Journalism and the ubiquity of mobile

When I sent my reporting class out to do an observational reporting exercise (basically ‘go be a fly on the wall’) this week, only about 20 per cent of them left with their note books.

Interesting, I thought. I wondered how they would do with this assignment.

They were told to go out and watch a scene, and come back with 10 details to share with the group.

How to remember intricate details of a scene without a notebook? I didn’t know how they would do it.

Boy did I feel old when these students stood up and read their notes from their smartphone. Of course. I should have been surprised they didn’t Tweet what they saw.

While I was teaching them how to paint a scene with words, they were reminding me of the ubiquity of the mobile phone, and how for the next generation, it will be their primary reporting device.

Now that it takes photos, shoots video, plays video, sends texts, and *gasp* makes phone calls, the average journalism student is as well equipped technically to cover news events as most newsrooms. Indeed, we’ve streamed video from a City Hall public debate on an iPhone (lesson learned: if you live stream for more than 90 mins, your iPhone will get very, very hot)

The smartphone. It’s already their primary source of news. Whenever I speak to a journalism class/group, I ask them where they get their latest updates. They never say newspapers (not a shock), but more and more, I’m finding they rarely say ‘the web.’

What I’m hearing is “My Twitterfeed,” “My facebook app”…

On your phone? I ask.  Nods around the room.

Knowing this, and how digital future generations will be consuming (and yes, I said consuming) news, we need to craft our journalism – and pitch it – for these platforms.

News organizations can’t just throw up the news on a website (and please, make sure it’s a mobile-friendly  site at that).  We need to post content across the platforms and apps that our readers use.

It hurts a little to admit it, (oh,  nostalgia!) but the web is, well, a little 2008.

We need to promote our work and speak to our audience through Twitter, Facebook, SMS. We can’t wait until we’ve got a captive audience in front of a laptop or desktop.

We need to get onto their phones.

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