Dutch regional broadcasters are in trouble. Big trouble.
Funds are running low and the audience is running away. The question is: Do people really need these regional broadcast stations? Are they relevant? And if not, could they be relevant again? It was these questions that got me interested in mobile journalism and made me start a bold experiment that has lasted for one whole year now. I handed in my VJ camera and my dedicated radio recorder and became one of the first all out mobile journalists.
For a whole year all I took with me was my mobile phone and some necessary extra’s like a microphone, tripod and headphones. It has been both a great and a frustrating experience. After just half a day of training by Glen Mulcahy and Karol Cioma, there was a lot I had to find out for myself. Here’s what I found.
1. I can be cheap
First thing you will have to do when you start as a MoJo is to get your gear. Shop around for a good microphone, a tripod and all the other gadgets you might want to use. I bought some stupid stuff (some weird looking lenses, monopod) and some smart stuff (shoulderpod, Irig Mic HD). But no matter how much gear you buy (and there is a lot of it out there), it is going to be relatively cheap.
Of course you can easily spend a couple of hundred euro’s on a microphone, but compared to the ‘pro’ stuff it is going to seem ridiculously cheap. And believe me: The quality is fine. Don’t believe the tech guys, who say it cannot be done, because it can be done! I made over 300 reports for radio with my MoJo equipment and close to a hundred pieces for TV or Online. It can be done.
2. I can be quick
One of the biggest advantages of MoJo is the fact that you can take your time recording or shooting your story. I do not have to rush back to the studio to do the editing or to get it broadcasted. I can do everything on the scene, which saves me a lot of time. Time I can invest in the story itself. And if all goes wrong and I’m not ready in time? Then I’ve got all the equipment with me to do a live report. And I have done so dozens of times for radio.
Being able to be quick means that my working area has expanded. Before I became a MoJo I had to stay within an hour’s drive of the office. Now I can travel far beyond. Even to the Waddeneilanden, a group of islands off the coast of Friesland. Reporting from these island used to take a lot of planning and I usually had no more than one hour to record both my radio and TV story. Now, I can take my time and wait for the last boat to travel back home.
3. I can be close
Shooting with a mobile phone is far more personal than doing the same with a cameraman or a VJ-camera. Every shot I make is a shot I thought about. Shooting with a phone is like being a photographer. Everything has to add up: framing, light and sequence. For me this means that it is MY story. I can mould it in every form or shape that I want, because I am in total control of the shots, the sounds and the way I want to tell the story.
Also, it’s more personal from the interviewees perspective. People who usually would’ve been reluctant to appear on camera with their story, had no problem with me and my phone. And yes, people do take you seriously with a phone, because they are familiar with the picture quality of modern phones. They use it themselves everyday.
4. I can be interactive
Twitter, Periscope, Meerkat, Facebook, Vine, Storehouse, Steller, Bubbli. The list of apps to start publishing whilst still on the scene is endless. By doing so you can tease your story before it is being broadcasted. And maybe even get some extra people to watch it. Added bonus is the fact that you will get instant responses. People will ask questions you might have forgotten to ask, or correct you when you’re wrong. Your public can get involved in the story in a way they previously couldn’t.
5. I can be secret
As a journalist you sometimes have to go places that aren’t very journalism friendly. I’m not talking warzones here, but every now and then there is a situation you wouldn’t be very comfortable with carrying your big camera with the big logo. Angry football supporters, disgruntled farmers or, in my home territory: angry aaisikers (just look it up and you WILL be afraid). When in a situation like that, just shoot your story using just your phone. And no extra’s. It will keep you safe and secret.
6. I can be experimental
Being a MoJo is all about not being afraid to experiment. The apps you will use change every day and new stuff will be just around the corner. I have tried dozens of apps in the field. Some were a bit gimmicky and not very useful. Usually they disappeared from my phone after a day. Other apps are now in my everyday mojo folder (Vine, Bubbli, Pinnacle Studios, Gravie, Skitch and many more)
But the experimental part of MoJo is more than looking for the right apps or gear. Shooting every possible story with a mobile phone, means you have to be very creative in getting your story. Experiment with the angles you shoot, the way you edit your story and the use of sound and text. Surprise your audience.
7. I can be a pain in the ass
Some of my colleagues really hate my guts. Especially the technical guys. They feel like I am trying to steal their jobs. And trying to be an expert in their field of expertise. I decide which microphone to buy or which stabilizer to use and I can be very stubborn in my decisions. Not that I don’t trust their opinions, but mostly because they are stuck in their very conservative way of doing things. I know it annoys them, but I have found that it is the only way to get things going.
Does that mean you do not have to listen to them at all? Nope, it doesn’t. I have had a lot of discussions with cameramen, editors and radio technicians. And I have learned a lot. But I am still just a journalist and they are the technical experts. So listen to them. But whether or not you are going to use their advice is up to you. I have made choices they are not happy about because it is not technically perfect. But it does help ME tell my stories in a far better way. And in the end it is all about the storytelling.
8. I can be a storyteller.
And this is the most important part of being a MoJo. In the past year I have made a lot of radio and TV stories which I could not have made in the traditional way. I am now more in control of the news pieces I produce than I ever was. I am more comfortable with every aspect of the job at hand. Being fast, personal and very flexible improves my stories. Sure there are things that have gone wrong (edited pieces that never reached the newsroom because of technical issues, tripods breaking down, apps not working) but even with these issues I still feel I am a more complete journalist now. And most of all, a more complete storyteller.
Here are some of Wytse’s reports (in Frisian):
About the author:
Wytse Vellinga is a Radio and TV-journalist working for Frisian public broadcasting company Omrop Fryslân in the north of the Netherlands. Learned about MoJo for the first time in april 2014 from Glen Mulcahy and Karol Cioma. He has been experimenting MoJo to its maximum since then. Uses his iphone and lumia phones for making radio, tv and online content every day. He blogs about mojo in dutch here: https://mobielejournalistiek.wordpress.com/
You can follow Wytse on Twitter: @WytseVellinga