Glen Mulcahy is one of the most respected voices in the world of mobile journalism (MoJo). He is Innovation Lead, Technology at RTÉ-Irelands National Public Service Broadcaster, and he is organizing MojoCon, the first conference focusing in the territory of videos made with mobile devices that will take place in Dublin at the end of March.
It is with great pleasure that we invite you to read an in-depth interview with Glen Mulcahy that we will be publishing in three different parts, each Tuesday, starting today.
We want to thank Pilar Oncina, a regular contributor to elTallerAudiovisual.com, for the translation of the interview that you may read in Spanish following this link.
In your opinion, what type of journalist should be recording videos with a smartphone?
I think any and all journalists, irrespective of their medium, should be capable of recording excellent video with their smart phone. Journalists are storytellers essentially and there is no reason for any journalist to not learn the skills required to create beautiful visual stories. Visual storytelling is now the norm online and even more importantly on mobile and the former barriers to entry (cost of cameras and editing etc) are no longer an issue.
How does this “tool” contribute to help a journalist (on the day-to-day)?
The chances are high that the smart phone a journalist is using (iPhone, Android, Windows) is capable of taking great photographs, shooting HD video, editing video , recording and mixing audio and exporting it as a finished story but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Photo montages, live video or audio streaming and more is already integrated into the device – yet so few journalists are using it to its potential. Of course the core use as a communications tool and research tool are essential also.
Where would you place the use of video in an online journal?
I think video should be an essential part of any online journal or any site. I think a website which just relies on text and photographs will struggle to survive. One need only look at the metrics for audience consumption of video content online and on mobile to realise that the audience want video. They have an insatiable appetite for it so to quote Kevin Spacey from his thought provoking speech at the Edinburgh TV festival last year “If the audience want it, GIVE IT TO THEM”
Has recording videos with a smartphone made it to the big TV networks?
Slowly but yes – it is becoming a common practice now but there are different strategies and adoption models. Some stations, like Norway’s NRK commonly use their smartphones to gather 30 seconds of video for their online department as soon as a journalist arrives at a story. Others like the BBC have developed their own news gathering APP for their journalists phones which allows them to grab photos, audio clips or video and send it back raw but very quickly to the newsroom. In the middle east, Aljazeera commonly use mobile phones in hostile environments to avoid drawing attention to their journalists and they regularly use user generated video content from mobiles. Here in RTÉ we’ve been exploring Mobile Journalism as a complete content creation tool – with some of our journalists shooting entire stories for broadcast – just on their iPhones…
You work in RTÉ (Ireland’s National Television and Radio Broadcaster), what grade of implementation do you think has reached there?
As I mentioned above some of our journalists have created complete stories for broadcast all shot just on their iPhone, but that is still the exception to the everyday news-gathering practices, not the norm. In a broader context we’ve delivered training to over 150 staff to encourage them to explore and become familiar with the potential of their mobile devices. Beyond that we are actively exploring Visual Storytelling Apps like Steller and Storehouse to create longer form multimedia stories derived from the main news stories of the day. We have been using mobile devices for Live radio for several years using Apps like Luci Live and now we are entering the phase where we can use the devices on the Vodafone 4G mobile Network to live stream HD Video. This gives us incredible news gathering reach and potential and gives us the chance to turn every journalist into a content creator.
Do you think that a TV cameraman is willing to record with a smartphone?
I think clever TV Cameramen will. I think to them it is “just another camera” with different benefits and limitations to the “professional” cameras they use everyday as part of their role. The key thing I suppose is that cameramen (or journalists for that matter) won’t always have the professional broadcast camera with them but they will have their smart-phone on them – all the time. The tagline “the best camera is the one that you have with you” has been a bit over used at this stage but the fundamental principle is true. When a news story breaks you should be confident with how to use your phone to capture the best video you can (remember you can pull stills from the video after but not vice versa) . Beyond that, being able to trim or edit together a sequence and send it to your station should be a formal requirement of every member of staff who works in the media, print, online radio and t.v. not just a desirable skill.
Is this what you call “Mojo”?
MoJo, love it or hate it, the title has stuck as a partial abbreviation of Mobile Journalism and the jokes never get old (or maybe they do!) I’d like to think that the definition though could be expanded beyond mobile devices like smart-phones and tablets to include DSLR cameras, laptops, GoPros etc also.
Who do you think is on the cutting edge of the “Mojo movement” in North America, Europe, and Asia nowadays?
Europe, I would say is leading the way, though I would say that, wouldn’t I? The reason I believe Europe is ahead is that I have had personal experiences in many of the stations around Europe. I’ve spoken at multiple conferences on the subject and every time I deliver a training course or speak on the subject I meet a new person or group who have already been experimenting with MoJo.
Sky News are a huge international brand and they, to give credit where it is due, have pushed the boundaries on live video streaming from mobile devices substantially in the last twelve to eighteen months. They use the tagline “Live on air in 90 seconds via mobile” and it is proof of the mostly untapped potential of mobile in broadcast.
In the U.S. there are lots of great university lecturers like Judd Slivka, Robert Hernandez, Will Sullivan, Alissa Richardson and more who lead brilliantly innovative journalism courses which include mojo, yet with a few notable exceptions I hear very little about the big networks in the US using Mojo. Obviously Neal Augenstein who is a pioneer in the radio and multimedia space with WTOP Washington is an exception.
There are innovative projects happening in the Middle East and Asia also. Aljazeera have a dedicated media training centre in Doha which delivers mobile journalism and online journalism training and it has inspired a lot of its staff to experiment with mobile as a result. In India Priya Rajasekar has had some brilliant initiatives like “pop up newsrooms” with her students in the Asian College of Journalism. So Mojo is becoming a global movement with new pioneers and practitioners joining daily.
Don’t miss the second part of this very interesting interview with Glen Mulcahy that we will be publishing next Tuesday. Thank you!