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The benefits of mobile journalism

Smartphones are an affordable and portable production studio for every journalist, whether you work in TV, radio, online news or for a newspaper.

Affordable: You can achieve TV-quality video by combining a good quality smartphone with an external microphone, a tripod and tripod mount, and by using a professional video recording app. This set-up is significantly cheaper than a traditional broadcast camera. It means entire newsrooms can put cameras in the hands of more journalists.

Portable: Most mobile journalists can fit their equipment in a backpack. The phone plus a lightweight tripod, clip-microphones and an external light can weigh under 3kg, making it easy to produce high quality stories anywhere, anytime, as Syrian film-maker Waad al-Kateab did when making her 2019 documentary about life in war-torn Aleppo, or as BBC journalist Dougal Shaw does for most of the stories he covers.

Discreet: The fact that smartphones are so commonplace make them a valuable tool for journalists who need to operate discreetly. An early example is reportage by the BBC’s Nick Garnett when he covered riots in Manchester in 2011. More recent work includes this thread of photos, videos and livestreams by citizen journalist @HongKongHermit, during the September 2019 protests in Hong Kong.

Approachable: The small size of smartphones, and the fact that they are so commonplace, means they are less intimidating for interviewees. A study by the Reuters Institute found people are more likely to agree to an interview and to open up in front of a smartphone than they are in front of a TV camera.

Apps for beginners to professionals: There are dozens of storytelling apps for iPhones and Androids. Some are simple and designed for quickly creating social stories with animated titles, fun captions and free music. They are also fast to learn and use, so they’re ideal for creating a great-looking story on a deadline.

Other apps have been designed specifically for professional broadcast journalists. These include video recording and editing apps that meet TV broadcast requirements, audio editing apps for making radio packages and podcasts, and apps for professional photography.

A holistic journalism device: While this manual focuses on video production, your phone can also be used to file for radio, online and social media, take great photos, create and publish podcasts, phone your interviewees, and engage directly with your audience for feedback and follow-up stories. 

Get a short introduction from our author Corinne Podger about the content of this Manual and how to use it to start your mobile journalism journey.

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