stay. A host of news publishers in the UK are experimenting with mobile journalism in its differing forms.
      ‘On the Fly’ journalism – reporters publishing direct to their sites just the snippets of news that they know, via twitter/flickr, is causing waves in some sectors of the UK industry, with some thinking it necessitates a whole new outlook on professional standards.
      Here’s a piece with thoughts from editors from Sky, Trinity Mirror and the Manchester Evening News on the mobile problem:

    • Ron

      I also think that it is good to have alternative solutions that favor open source platforms like Drupal, Joomla and WordPress for mobile blogging. As reported by http://www.journalism.co.uk/2/articles/530925.php the alternative for Nokia phones is Wavelog by Telewaving.com

    • Matsu

      News organizations are certainly important technology activators given the number of readers, but small companies and independent web bloggers have their portion of the cake. It is better sometimes to be the second in the village than the first in town. That we could also see with phone manufacturers, otherwise search engine company or computer company would not launch themselves in the phone business. I can only admire that small companies like Telewaving can pursue in the game of big and continue releasing new versions of their software. That is the power of the Web! Keep on Waving…

    • I put the N90 through journalistic hoops while in London in 2007 (http://www.ojr.org/ojr/stories/061216_Bentley)and then the N95 earlier this year here in Missouri (http://thecyberbrains.wordpress.com/2007/11/27/lessons-hard-learned-and-lost/) .
      The N90 is a big, tough unit with great optics but an awkward feel. The N95 is a sleek beauty, but the glass screen is a bit fragile for hard field work.
      But man are they fun. I had a different version of the keyboard, but loved being able to carry my whole office in two pockets without advertising that I was a newshound.
      These units are far from perfect. But they left me with no doubt that my laptop is living on limited time and my beloved camera may linger on the shelf. I saw phones with 10 MP cameras and substantial optical zooms in Korea. There is a projected keyboard system in the works. And very fast 4G phones are not far away.
      Clyde Bentley
      Missouri School of Journalism

    • When you get into the 90s, it’s easy to confuse your N’s. The tough older model I reviewed was the N93 rather than its somewhat less powerful N90 sibling. Both have a flip-and-twist format and a side-mounted lens that gives them a video camera look.


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