How “Mojo” Technology is Changing Video Journalism

Newsgathering is changing rapidly due to the internet, smartphones, broadband wireless and live-streaming apps. Television news and newspapers continue to compete with online news sites to produce the latest video. The old days of ENG have moved to “mojo,” for mobile journalism.

The line between print and broadcast news organizations has blurred fast. Readers can now watch live events unfold in video on the homepage of the Washington Post. The New York Times has experimented with multimedia tools and virtual reality. Everyone is creating new forms of storytelling. The audio company Shure posted an article on this merger of news technologies on its blog. It found that the entire newsgathering industry is undergoing massive change.

Marcus Hesselmann, editor of DNI Fund project, Tasesspiegel Leute.

Marcus Hesselmann, editor of DNI Fund project, Tasesspiegel Leute.

“Almost nothing is the way it used to be,” said Markus Hesselmann, a former online editor-in-chief of Berlin’s Der Tagesspiegel, who has since taken on a new job at the newspaper focusing on hyper-local reporting for the digital age. “We all started out as print journalists because we didn’t want anything to do with technology. All you wanted was a pen and a notepad to go out and do your reporting.”

Now, Der Tagesspiegel runs an almost 24-hour news operation, with smartphone-wielding reporters often covering local news as early as 5 a.m. “They send in little videos. They send in texts. The gadgets are getting easier to use so you can concentrate on your content,” he said. “That is the main change: you’re doing journalism on the go.”

The internet has created a new way to reach vastly larger audiences while simultaneously reducing the gear and staff necessary for newsgathering. No longer needed are massive satellite trucks with a crew to cover breaking news. There hasn’t been this much technology-induced upheaval in the news industry since the advent of TV and radio.

Now a single reporter with a smartphone, high-quality microphone and broadband wireless connection can bring events from around the world to anyone carrying a mobile device. This new, flexible brand of digital news reporting is now called mobile journalism, or “mojo” for short.

Glen Mulcahy, managing director at Mojofest

Glen Mulcahy, managing director at Mojofest

“Big broadcast institutions tend to be very precious about the big broadcast infrastructure,” Glen Mulcahy, a long-time mojo trainer, told the International Journalists’ Network. “When something disruptive comes along, people tend to try to kill it as fast as possible rather than stepping back and seeing the potential.”

That left an opening for new media outfits like Vice and Buzzfeed that cater to digital natives. But the old news industry appears to have finally caught on. After promoting mojo training for years, Mulcahy is now in charge of innovation at the Irish public broadcaster RTE. And another mobile journalism advocate, Björn Staschen, runs the NextNewsLab for NDR, the major German broadcaster.

“Our main job is to find out how to use other means of production than we have been — big cameras, remote units — to produce breaking news for television, but also for social media and online journalism,” Staschen told Shure in an interview in Hamburg. “And we’re mostly, if not exclusively, looking at smartphones.”

Björn Staschen, project lead Crossmedia News / head NextNewsLab bei NDR / ARD

Björn Staschen, project lead Crossmedia News / head NextNewsLab bei NDR / ARD

Mojo technology is doing more than changing how news is gathered, packaged and distributed by professionals. It’s also democratizing the role of the reporter. For example, video streaming apps like Twitter’s Periscope and Meerkat make it possible for anyone to broadcast an event live, with little or no editorial filter.

Experiences are often streamed raw and without context. That creates opportunities for independent journalists and bloggers, but it can present serious challenges for established news organizations, which are more accustomed to vetting and analyzing news items for their readers and audiences.

After an initial rush to live streaming, many editors are now trying to take some of the speed out of their news production and offer readers and viewers more reflection and context.

“Journalism is not just about holding your camera at something; it’s about reporting and editing,” said Hesselmann. Though iPhones decked out with professional mics and tripods might be replacing camera crews and satellite trucks, many in the news business believe all the rapid technological change is enhancing rather than fundamentally altering journalism.

“It’s about complete storytelling,” said Ivo Burum, an Australian television producer and mojo expert. “Mojo for me is a philosophy and a culture before it’s a technology.”

In that regard, 21st-century mojo looks a lot like the old-school reporting predating the internet age. Credibility and quality still win the day no matter what technology is being used to reach the audience.

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