Are Journalists on Their Way to Becoming One-Person Armies?

Post by 
Mihika Jindal
Published 
November 18, 2020
N

ewsrooms are shrinking. The race to break some news is getting tougher by the day. With tons of news channels on television, plus digital publications and social media riding the hypercurrent wave of constantly relaying news and updates, it’s a challenge to report events in the traditional way with a camera crew. That’s where mobile journalism steps in to save the day.

Uma Shankar Singh is NDTV’s Foreign Affairs Editor who extensively uses mobile journalism in his daily reportage. Be it protests, reporting from rural areas, or quick bytes from busy politicians, his readiness with his mobile enables him to never miss an important moment.  

But TV journalists at NDTV aren’t the only ones making the most of their phones. Digital publications like The Quint, Asiaville and The Print have been using mobile journalism from the beginning. The Quint’s sports editor Mendra Dorjey even used her phone to cover getting stranded in the Himalayas on her way to interview mountaineer Arjun Vajpai.

Compact equipment, accessible apps and ease of functioning offers a chance for journalists to shoot, edit and dispatch quick news bytes from just about anywhere. The fact that almost everyone roams around with a smartphone in their hands, makes it possible for even regular people to capture important happenings around them which—once verified—reaches national and international headlines.

Take for example the explosion that happened on 4 August in Beirut. While the news channels started the story by reporting the aftermath of the explosion, more and more firsthand videos from the public started pouring in, which were then picked by news channels.

The same thing happened with US Wildfires when people on the road started flooding social media channels with firsthand footage shot on mobiles, that assisted newsrooms with additional content in the midst of pandemic restrictions.  

Though it’s not entirely a win-win situation. Verifying mobile-shot content is a challenge, especially when sourcing from people, more so in difficult times like it has been through 2020. Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and Oxford University reported that 2020 saw a resurgence in reliance on traditional news media. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people turned back to news channels for legit and verified news as other channels (like Whatsapp and social media) buzzed with speculations and misleading information. But also because of the pandemic, news agencies’ dependence on content shot by the public (User Generated Content) has only increased as travelling restrictions continue to hamper regular reporting.

Will journalists emerge as one-person armies? Will newsrooms completely let go of traditional reporting methods? We’ll have to wait and watch. Meanwhile, you keep your phone handy because you never know when a video shot by you makes it to global headlines.

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