Mobile Journalism Africa is a digital media outlet that seeks to change how Africa’s narrative is told. The team of multimedia storytellers who are based in Kenya are revolutionising how stories are told in Africa using mobile devices which they prefer to call ‘Pocket Studios’. Their aim is to give trained journalists and active social media users a platform to tell their stories in both a professional and simple way. Their mission is to be leaders in Kenya and Africa in storytelling through mobile journalism by empowering people to tell their own stories with the simplicity of their mobile phones while upholding high standards of professionalism.
We spoke to Emmanuel Yegon, co-founder and communications director at Mobile Journalism Africa about how they are revolutionalising how stories are told in Kenya and in Africa by using mobile devices. Yegon is a mobile journalism. (MoJo) trainer and digital native who holds a bachelors in communication public relations from the Moi University.
What is mobile journalism?
Mobile Journalism essentially is a new workflow for media storytelling where reporters are trained and equipped for being fully mobile and fully autonomous. Here, the smartphone is the primary tool for capturing, processing and disseminating information.
What are the basics of mobile journalism? What does a journalist need to get started as a mobile journalist?
I believe everything starts with understanding the craft. For trained journalists, they need to acquaint themselves with working with the smartphone, what we refer to as the pocket studio, to produce any type of content. This means they have to acquire skills on how to be solo journalists, to be able to work alone to film, edit, take photographs, write scripts, do voice-overs and audio stories, and go live all alone from any location and in real-time whenever required. In essence, it requires that they be multimedia storytellers. So one requires a smartphone and other accessories like tripods (stability), microphone (sound) additional artificial light, power bank for keeping the phone charged among other add-ons. It also requires that they understand the abilities and limitations of the use of the smartphones as well as the capabilities of the different smartphones in the market so that they are able to know which one would serve them best and where they can compensate for those limitations with the different accessories and add-on equipment.
Are there specific skills that one needs in order to be a mobile journalist?
It is easier for a trained journalist to practice MoJo. The art of storytelling, ethics and professional conduct isn’t changing. Mobile journalism isn’t re-inventing the wheel, it is an additional tool and technique added to a journalist’s workflow to enable them to produce content on the go and in real-time with the shortest turn-around while maintaining quality and professionalism. There are many free courses on mobile journalism available now on many platforms. I would advise anyone interested to look up mobile journalism courses and take them. Thomson Foundation offers self-paced courses and provides certificates at the end. We at Mobile Journalism Africa also offer in-person and online training as well, so they should check on all our digital platforms when they’re offered.
What are some of the mobile journalism techniques that a journalist needs to master?
Video editing on mobile is definitely the one skill many people ask about. Being able to put together videos is an important technique. Going live on location as well is an additional technique. Basically, everything that a journalist is capable of doing, but now on the smartphone scale.
How can one tell a compelling story with just a mobile phone?
It is very possible. We do not tell compelling stories because of the gadgets or devices we use. If you have a story idea, you develop it from the storyboarding phase, visualising all the elements as much as possible before going out to produce it in the format that you choose. Once you are clear with the flow of your story, go out there and produce it. If it is a video story, ensure you select your locations well to avoid noise and distractions. Also, ensure the place is well lit. Frame your videos well, ask open-ended questions and check whether you have sound in your videos before you leave your subject or shoot location. In post-production, follow the sequence you created when storyboarding to edit your final piece. You can then repurpose your video for the different digital platforms.
What are some of the challenges that mobile journalists face in Africa?
I think the biggest challenge right now is that of acceptance. Many people still doubt the credibility and I dare say, the abilities of the digital storyteller. This, however, is improving. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the continent witnessed journalists joining live broadcasts using their smartphones and even doing fully-fledged MoJo stories. Here in Kenya, mainstream media newsrooms have also embraced MoJo departments to boost their coverage and bolster their digital departments. The other challenge is that of internet connectivity, especially for the live sessions.
How does your organisation/platform support mobile journalists on the continent?
Our joy at Mobile Journalism Africa is in seeing more journalists embracing mobile journalism and running with it. We offer training, share training opportunities and also provide a platform for MoJos to share their work. We aim to continue spreading the MoJo gospel across Africa and that is why we continue to grow a network of mobile journalists from across the continent. At the core of what we do is the desire to change how Africa’s narrative is told and we believe, working together, the smartphone can get us closer to that goal, faster. We believe Our Stories Are Best Told By Us and therefore it is crucial for us to work to train new MoJos and to work with already practicing MoJos on the continent to realise this goal.
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