My Guardian column this week is about my experience in the Reuters-Nokia mojo project at Davos. Since I haven’t written about my conclusions in the blog, here is the full text of what I wrote (which differs slightly from what was printed; link to the videos at the end):
We already know that camera-phones in the hands of witnesses have been changing news; there is no better illustration of that, so far, than the 7/7 bombings. But I now see that this same device may change the job of the journalist in ways more radical than I could have imagined until I started reporting with one.
At last month’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, I begged my way into Reuters’ mojo – mobile journalist – project and was one of a score of delegates and reporters to get a Nokia N82 mojo phone. Reuters picked the phone because it has a high-quality camera and operates at high speed. For their own journalists, they kit it out with a wireless keyboard, a tiny tripod, a solar battery, and a decent microphone, together with software that enables reporters to organize and publish text, photos, and video onto blogs. They kitted the Davoscenti – including me, Reuters CEO Tom Glocer and WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell – with just the camera-phone and simpler software that let us upload videos in two clicks.
At last year’s Davos, I recorded interviews and pieces with a small consumer video camera that I was able to take into more places than jealous big media could, lugging their heavy and obvious equipment. I shot YouTube cofounder saying for the first time that Google would share revenue with video producers and I put that on YouTube. To do that, I had to import the video onto my Mac and edit and encode it and then upload it online: a hassle and a delay.
This year, when I ran into David Cameron in the halls of Davos, alone and without handlers, I walked up and asked him about his own small video work at Webcameron, which I’ve covered in this column. I whipped out my mojo Nokia and asked whether he’d mind my recording it. I told him I was doing this for Reuters, but I can’t imagine he took that seriously, for I was just using a phone. How could that be professional?
And there is the first fundamental change brought on by the mojo phone: It’s small, unobtrusive, unthreatening. You don’t feel as if you’re talking to a camera and, in turn, to thousands or millions online. You’re talking to a phone; how silly. Other Reuters mojo journalists told me they had the same experience: It makes recording people more casual and perhaps candid and certainly easier.
The camera-phone also allowed me to record moments without drawing attention to myself. At Google’s Davos party, I recorded 14 precious seconds of long-time White House aide David Gergen boogying on the dance floor. As Henry Kissinger stood before a computer recording a video for YouTube, I stood next to him recording the event myself; I went unnoticed. Of course, there are issues: Is any moment of our lives now fodder for broadcast? It’s sobering enough that Britons are tracked everywhere by CCTV cameras, but now you’ll be followed by camera-carrying citizens who could be journalists (but who, even if they’re not, can still broadcast you on YouTube). Life is on the record.
Another key change to journalism brought on by the mojo camera is a difference in how video is used in telling stories. I felt no need to produce a piece or write a story to surround those Davos clips. The snippet is sufficient. I can also see using such video clips as part of larger stories – they become moving and talking pictures. They become part of a multimedia narrative, now that journalists no longer need to pick one medium but can work in them all. In short, we’re not using cameras to make TV with all its trappings and orthodoxies. We’re just making video, video that’s good enough to tell a story.
There’s one additional and even more radical use for the mojo phone: I was able to use it to broadcast live to the internet using Qik.com. Live changes everything.
I conclude from my few days as a mojo in the rarified and thin air of Davos that all journalists – print, broadcast; writer, photographer; reporter, editor – should be equipped as mojos. The Nokia is lovely and all the better because it can upload or broadcast while mobile and can be used to send photos to Flickr and tweets to Twitter (more on that another week). But for the cash-strapped news organization, may I also recommend the $90 Flip Video, which records 30 minutes for upload straight to YouTube via a PC. At Davos, I showed it to the editor of Bild, Germany’s largest newspaper, and he’s ready to buy them by the gross. For today, a wired journalist without a camera and connectivity is like a hack without a pencil.
(Videos mentioned here may be seen at www.buzzmachine.com/mojo.)