On Tuesday morning, I managed to achieve at least two personal firsts: I wrote a news piece from my cell phone and completed a story in under an hour.
This, my friends, is the power of mobile technology.
I know I posted about smart phones earlier in the semester, but doing a mobile journalism assignment this week really opened my eyes to how many tools I have at my disposal, how I can use them effectively, how fast-paced journalism can be and how to trust myself to report effectively.
For my story, I visited the Wellness Resource Center to do a piece on MU’s Suicide Prevention Week. Up until I walked out the classroom door to complete my assignment, I’ll admit I was a little panicked. I only had an hour to find a source, do an interview, write a story and get pictures to post to my blog. I had done a couple of stories in 24 hours or so when I did some informal work for the Missourian over the summer, and that was fast-paced and stressful enough as it was. The idea of doing something I thought was worth posting in such a small amount of time really freaked me out. In the days leading up to the assignment, I came up with more than a few unreasonable scenarios of everything that could go wrong and at least three or four back up plans if my first idea fell through.
When Tuesday rolled around, I had pretty much exhausted my ability to worry about what might happen, and decided to just do my best and see what happened. Honestly, I was surprised at how well it went. I made it to the Wellness Resource Center pretty quickly and managed to talk to someone within 10 minutes. My source, Rachel Lawrence, was really good about sitting down with me on such a short notice and getting me the information I needed. The further I got, the more I realized I could do this and that I could produce something worth being proud of. I finished up my interview, snapped a couple of shots and went to work.
I had practiced using the WordPress app the day before, so I was pretty familiar with how it worked. Even so, I was surprised at how smooth the upload went. I even had time to edit my piece and move the images around. When I made it back to the room, I revamped my piece with some captions and called it a day.
I think what really struck me during this assignment was how much better it went than I planned and how well the technology worked. I know I’ve done at least a couple of rants about how awesome smart phones are, but this was just ridiculous. Within the space of half an hour to 45 minutes, I produced a publishable story entirely from my phone. It really helped me realize how valuable mobile technology can be and how useful it can be for journalists.
I was also really impressed at how willing people were to talk to me and how easy it was to find a story. Coming up with story ideas is generally my least favorite part of reporting. I’ve always struggled with figuring out exactly what’s newsworthy and what I just think is interesting. So when I had to find and report on a story, I was definitely a little afraid I wouldn’t have anything to say. But after seeing 15 students come in with different stories, I realized how much is really happening in a town like Columbia. I think it was really encouraging for me to see how much news is really out there, and to know that I was capable of finding and reporting on a piece of it.
So in spite of my fears, I actually really enjoyed the mobile assignment. I got to test the capabilities of my phone and learn how to report on the fly. I learned how to work on a quick deadline to produce something worth being proud of. I’d say that’s not bad for an hour-long assignment.