Every journalist a mojo

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):

n82.jpgWe 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.)

  • I continue to feel some unease at the basic Jeff Jarvis mantra, which is to let technology lead the way. Small video cameras may be a useful tool for some circumstances, but, if so, they will be adopted by those who find them appropriate. Trying to force them onto everyone doesn’t seem sensible.

    Some, of course, will just be Luddites, but others actually know what they are doing and have already selected the tools that they need. A reporter who is skilled at working the phones and dealing with shy sources isn’t going to gain anything from trying to adopt video, in fact his sources may dry up.

    What seems to work the best is for the technologists to invent the gadgets and then allow the market to decide how best to use the devices. I’m sure no one envisioned writing a novel using the text feature on a cell phone, but it’s been done several times in Japan.

    I think Jeff’s long association with the visual media sector makes him a bit too gung-ho about the scope of video in news gathering. I claim that stories which don’t have a visual component get slighted in the broadcast world because they don’t fit the format. One sees almost no original investigative reporting on issues such as tax evasion, sweetheart contracting deals or accounting fraud on the networks. No image hook – no coverage.

    Promote the new technology, make people aware of its potential and then stand back and let the users figure out how to adopt it. Pushing technology doesn’t have a good history of success.

  • Jeff…How does all this affect the need for model releases from people within a video? I’ve never worked in “news” but when shooting images to be used commercially, we always get model releases from those that can be identified within the image.
    Not everything you shoot can be considered “news” can it?
    What are the rules and legalities?

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  • Dear Mr Jarvis,

    I’m glad Reuters found a decent microphone to use with the N82 as I couldn’t so far. Could you maybe tell what they use and how does it connect to the phone (guess it’s Bluetooth)?

  • The mic remains a problem; there’s a kludged plug and I”m not sure how that’s done.

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  • Jeff,
    I’ve been experimenting with streaming LIVE of Qik videos for a while now. I’m calling it Journalism by Wandering Around, and Happenstance Broadcasting.

    It was exciting to be able to interview Duncan Hunter on the street when he was on the way to CNN to announce he was staying in the race.

    The night before the Massachusetts Primary, I streamed live from my N95-3 from the Obama rally. Viewers were able to text to me right on the phone and direct my coverage.


    In Boston, on primary day, I made reports of Obama suppoerters in the morning and streamed them live, then at night I was able to broadcast live from the street outside of Fenway Park, with The Uptake, who streamed it live on their Mogulus channel.


    Then yesterday I broadcast live via Qik at the Anonymous Scientology protest in Boston, and that coverage was rolled into today’s Rocketboom.


    Exciting times!

  • Mojo – love that term. :-)

    Steve contributed tremendously to The UpTake‘s coast-to-coast live coverage of Super Duper Fat Tuesday. I was live in New Orleans (via Macbook + EVDO), we were also live from a caucus in Minnesota on another N95. I love how incognito you can be with a cell phone camera – very much not intimidating, which is a huge advantage.

    This is all building up to our live on-the-ground coverage of the RNC and DNC.

    Read all about it here: Newest anchors report by cell phone, with more context + videos on my blog.

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  • I predict that the ubiquity of the video phone will change pretty much everything, not just journalism – where (generally) the people you’re going to interview are relatively used to having a camera thrust under their noses.

    Where the real changes occur will be in a) privacy per se (as Pxlated hints at), but also ) in our relationships with any major company, and indeed eachother. Celebrities are already learning the hard way that having people with videophones around them is not always good news, but imagine the power that consumers now have?

    Companies with shoddy customer service will pretty soon get exposed by people videoing the whole thing surreptitiously, and blogging it. Anyone can be a Frank Ze…

    We’ve seen round one of companies getting used to bloggers with all sorts of xxxx-hell sites up and running, but imagine how more believable round two will be, when, instead of moaning about the poor customer service they receive, they’ll be showing video of it…

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  • Anna

    > I was able to use it to broadcast live to the internet using Qik.com.

    fyi for the curious, from Qik’s FAQ:

    What do I need to run Qik?
    Currently, we support video streaming on Nokia S60 phones: N71, N73, N75, N76, N77, N80, N91, N92, N93i, N95, E50, E51, E61i, E65, E70m E90 Communicator, 3250, 5500, 5700 Xpress Music, 6110 Navigator, 6120 Classic, 6121 Classic, and 6290. You also need a Data Plan and it is also advisable to have an Unlimited Data Plan from your service provider as video streaming can consume considerable amount of bandwidth.

    How can I participate in Qik’s Alpha release?

    Currently, registration is only through invitations…

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  • esync01

    yes the mobile technology is expanded very fast and new technologies are coming in.Thank you for sharing such post.

  • esync01

    Nice and interesting stuff to read about journalist.Thank you for sharing the stuff.