The Future of Journalism is Here: It’s Your Smartphone

 

In late March I traveled to Dublin, Ireland to attend the first global Mobile Journalism Conference, or MOJOCON for short, all put together by Glen Mulcahy, a journalist from RTE Ireland. I have attended various conferences over the years and they have a tendency to end up as a flash of memories of airport snafus, dinners that went on too long, and if it all goes well, occasionally meeting one or two people who make it into your permanent database. Not MOJOCON. From the moment I sat down for dinner I met fascinating people, ranging from filmmakers who use their smart phones to block for actors and create storyboards, to one man/woman journalist teams who use up to three smartphones all rigged to a smart pad to shoot the news from various angles, all rigged with various lens, and then send the live feed over their smart pad. There were the thinkers there as well. Some spoke loudly how this technology is the end for journalism as we know it and then there were those that disagreed and instead argued the technological revolution is just the beginning of a new age of journalism. 

The conference was attended by journalists from all over the world eager to hear of the newest “thing” to make their work more relevant and dynamic, whether it is software, hardware, or maybe just a way of thinking about the news. I was there for a specific reason, which had little to do with the newest technology. Glen invited me to do a talk on how story plays a role in all this and how my experience of making the documentary Miss Sarajevo was a precursor to how documentaries are being made today in the field. He pitched it like this: “What you did with Miss Sarajevo is what I like to call immersion documentary and with the technology we have today, it expands the possibilities of what a lone person in the field can do.”

At first I felt out of place. There was an overload of technical talk, most of which was over my head. Glen said just tell your story and what you think is important. So I did. And what I focused on was the importance of story. And how this technology is a boon to the world of journalism, but only if we remember we, the storytellers, must serve the story, not the technology. An example that comes to mind in regards to Miss Sarajevo are the satellite link-ups I did with U2 during the Bosnian War. Yes, smart phones and innovations may have made a difference, but in truth the lack of technical ability due to the war forced me to engage with both the locals and also to find a way to “get” U2 to agree. In many ways the lack of technology made the end result of my work even better. That said, I would have had a far better experience in that war if I had a solar blanket that charged batteries or data storage that fit in my pocket.  But I would not go back and change the dynamics of me being forced to lean on my wits to figure out how to get the footage I needed or meet the people I needed to meet. This is what made the work stand out and still out today.

If there is a MOJOCON 2 in 2016 I will absolutely attend. I was fascinated at all the potential to use such compact and powerful technology to create story. As long as we remember to serve the story and honor our connections to the people and places where we are working then the possibilities are endless and tantalizing.

Here are some links to the MOJO conference:

https://tvvj.wordpress.com/#jp-carousel-5310 (this is me on stage)

http://irishtechnews.net/ITN3/glen-mulcahy-rte-mojo-pioneer-and-mojocon-organiser/


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