"For the context of breaking news, think of a mobile phone as a Swiss Army Knife"
- Stephen Quinn, MoJo Trainer & Writer
Mobile phones are a crucial piece of equipment changing not only the way readers and viewers consume the news today but also sometimes, the way the content is being produced. In 1990's, few mobile phones had a camera capacity but phones with video capacity came a little later.
Today, the number of total mobile phones is 4.77bn and around 50% of them are smartphones. Anybody with a smartphone can create video content and upload it on any of the Social Media platforms. The biggest challenge faced by the media industry is that this content generated by smartphones may be fake and they need to verify the source and the whole story before actually sharing it on their platform.
This happened with BBC London on May 27th, 2012, when they shared a picture of shrouded bodies during the Houla massacre in Syria. The photo was taken down within 90 minutes of publishing because it turned out to be a picture from 2003 in Iraq but the damage was done. The blogosphere went outrageously over accusations that the BBC was pushing the anti-Syria position of the British government.
When common citizens shared their video content to media houses, the media houses learned three lessons:
1. The audience knew more about the story than them.
2. They helped them tell the story faster.
3. They helped them tell the story better.
But the content shared always has a probability of being fabricated. Thus, there should be the following three phases in this process of sharing the content:
1. Sourcing of content
2. Authenticating, verifying, assessing
3. Distributing of that content to different media outputs: online, TV, radio, social.
It seems though that journalists have not fully embraced producing mobile phone content. Many use mobile phones as a backup or to take audio notes. Some radio journalists use it also when they are in a field in difficult circumstances where you don't want to trigger a lot of attention with a big shotgun mike or when you need to file quick news on the spot from a location of breaking news. It seems that news consumers do not mind if the quality of the video is poor on YouTube or other social media. But when they turn to mainstream media outlets, they expect high-quality products and aesthetics with good sound and image. May be this is also one of the reasons why Mobile Journalism has not become the next big thing as expected. Undoubtedly, it is a good backup when your equipment fails.