Mobile journalism is a form of digital storytelling where the primary device used for creating and editing images, audio and video is a smartphone.
Many mobile journalists build other portable devices like laptops into their workflow, but smartphones are at the heart of mobile journalism, and are increasingly used journalists for radio news and podcasts, and video for TV news and documentaries as well as videos for social platforms.
A widely accepted definition today is: “A new workflow for media storytelling where reporters are trained and equipped for being fully mobile and fully autonomous”.
Perhaps more than any other device, a smartphone encourages cross-platform creativity and digital innovation. The small size of the device enables shots and angles that are impossible on a conventional television camera.
Photos, videos, audio and graphics can also be quickly created and edited on the phone and uploaded to multiple platforms and servers direct from the device. And, of course, it’s a telephone – so you can line up interviews, record calls, and also respond quickly to your audience via comments and chat apps.
Once you understand and adopt this mindset, you can truly utilize the phone as a production studio in your pocket.
We gathered examples of mobile audio, mobile photography and mobile video for you to get an idea of what mobile journalism looks and sounds like.
Radio: In 2015, BBC reporter Nick Garnett covered the Nepal earthquake, and used a smartphone along with traditional equipment to cover the disaster for radio and online. Read how he approached the job here.
Photography: In 2017, Time Magazine published ‘Firsts’– a portrait series shot on iPhone. Learn more about how this ground-breaking project was created in the video.
Television: The Dutch broadcaster Omrop Fryslân produced this story in December 2017 for online and TV. The small size of the phone makes it possible to capture both traditional and novel video angles.
Social Media: In 2017, Irish broadcaster RTE launched ‘Mobile Shorts‘ – video packages that are shot and edited on smartphones. These stories are uploaded to social platforms and many are also rebroadcast on TV. The stories are designed to be ‘social first’, with a focus on human interest and community issues, and often outperform ordinary television stories in terms of audience interest.
Vertical storytelling: The rise of social storytelling platforms like Snapchat and Instagram Stories have created a demand for ‘portrait’ format videos that are recorded and watched on smartphones. This story by Yusuf and Sumaiya Omar of ‘Hashtag our Stories‘ has had more than 3 million views since it was published in early 2018.
Glen Mulcahy, former Head of Innovation at Irish RTE and a pioneer of mobile journalism, filmed his colleague Philip Bromwell during a mobile video shoot. This shows how Philip filmed with his smartphone in 3 hours, condensed into 3 minutes via time-lapse: