Digital Journalism: the Pros and Cons of Mobile

Teaching Digital Journalism this semester was an experiment in mobile technology, patience, and making do with what you’ve got. Using only iPhones and laptops, students gathered the news. The idea to “go mobile” occurred to me after completing a MOOC (Massive On-Line Course) offered by The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas this past summer. The five week course presented the how and why of mobile journalism. I was convinced it was a great way to teach my students how to report in the field using simple tools. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as easy as it sounded. Sound Quality – We did have challenges with the technology.  The quality of the audio was poor when using only the microphone purchased with the mCam Lite. Hand held microphones are a necessity. Every mobile journalism student should have a good quality microphone. Period.

Digital Journalism students were mobile all semester. Editing and shooting from their phones.

Video Quality – The video quality was less than adequate at times.  Reasons for the poor video quality varied, and I’m still trouble shooting reasons why. I think sometimes it related to the uploading procedures, other times it was an editing issue, and other times it was clearly operator error.

Lack of Resources & Making Do – Of equal import, all students do not own iPhones, iPads or laptops. Like many small colleges we do not have the budget to purchase all the equipment I would need (or like) for each student to have their own. To solve this problem, students worked in teams. We shared personal equipment. While this was an issue we did overcome, it needs to be taken into consideration for assignments.

The Upside of Mobile Technologies – Mobile journalism content is useful in instances when a news crew can not get to a specific location. It is also a relatively inexpensive way to teach students about the basics of mobile reporting. Overall it was an excellent experience for the entire class. Students tell me they learned a lot. A few of them shared with me they’ve been offered jobs to shoot and edit videos. This was a crowning moment for me. One of the best examples I can share with you is Denielle Balint’s Mobile Journalism report. Denielle Balint

There are so many factors to take into consideration when your are responsible for writing, shooting, and editing your own work. It is not possible to cover all of the content in any one course. Trust me. I tried.

In the spring, I’ll try again.

What do you think? Have you experienced similar challenges using mobile technologies as a student, teacher or journalist? I would like to hear from you.

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Dr. Gina Marcello is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication, Graphic Design & Multimedia at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, NJ.