March 27 and 28 were spent immersed in the world of mobile, journalism, storytelling and content creation, courtesy of the first Mobile Journalism Conference held in Dublin and organised by broadcaster RTÉ.
It was the most rewarding, packed and inspiring event – filled with incredible journalists and storytellers doing wonderful things, often armed with just a few pieces of tech, some apps and a determination to get the story out no matter what.
I was lucky enough to be asked to attend by my boss, and then even luckier to be asked to participate as a speaker by organiser Glen Mulcahy, Innovation Lead with RTÉ, and author of this brilliant blog.
Richard Sambrook said the changing immediacy of journalism was a challenge, and that “first and wrong was not first”; he also warned that mobile journalism wasn’t so much about phones as about the end of the age of satellite. “It’s the age of IP news” he told his audience. He cited mobile, social and realtime visual as the three disruptions to traditional news, and warned that to survive a newsroom had to understand and do all three. “Mobile is about much more than reorganising desks,” he said.
Gerd Leonhard said broadcasting was over and ‘broadbanding’ was the new world: “If you want a job [in journalism] what you do has to be above the api, because if it falls below the api a machine can do it”, was his takeaway message. He also introduced me to a word I’ve never heard before: ‘Humarithams’. As in, ‘stories can be made by algorithms, great stories are told by humarithms’. Here’s an extra bit of Gerd bonus copy, for all those social media editors still traumatised by the recent Facebook upheavals: “Facebook is not in it for the journalism. It is not the reason Facebook exists… we should not be giving away our content to people who are not interested in news, but who are only interested in news as a commodity”.
The point I really took away from his talk was that the pace of change in most mainstream media is just too slow, given the speed of the innovations are happening away from our industry, in the world of tech and the world of the consumer – and we have to be faster, more nimble, and more open-eared/open-minded to trying new things.
Of course, as with any mobile conference I guess, you do come away wanting to do everything on a mobile phone and just bin off the desktop forever. But, in a world where the Nerd Herd was gathered in such great numbers, it was interesting that my presentation was the only one that day (as far as I can recall) to reference work that had been done in newsrooms with Google Glass. Occulus Rift didn’t get much of a mention either on day 1 (I can’t speak for all the day 2 workshops) and the most interesting wearable I saw was a Narrative camera that takes photos on a timer and which I now want so badly I’m ready to commit a crime for one.
The other talks that I found highlights from Day 1 were by Michael Rosenblum (aka the Father of Videography, according to his bio) who sucked all the air out of the room by informing journalists they were effectively “fucked” and that ‘editing, curating, publishing’ was the future for news organisations. I love a bit of agent provocateur, and I thought his talk was fascinating – designed to needle, provoke and make mainstream media ponder its role in such a world, and for indies to consider their responsibilities.
From the same panel, I really enjoyed Shadi Rahimi‘s talk on covering Ferguson with just mobile phones, what made AJ+ social media existence a faster, more fit-for-purpose news organisation than rivals. The answer, in a nutshell, is hitting the story out into the park on social as soon as you can verify it, and involving the audience as much as possible.
My panel was on challenging story concepts, boiled down to ‘what makes a good story?’ and as I’d begged to go first (my slides are at the bottom of this post, along with bonus content for reading that far – a video of @warrengatchell and I talking social media…) I was able to relax and actually listen to the rest of the speakers. Christian Payne was, as ever, compelling as he ran through the tech he uses for storytelling, dating back to 2003, and also somehow shoehorned a quick burst of harmonica playing into the session.
Here’s a link that’s worth a listen
— Mediacontact.ie (@mediaflash) March 27, 2015
Day 2 was a very special event – a group of us were taken around Dublin by two of the best mobile phone photographers in the business, and given a masterclass. But as this piece of writing is now reaching epic proportions, I’ll blog about that when I have a bit of time to do (hence ‘part I’ in this post’s title).
So I hope RTÉ get plenty of kudos for organising something so cool – they deserve all the plaudits going. Thank you for inviting me along to participate – it was an experience I am delighted to have been a part of. I met fascinating and cool people who do amazing things in mobile spaces, and I learned so much. I really don’t ask for much more from a conference.
So, Meerkat, eh?
It was, by all accounts, the darling of SXSW and digital acres have been given over to assessing its worth (and here I am, adding to them). Search Twitter at any given time and it’s everywhere, being [LIVE NOW]…
I downloaded it a few weeks ago when it still had access to Twitter’s social graph, which meant that as people I followed also joined there was an onslaught of notifications.
When I tested it in the BelfastLive newsroom, and later discovered my timeline was subsequently full of me @-ing myself, which was a puzzle until I realised it was a kind of reverse-publishing of my Meerkat conversations, back onto Twitter. This tweet-conversation feature did cause some controversy and at one point was switched off by Twitter, although it’s been reinstated.
I like the idea of another live streaming app (I liked the late, lamented Qik although I’ve always returned to Bambuser) but I just don’t know that I’m that sold on the idea of ephemeral livestreaming for news organisations, as unless you save the Meerkat video to your phone, it’s gone.
Your livestream has a mayfly-like existence, no matter how large your audience for the stream was, if you forget to save it down. In the heat of breaking news moments, I like to know my livestream is already safely stored, with an option to download or embed, on a site somewhere.
Of course, ephemeral conversations can offer wonderful opportunities for journalists (hello, Snapchat!) but I also think newsrooms should attempt to put down permanent markers of their work, because a) certain events that merit live streaming need to last, and b) with permanency comes authenticity and the opportunity for checks and verification. It’s harder to challenge inaccuracy if there’s no permanency, both in terms of the journalist and audience. It’s definitely easier for People With Agendas to call out journalists for errors if there’s that piece of work’s lasting testimony is this: So, yeah. Meerkat. It’s fun, it’s insanely popular, and it has a social cache right now that means most of us working in digital journalism are interested in trying it for new things. But, as with a lot of The Shiny (and, yes, I am guilty of loving The Shiny) it should also come with a caveat: When you’re planning to go live, don’t just think about trends, think about what is fit for purpose in the long term as well.
When it comes to critiquing others’ work, I am very much of the ‘there but for the grace of God…’ school of thought. I’m fairly sure, for example, there are enough spelling and grammar issues over the course of this blog’s eight or so years to make the average sub editor’s heart sink.
But.. there is a new-ish thing that is quietly driving me nuts and, as more titles latch on to the idea of Tweet+image+link = More Engagement it’s spreading like a weed.
It’s the phenomenon of Headless Subject Matter. Here are some examples (and I’m sorry, titles below, to pick you out – another time search would have revealed several different offenders I’m sure)…
The Headless Royal (thankfully not in the wives of Henry VIII sense)
The Headless-But-Clothed-So-That’s-Something Pop Sensation
The Headless Only People In The World To Have Married, Ever
The Headless My-Dress-Cost-Less-Than-A-Tonne-So -I’m-Spinning-With-Joy Model
And finally, two Cropping Crimes for tragic Jagger. Poisoned (allegedly) and now beheaded – what is this? The 13th century?
The thing is, even when it looks normal in the tweet, the preview (these examples are from Twitter and Tweetdeck) often doesn’t. I learned bitter lessons last week, as I selected, cropped, uploaded, posted, checked… and then deleted photos on both Twitter and Facebook posts because I’d sized them wrongly. Eventually Google (or Audience Review, to be accurate) provided me with a key: Use a 2:1 ratio, with the best upload size being 1024×512, as this scales down well to 440×220.
Links with photos in Facebook also have a nasty tendency to crop in unfortunate ways. I tend to get around this by uploading a specific image rather than going with whatever the link generates. I found this post very helpful in choosing sizes.
So, a minor gripe in the scheme of things but it’s something that takes just minutes to get right, and it makes all the difference in the world.
Things I worry about:
- Why the airport tax charged by cabs from Belfast City Airport fluctuates by £1 for no apparent reason
- Is Rick from The Walking Dead aware of how awful his beard is?
- In the rise of Junk Food News, how do I avoid being a part of the problem?
Woman orders cheese & biscuits at Scottish hotel & got this..(see pic!) – What odd courses have you been served? pic.twitter.com/DB5u0aiivi
— BBC Newcastle (@bbcnewcastle) March 3, 2015
This is my new favourite thing, courtesy of the @GazetteBoro team in Middlesbrough (disclosure: yep, they’re part of Trinity Mirror Regionals, like me).
The gif (you might need to click to activate) is a simple, neat idea, and really summed up the how fans feel about being up in the rarified atmosphere of the top of the table.
Lots of great engagement too. Just goes to show, you don’t need to break the internet to be awesome sometimes.
— GazetteBoro (@GazetteBoro) February 10, 2015