Monday, 21 September 2015

MOJO Rising

Catherine Adams reports from “News : Rewired”, the latest digital journalism conference on how Mobile Journalism and Virtual Reality are set to dominate our news. 

Security was paramount at the gleaming, corporate headquarters of MSN in Cardinal Place, central London – even going to the Ladies required a secret code. A murmuration of delegates from across the UK news industry attended presentations on live news, social storytelling, smartwatches and more. As well as staff from BBC, Reuters and the Guardian, representatives flocked to the July 16th event from digital-native operators such as Google, and Mashable

Among some notable international speakers were the founder of Smart Film School, Robb Montgomery, who exclusively teaches mobile journalism (MOJO) and Patricia O'Callaghan, a TV journalist with RTE, who showed reports shot and edited on her iPhone for broadcast, using apps such as Filmicpro, Pinnacle Studio, Storehouse, PicPlayPost and Adobe Voice.

The star turn was online news guru Emily Bell, ex-Guardian, director of Tow Centre at Columbia University, who stressed that the social media desk is now firmly fixed at the centre of news organisations. She explained how mobile alerts are breaking news, social media is the new “content management system,” (ie, where you publish stuff) while “ye olde” website is the archive. This, she warned, means publishers are potentially handing control to the 24-year-old engineer tweaking an algorithm. 

Ongoing issues such as how to verify User Generated Content and how to protect sources threaded through the conference. Publishers are learning new ways of coding content so that text and photos cannot be cut and pasted and randomly shared with others. Other speakers identified the urgent need to educate the public on what risks they’re taking using Twitter etc. Media students should be made aware that if they geotag their pics, it gives their location away to anyone.

There was a smattering of marketing. Tom Quast and Nils Kaehler of Creative Vikings demonstrated smart watches, “the most personalised tech so far,” which the New York Times are experimenting with to publish ‘one sentence stories’. Wearing one of these £500 devices as “an extension of yourself”, you are never separated from the net - as whoever you’re with will be acutely aware, whenever it ‘taps’ you on the wrist with a “micro-interaction” to let you know your team’s scored a goal.

Virtual Reality is the next “hottest thing”, according to Dan Pacheco on a videolink from Syracuse University. He claimed that transporting viewers to the scene of a story in graphic 3D would explode as a way to experience news. Although he admitted “huge potential for misperception.” Ed Miller, from came up with the extraordinary (and unsourced) statistic that VR would rise by 13 000% in the next few years. The FT has already created a VR version of stock charts which you can ‘ski’ down. In the future, your avatar could ‘meet’ and ‘chat’ with avatars of people involved in the news. Reddit could be a series of virtual rooms. Anyway, the race is on to beat the launch date of The Oculus Rift headset in January.

Should we be immersing people in the news? Will MOJO put yet more highly-skilled news professionals out of jobs? Do we want to be jacked up to social media during our most intimate moments?

In spite of the huge implications of these latest developments in digital news, there seemed to be little or no opportunity to debate or discuss such things at News : Rewired, leaving participants feeling rather limp.

You can check out the next News:Rewired events here


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