Media producers currently have distinct and different roles, with different hardware skills.
Photojournalists tote around bulky digital camera equipment. The three-man video crew is still a sight you’ll see at conferences and conventions, or waiting on the steps of City Hall. All a roving reporter used to need was a notebook, a stubby pencil and access to a public phone box to call in their copy.
But as smartphones become increasingly clever, the need to carry a bunch of specialist equipment is less necessary. Bloggers were the pioneers and now traditional media is catching up. This is the age of smartphone reporting.
The New York Times was among the first to spot the potential of smartphones. It began equipping reporters with iPhones in February 2011. The paper’s Editorial Director for Video and Television Ann Derry called the Apple iPhone 4 a “game changer” for mobile media production, “With the click of an app, (reporters) can upload to our servers,” Derry told beet.tv. “We can have correspondents and photographers out very quickly, shooting and editing.”
The Guardian in London began a similar trial in June 2012 , giving staff 20 iPhones to shoot video, take pictures and send in copy.
The experiment continues and is doing “very well’ according to Dan Roberts, national editor for the paper. Local reporters are filing some “very effective material,” such as Paul Owens’ recent piece on UK floods.
BBC documentary maker Natalia Antelava went a step further, recording her award winning radio piece about human rights issues in Uzbekistan, entirely on an iPhone — including telephone interviews captured on Skype.
Even the Wall Street Journal has adopted citizen journalism-style video reporting, with its Worldstream platform. It showcases reports recorded and uploaded direct from video-capable smartphones from all over the globe.
Journalists we spoke to now use smartphones every day for work. Craig Grannell, games editor for Tap! magazine uses his as a mobile office, “I don’t need to run to the office now,” said Craig, “I’ll write a note on the iPhone and it’ll sync, ready for dealing with the next day.”
Freelance writer Gary Marshall finds a smartphone essential for running his business when he’s out and about. “I don’t miss any offers of work or queries,” says Gary, “And I can easily access old articles, because I file copy by email.”
Ironically, where smartphones fall down is in their most basic feature: being a phone. “Mobile phones are still hopelessly unreliable for voice communications,” says Gary.
Now that journalism’s gone digital, the demands on hacks are much greater. They’re asked to supply photos, video and sound-bites alongside their content. They live-blog and tweet from the scene of events, and file copy while out in the field.
The journalist of the future will need to be a multi skilled individual — but will no longer need to carry around lots of hardware.
The iPhone 5, for example, comes with an 8 megapixel camera and can shoot HD video. Journalists can get rid of compact cameras and camcorders. Modern smartphones can record live audio and phone interviews at CD quality. That’s goodbye to the notebook and trusty old Dictaphone. With an Internet connected phone, you have the fastest fact checker on the planet in your hands. No more dusty old dictionaries or encyclopedias.
Smartphones are now handheld computers; they’re the Personal Digital Assistant that we dreamed of in the ’90s. And there are already tools and apps emerging that push them to their limit.
Tools like Vyclone, a social video editing and publishing platform for crowdsourced video. Up to four streams can be used as the raw material for automatically assembled coverage of a chosen event. The applications for journalism are clear — enabling a small team armed with iPhones to capture multiple angles of a story as it unfolds.
Then there’s Bambuser, available for iOS, Android and Windows phones. It’s an app that enables you to stream video live, direct from your mobile device. Outside broadcasting has never been easier.
The next generation of smartphones will have faster processors, speedy 4G connectivity, DSLR quality camera sensors and retina display screens. But change won’t happen just because the technology’s there. People will drive that — innovators, creators and content makers — as they always have.