A MoJo revolution

Around the globe, the mobile phone is changing the way journalists work. They upload breaking news, photos and videos within seconds of their compositions. SANA AMIR finds that Mobile Journalism is now catching the imagination of many

No more is your mobile phone just a phone. It has taken on a new shape using multi-media like high mega-pixel camera, video recorder, Wi-Fi connectivity, 3G and a wide screen. With such tempting features, it has become an attractive newsgathering tool for journalists who today can do away with the outer broadcast van if they are armed with a mobile. 

Welcome to the world of Mobile Journalists commonly referred to as “MoJo”.

This type of newsgathering can turn out to be significant for breaking news events and for countries with strictly controlled media. During the Arab uprising recently, protesters circulated messages and uploaded pictures on social media via the mobile phone to spread the unrest. 

It heralded a new phase of journalism. A mobile journalist uses only a mobile phone to collect or distribute news. The news may be the amalgam of text, audio and video. 

Abhinav Kaul, sub-editor, Financial Chronicle, said, “Mobile journalism is like having the whole world in your pocket. One can access news of any country, region or part of the world. There is no need to carry a newspaper, television or a laptop anymore.”

Responding to the needs of the marketplace, mobile phones are available in all colours and shapes. The mobile companies keep upgrading the features and software. MoJo’s use tablets, smart phones like N series, iPhone, Blackberry and many others that have many applications.

Apart from a mobile phone, a MoJo bag contains a wireless keyboard, a miniature tripod, a solar battery and a small microphone along with relevant software to edit and publish multimedia content. It makes work easier and faster.

Pointed out Kaul: “Mobile journalism as the name suggests, is done on the go. Phone journalism or press release journalism can be done while sitting in your office cubicle, whereas mobile journalism can only be done when you are out on the field. Also, mobiles can turn every person on the road into a potential journalist, thus boosting the concept of 'Citizen Journalism' further.” 

Many newspapers and news channels have build mobi sites, exclusively designed for e-readers. Recently Hindustan Times launched its application for iPhone Users. These sites also give an opportunity to journalists to upload news via mobile phones.

Chamath Aridyasa, founder of Jasmine News (JNW), well-known for mobile journalism in Asia, claimed, “We were the first to start delivering news by SMS in Sri Lanka in April 2006. I believe CNN started SMS news in 2005. We started off with citizen and mobile journalism, but very quickly expanded to reach a large subscriber base. We reached 180,000 people in 2010 on a monthly subscription basis.”

JNW news provides timely, well-sourced news headlines via text messages to reach you on your mobile phone wherever you may be. Other mobi sites are- CBS Mobile News, CNN, Straits Times, The Telegraph, Tele News Asia, BBC, Stomp, Goalkeeper, Blogging, Google News, Time, Newsweek, Sky News and so on.

As mobiles increase, there will be an invariable interest in Mobile Journalism. According to a latest report released by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, there are more than 800 million telecom subscribers in India.

Mobile Journalism is creating new opportunities. Aridyasa said: “The use of mobile phones allows citizens to report to news organizations. The mobile platform also allows individuals to start innovative news services. While news reaches the public conveniently, it is also cheaper and faster increasing the choice available to the public compared against traditional media.”

The mobile phone thus offers journalists mobility, multiplicity and enables multi-tasking. Dr Stephen Quinn, a journalism professor at Deakin University in Australia, says in his book, “MoJo – Mobile Journalism in the Asian Region” that mobile phones are a “Swiss army knife” option for journalists. 

Actually, it all depends on how technology changes. Kaul says that at the moment, MoJo has emerged as an interesting form but if iPads come in a big way, we might end up calling it iPad journalism.

No rules have been written yet for MoJo’s. That gives many commoners a chance to explore the medium and discover the excitement of journalism.

Sana Amir is pursuing MA Convergent Journalism from AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia.