Friday, December 3, 2010

Testing the best practices guide on reporters

This week we visited the NBC affiliate in Columbia, Mo., KOMU, to test out our best mobile journalism practices guide. The plan was to see if MU broadcast students could return from their stories with an extra interview, photos or video collected on an iPhone 4, 3G or Droid 2. We had four students take the equipment on a test drive, each with prior knowledge of editing on a desk or laptop. We gave them a little spiel about how to use the built in camera to take videos and photos and told them basically how to use our recommended application, 1stVideo, and sent them on their way.

Granted, they had a story to gather and edit before the news aired later that evening, so we couldn't expect them to devote too much time to testing our gear. They returned with a couple photos, a short video and an edited video between three of them. Not too shabby for our first test group. Unfortunately, the edited video ended up on one of the iPhone 4s, and it has since stopped working. Apparently this happens sometimes, and AT&T can replace it, but we haven't gotten a chance to watch the video.

The reporters told us the reason they didn't play around was mostly because of their time constraints. They all said they didn't read our guide, which was apparent when one video was taken vertically. I feel like this is just a product of our generation though. No one wants to read guides, we'd rather just figure it out. They all said the process was time consuming, but that if they knew more about the technology it wouldn't have been difficult to get extras to at least put on the website.

We don't pretend to think mobile tools should be used if a more professional camera and editing programs are available. Breaking news and small addons to stories are your best bets, but if nothing else is available mobile devices are a good option. Print reporters could add more multimedia elements without dragging around heavy equipment most wouldn't know how to use anyway. Teaching a reporter mobile devices isn't difficult, the few we taught seemed to understand the concept and the one that edited said it was easy enough. Our general guidelines gaurd against common mistakes and give helpful tips it might take a while to discover, and simply playing around helps you get the feel of the applications. If we get to perform this again, we'll need to send reporters out with only the task of collecting small reports with solely their smart phone. Then we can really see what they think without distractions.

Anyway, students at the University of Missouri are now required to have either an iPhone or an iPod Touch, so we might as well try to teach them ways to incorporate them into their reporting.

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