Category Archives: Twitter

Thoughts on cell phone journalism

Clyde Bentley has invited me to his Solving Practical Problems class today. The goal of the class, as the name would suggest, is to tackle a current problem in journalism and solve it through research. This semester’s class is looking at the role of cell phones in journalism. I’m to participate in a focus group/discussion, so the students can see how it works.

Given Clyde’s record as a new media mind, I’m assuming the goal is to be a bit more than just “I use them to get calls from sources.” Although Clyde assures me that no preparation is necessary, just speculation, I’d like to be prepared for what might hit me.

Obviously, phones are a two-way method of communication, so they can both be used to push news to readers and get news from them. Smart phones and Twitter can help with coverage, as we saw in Mumbai and the Hudson plane crash. And The Guardian is among British newspapers that uses cell phone photos in print, as well as on its site.

But most of the population is still using some form of a phone that mostly just texts and makes calls. So the question is, to reach a mass audience, how can we creatively use that technology for news?

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Monday morning link dump

I spent the weekend at the True/False Film Festival here in Columbia. Although my wife and I saw fewer movies than in years past (“only” nine this time around), I still have the strange feeling that I’ve been on vacation for a month and am just now coming back into real life. That’s partly due to the nature of the festival — we saw set in the Congo, Romania, Slovenia, the Amazon, Afghanistan, South Africa, Mongolia and Burma in very quick succession. But the result is that I’m having a hard time sorting out my thoughts this morning. (An incipient cold isn’t helping either.)

Jeremy Littau was also at the festival, and wrote a great post about “Burma VJ.” It’s a film that anyone who cares about journalism should try to see — it follows the work of independent video journalists who smuggle footage out of the country at great personal risk. At a time when journalism is facing substantial change and challenges here in the U.S., it’s a reminder of why news matters. As my wife said, it’s amazing that three of the VJs are facing life in prison for filming demonstrations — we take freedom of speech very much for granted.

I’m also helping out with Jen Reeves’ Twitter presentation today at RJI. You can get a quick preview of it here. I’ve written about Twitter before — I don’t think it’s a magic bullet for journalism, but I think there are some really interesting things journos do with it. If you’re around the J-school today, come by Smith Forum at noon.

And Steve Yelvington has an interesting post about what he’s calling the “Fidler pad.” Having worked with Roger Fidler on the eMprint project, I have some experience in screen facsimile devices and editions. I think that e-readers will eventually catch on — although I’ve enjoyed reading books on my iPod using Stanza. The key for e-readers to work, IMO, is long battery life; easy access to books; and an emphasis on readability/customization. The iPod has good readability settings but not the battery life I’d like for a long trip.

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