It’s Easy To Report The News On The Fly  .  .  .  When Your Equipment Doesn’t Weigh You Down

I attended Social Media Conference San Diego this past week. The crowd was made up mostly of marketing people keeping up with the latest trends. But there was a group of independent journalists covering the event in a way that wasn’t even possible two years ago.

We have seen the movement over the past five years to using mobile devices for content creation. Cell phones and tablets have become the most popular device to create content with. They are lightweight, powerful, produce stunning picture quality, and always an arm’s length away. They are connected, and able to share the content with the world with the click of a single button.

A cell phone in the hands of a single operator has taken the place of an entire microwave truck news crew. Stop and read that statement over three or four times to fully appreciate the impact.

If you read the top paragraph again, you will notice I made particular mention of a technology that wasn’t even available two years ago. That is live streaming out of your cell phone. We have been able to create, save, and share content on our mobile devices for many years now, recording and then disseminating the recorded program. But the advent of streaming live out of these devices in real time is very new.

It was the recent purchase of Periscope by Twitter that raised the awareness of the new medium.

There have been experimental apps for streaming. I noticed the first one about a year ago, though I know they have been around a little longer. But when Twitter purchased Periscope, the world stood up and took notice. Now anyone can capture a story on their mobile device, share it in real time, and even interact with the audience. This is what we call a “game changer”.

At NAB earlier this year, I met with a number of major network executives who told me their remote reporters were moving to mobile devices. These are the top tier of professional journalists, not just low budget secondary market reporters. It was a very powerful statement.

The ramifications this movement has on journalism students is profound. I don’t have the exact statistics, but by the 5th grade, the vast majority of students have smart phones. They are almost required. Parents use them to stay connected to their children. Friends use them to communicate with each other. And students use them for research and study. After all, they are in actuality, very powerful pocket computers, connected to the Internet. Using them for journalistic purposes is easy, and natural.

Today’s mobile devices not only have outstanding cameras, they have storage built in, and a host of production and editing software. And now, with the ability to stream, they have everything a reporter needs.

But the best thing, is that no additional purchase is required for journalism students. They have them anyways, so repurposing them for journalistic use is a natural. They don’t have to go home and ask their parents to buy them an expensive camera. Nor does the school have to buy and loan expensive cameras.

It’s BYOD.

So, back to my case study. I met a man named Kerry Shearer at NAB 2015. He is a freelance journalist. He is a former Public Information Officer for the city of Sacramento. Today, he a social media expert, consulting with organizations on the use of social media. He is also an independent journalist, covering technology for his own internet station. That, in and of itself, is amazing. Once upon a time, having a news channel was reserved for the uber-wealthy corporations. Today, we can all have our own news station.

Talk about the democracy of the digital age!

Kerry called me to tell me about the conference, and asked if he could use an MXL mic for the purpose. He was planning on covering the conference in real time, streaming on Periscope. I had to see this firsthand.

I ended up meeting Kerry at the conference, as I wanted to see him in action. He set up his cell phone on a tripod, using a special mount. We plugged in the MXL Minimixer+ mic mixer, and two mics. He pointed his cell phone at the stage, captured the audio through the MXL MM-110 Meeting Mic, placed underneath a ceiling speaker. He used the MXL MM-160 lavaliere mic to narrate as the conference was taking place. While this was going on, he was answering questions from his audience using the text capability of Periscope.

The entire hardware package fit into one carry-on piece of luggage, was valued at around $1,000, and set up in less than 5 minutes. Think about that. Not long ago, that set up would have taken two or three people to set up and operate, with a hardware cost of over $5,000, and not even had the capability to interact with the audience.

That is what I mean about a game changer.


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