Where will mobile journalism take us?
Interview about Mobile Journalism by Ashley Pla of Spanish Public Radio Television (RTVE) with answers by Robb Montgomery (@Videojournalist on Twitter)

Q&A about mobile journalism.

What advantages does mobile journalism offer?
Montgomery: “A modern smartphone is the most powerful reporter’s notebook ever invented. So that means reporters can use the device that’s in their pocket for audio reporting, photo journalism, and video filmmaking.”

What are the disadvantages of mobile journalism?
“The biggest disadvantage is that most reporters have not been trained how to report with their smartphones. There’s a different style for interviewing, there’s a method for recording scenes and visually documenting nonfiction reality that is a foundation skill that, I believe, every modern journalist needs to have. “

What kind of competencies should a mobile journalist have?”
“When I teach reporters and student journalists how to use their smart phones for mobile journalism, I focus on the fundamentals: Stability, light, and sound, the six-shot pattern, 10 basic story forms for video, how to capture high-quality audio, and how to edit short stories on their mobile devices. Editing your own work is essential to improving your competency with mobile journalism. There is no substitute for this experience.”

Has the mobile phone modified journalistic routines?
“The speed to a story has accelerated with the smartphone being used properly by a reporter in the field. To quickly file assets back to their newsrooms in photos video clips and interview sound bites, as well as the ability to go live at a moments notice. I also insist on training assignment editors whenever I do mobile journalism workshops because those folks need that hands-on experience so that they can more intelligently coordinate tasks with reporters in the field and not overwhelm them.”

Has the mobile phone modified the journalistic narratives?
“Social media platforms like SnapChat, TikTok, and Instagram stories provide layered and linear formats that can connect with social media consumers. Vertical storytelling for example with stickers and text over video are a modern interpretation of the classical Kinogram stories telling format that was invented more than 100 years ago when people used to watch short newsreels in their cinemas on Saturday morning.”

Has the mobile phone modified the way of consuming the information?
“A lot of news execs have only focused on this; That the smartphone is the end point of a traditional journalism report — whether that’s text, video or audio. Of course, we need to be sensitive to how users swipe and share and always deliver the information in a concise and attractive way. My mission has been to also help those managers start to unlock the storytelling potential that properly trained reporters can produce with their smartphones.”

The mobile phone has democratized journalism, what role does ‘citizen journalism’ play in our society?
“Citizen journalists are a source for journalists and their contributions, of course, need to be verified using standard journalism practices. We can’t underestimate the power of having additional lenses in the field to enhance the reporting that we do.”

Which is the role of the journalist regarding citizen journalism?
“I believe that the key is good collaboration and cooperation. Through that process, we need to encourage citizens to make contributions that are journalistically sound and make it easy for them to share with us and verify the material. Some news organizations have built great programs that encourage their audiences to contribute material and partner with newsroom around issues that matter to them.”

The written and digital newspapers, the local media and the radio, are perhaps the medias that have integrated more quickly the use of the mobile phone in their journalistic processes, which one do you think is the cause of the slow integration of the mobile phone in the Journalists processes of the big television companies?
“That’s a great question and I can go back to 2007 where I made several cross-country tours in the USA and Canada training traditional newspaper reporters how to do video journalism with small consumer cameras and a laptop. I think that the reporting staff and the editorial workflows for the wire services, newspapers and other non-native TV producers was more interested in creating video content without all the restrictions of a broadcast station.

Television as a medium is entertainment based. That is its core DNA. So that means TV people are used to working as teams with people with very defined specific roles based around theatrical production. You’re either a camera operator, an on-air reporter, a producer, or a presenter. The institutional nature of the way TV people work has, perhaps, made it harder for them to see the immediate benefits or apply them properly.

I have seen a lot of success is when a broadcaster has a small Mojo team, or a dedicated unit that makes documentary films. Those teams are successful because they are free from some of the institutional pushback and expected roles for each member of the team. Using small mobile gear is complimentary to what they already do, they just need to invest more in integrating it and exploring it in ways that only they can do.

This is one of the reasons I founded the Mobile Journalism Awards — To showcase the best work being done worldwide and get newsrooms excited about the stories they are able to make with just a smartphone. http://mobilejournalismawards.com.”

What do you miss in a phone when you practice your profession?
“I find it very rewarding to use a phone for as much as I’m able to use it for. It is lightweight and uncomplicated, but there are times when I wish it would do a better job in low light situations, there are times when I wish I had a real telephoto lens.

But, by and large, I’ve been pretty successful with even a single lens iPhone. I have won 20 International film festivals with nonfiction journalism stories using an iPhone 6s+. Short documentaries is certainly a new area of opportunity for journalists to consider for making work that goes from “Smartphone to the Silver Screen.”

So many people focus on the latest tech but I like to say that “the music isn’t in the violin.” Everyone of us has a great ‘violin’ in our smartphone, so what is needed now is the knowledge and experiences that will help journalists get the most ‘music’ from that instrument.”

Every time there are more phones with better cameras, more capacity …, more applications that allow working on a mobile phone as in a newsroom …, what do you think is coming on in mobile journalism?
“I recently upgraded to the iPhone 11 pro max from the 6S+ and yes it has three lenses, but for me the biggest upgrade is in the powerful chips being used in the phone. Most of my work is filmed with a single lens, so that wasn’t the main reason I upgraded. It’s nice to have an ultra wide lens — it means I don’t have to necessarily carry a GoPro with me to get that shot size.

But really any late model Smartphone is going to have enough pixels of resolution and a strong enough chip to record high-quality video. Beyond that it’s really not important to pay so much attention to the marketing pitches from the handset manufacturers. More megapixels will not result in more film prizes or groundbreaking mobile journalism.

What will build capacity in newsrooms is growing the literacy for the types of storytelling that can be done and supporting it throughout the organization: From the editor in chief right down to the field reporter.”