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Panpa Bulletin : February 2006
February 2006 PANPA BULLETIN | 45 The newsroom of the future will be a different place from that of today. It will be more collaborative, with mul- ti-tasking staff. As new reporters are hired, the ability to shoot and create multi-media content is an important consideration. In other words, back pack journalism. In the backpack journalism debate, an assumption is that the quality of journalism will suf- fer. However from our experi- ence, backpack journalists are competent journalists and pho- tographers. If the assignment is complicated, it is preferable for a reporter to concentrate on the facts and for a photographer to capture the images, but a simple assignment can be covered by an experienced backpack journalist. At Ifra, we recommend that re- porters carry camera phones. Eighteen months ago, Cingular Wireless approached Newsplex with a proposal to moblog the US Presidential race. Moblog is short for mobile weblog, meaning the content has been filed from a mo- bile communication device - usu- ally a camera phone. Like other blogs, moblogs are short postings with the most re- cent material at the top. A moblog combines the scope of print jour- nalism with the immediacy of broadcast. The best moblogs are updated continuously, but they lack depth. A moblog supple- ments rather than replaces tradi- tional, contextual journalism. After accepting Cingular's pro- posal, the Wireless Election Con- nection was born. Together with top journalism schools in the US, we covered national political con- ventions and the election itself. Journalism students covered the events on the convention floor as well as election issues. It was then that I realised a mobile weblog can produce good journalism. At the Republican National Convention in New York, I worked with students from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of California, Berkeley. The students wanted to do a story about how southern delegates were respond- ing to events in New York. At a breakfast for the delegates from Alabama, a delegate stood up to thank the New York police offic- ers who were protecting them, after which the delegation took up a collection, donating more than $1,000 to a police precinct in Brooklyn. It was a good story. Later that day delegates, wear- ing George W. Bush buttons, were sightseeing in the general area of the World Trade Center when some protestors confronted them. Our reporter captured the scene with her camera phone. It was another good story, one that reflected the debates occurring during the campaign. The Election Connection is a substantial body of work. It has been cited all over the world, CNN called it a 'surprise hit' among the bloggers at the Democratic Con- vention. More recently, we were cited as a notable entry in the prestigious Batten Awards. For me, the Election Connec- tion was an epiphany. New media, liberated by technology but per- haps more importantly, liberated from the old rules and formats, can produce quality journalism - even in a mobile weblog. This moblogging phenomenon has not gone unnoticed. Several newspapers around the world have been experimenting with the format. Here are some exam- ples from the U.S.: > In my home state of South Carolina, Morris Communications has started a newspaper and companion website in the retirement community of Bluffton. The website uses citizen-generated content. > In Lawrence, Kansas, The Journal World uses stringers and citizen journalists to cover school sports. > The Ventura County Star in California has extensive photo galleries contributed by private citizens. It still is too early to evaluate these efforts, but I think some conclusions can be drawn. The threshold for what constitutes news is being lowered, newspa- pers are engaging readers while faced with declining circulations and increasing competition and newspapers are creating new and unique content for their websites. The question is: are these pic- tures and stories of interest? Much of the content is of little general interest. The moblog format is in its infancy and the success- ful model is not yet clear. What is clear, though, is that an increas- ing number of people are creating and accessing news and informa- tion in non-traditional formats. A whole new ball game At Ifra, we recommend that reporters carry camera phones. Randy Covington tells us what he sees happening in the journalism of the future. THE iRiver T30 MP3 Player/Re- corder has been awarded the prestigious NewsGear designa- tion by the editors and analysts of newspaper techniques magazine. The judges labeled it a 'portable podcast machine' and praised the compact size, effective built- in microphone and the ability to record directly to MP3 audio format. A podcast is a web feed of audio or video files placed on the Internet to which anyone may subscribe Other NewsGear-designated equipment for 2006 includes: > Nokia's N90 Symbian Series 60 3G smartphone with 2-megapixel integrated still and video camera using Carl Zeiss optics. > Panasonic's PV-GS400 broadcast-quality 3CCD mini- DV digital video camera with outstanding low-light usability. > Lenovo's ThinkPad X41Tablet PC lightweight convertible laptop with pen input and what Ifra editors evaluated to be incredibly accurate handwriting recognition. > Nikon's Coolpix P2 5.1- megapixel camera with built- in WiFi communication for wirelessly transferring images directly to editors' waiting computers. > Planon's DocuPen R700 portable 200-dpi monochrome scanner that can be rolled over an A4/letter-size page to capture it for later USB download. > Canon's PowerShot S2-IS 5-megapixel camera, which can simultaneously capture VGA-resolution full-motion 30- frames- per-second video, with stereo sound, and 5-megapixel print-quality digital still pictures. Ifra's Advanced Journalist Technology Project annually evaluates the latest newsgather- ing technologies, assembling the most innovative and practical into its NewsGear demonstration suite for advanced multi-skilled, multi-format journalists. News- Gear 2006 has been dubbed the Multimedia edition because of its inclusion of a wide range of technology allowing journalists to capture audio, video, documents and even handwritten notes for their increasingly convergent, cross- media news reports. Win for MP3 player Ifra's newspaper techniques magazine looked at technology for journalists.