By Molly Hulsey
Former Reynolds Fellow Will Sullivan has focused for several years on using mobile tools to report stories.
This year, students from four different journalism courses have been reporting their stories with mobile phones, using new software and technology to enhance their work.
They spoke during RJInnovation Week about their experiences and impressions of mobile reporting and the tools they used.
- Students used technology from Vericorder to enhance their mobile reporting. The company produces accessories like the mCam, which snaps onto an iPhone and transforms it into a “fully functional imaging device.”
- The accessory has a full size lens to increase image quality, as well as audio improvements and a weighted design to minimize shaky video.
So, did it help improve reporting?
- Interviewees seemed more willing subjects, thinking a quick interview on a cell phone wasn’t as big of a deal as a big set-up with tripods and large cameras.
- Students found that the accessories were easy to carry and easy to learn how to use.
- Most cited that they would prefer to use it as a back-up plan to traditional reporting when necessary.
- The small screen made viewing difficult while recording.
- Occasional software glitches would sometimes cause stories to freeze and shut down, although the program always saved all work.
- Lighting and zoom limitations were more restrictive than traditional cameras.
Students held focus groups with users of the new technology, both beginners and intermediate, to test their reactions and opinions.
- Eight out of nine participants owned smartphones, and found the software easy to use after playing around with it for awhile.
- The majority of users said they would use the product again… if it were free.
- For most, the lower quality of the imagery was a fair tradeoff for the increase in convenience.
- Intermediate users were more hesitant to believe in the quality of the reporting done with the mobile device, potentially because they had more experience with traditional filming.
- Most said they would like to have it as a back-up, in case they had equipment problems or needed a quick story.
Students also surveyed other journalists to see how feasible mobile reporting would be in the newsroom.
- Almost half of those surveyed said less than ¼ of their newsroom staff had a smartphone.
- The majority of companies whose employees were surveyed said they don’t subsidize smartphone use, and most weren’t even willing to spend $50 on employees’ smartphones.
- Mobile phones were used most in the newsroom for photos and breaking news.
- Cost and training were found to be the biggest barriers to cell phone use in reporting.