in Applications, Innovation, Services

Want To Be A Citizen Journalist? Fire Up Your Mobile Phone Camera!

Mobile phones equipped with high quality cameras are getting very popular and affordable in the last few years. It is not uncommon to find 5 megapixels cameras able to produce high quality pictures and videos.20080131n95.jpg

If in the past it was hard for journalist to produce content while on the move without the support of professional equipment and staff now they have the option to capture important events live using their mobile phone. And you can, too.

Last October, Reuters teamed up with Nokia and ComVu to produce a “Mobile Journalism Toolkit”. That was a combination of hardware and software both on the mobile phone and on the Reuters content ingestion infrastructure that allowed Reuters journalists to file new reports while on the move.

The packaged designed for Mobile Journalists was made of :

  • Nokia N95 Mobile Handset.
  • Nokia SU-8W bluetooth foldable keyboard.
  • A basic tripod to hold the mobile phone.
  • A Sony microphone.
  • Power Monkeys with a solar charger.

The content of the package is quite interesting. First of all a Nokia N95 has been selected. Very good camera on board, plenty of memory, especially on the 8Gb version, and, most important of all, HSDPA data connection. The original press release does not talk about high speed data but I think this is critical for the success of these kind of application/services.

Reuters provided also a wireless foldable keyboard. Another good indication. Probably the text input system of the mobile phone is not fast enough for reporters on the move or, another option, reporters feels more comfortable with a computer like keyboard.

Power Monkeys with a solar charger. Nice handset, nice accessories and the need for a big amount of power to get the things running smoothly.

Another interesting point about the application sitting on the mobile phone was that it was collecting metadata while the journalist was doing his job. The Nokia N95 GPS was collecting informations about location while tagging the videos/pictures/text with the correct date and time in a transparent way to the user.

Here is an important quote from the Reuters Press Release:

Timo Koskinen, project manager with Nokia Research Center, said:”The term ‘citizen journalism’ has been in use for several years, but technological innovations – particularly the introduction of mobile multimedia computers – have transformed the concept. ‘Citizen journalism’ is beginning to embrace a wide range of public engagement with the media, from groups of contributors organized around subject or geographic areas to the casual participation of observers who are lucky – or unlucky – enough to be at the scene of a newsworthy event.”

Reuters built a dedicated web site for the reports coming from the journalist equipped with this.

You can have a look by looking here.

I still did not make my mind up on this last point. From one side it was a simple way to promote this trial giving it a dedicated area in the company portal but on the other side we may think that it was not enough to get into the mainstream flow on news.

Anyway, a brilliant idea.


Reuters Press Release.

The Mobile Journalism Toolkit content. 

  1. ehm, actually… it’s not so easy 🙂

    I’m using the N95 8GB since kinda a couple o’ months. When you *see* the software, at a first glance, it’s a great “wow effect”. great bunch of apps, great ideas. looks very complete

    When you use the apps steadily, in depth, everything becomes really, really difficult

    First of all, the digicam is absolutely under the minimum level required. The video recorder is a little bit better. Voice recorder is ok, but there are no standard mikes. No smart texting app. All the PIM apps are absolutely silly. Etc.

    And, even if you accept to use it, you have “software annoyances”. But these, on a mobile phone, become giant ones. Every stupid error in typing requires to repeat the procedure. task switching (user side: let’s say u have to check an info in app A to fill in s’thing in app B) is quite impossibile. And so on

    I mean: I’m quite a “digital journalist”. But I can assure it’s absolutely NOT up to the task

    (and I’m very very sorry about that 🙂

  2. Alberto, reading your comments on this blog is always a pleasure.

    I definitely agree with what you have written.

    Actually in mobile phone available today there are a lot of annoyances that prevent the user to be a real “digital journalist”. To be honest I do not really see anything getting better in the very next few months.

    The main issue here is that there is no market segment for these kind of appliances.

    I think you have highlighted all of the main limitations we currently have.

    It seems that there is quite a big gap between “journalist generated content” and “user generated content”. It is quite obvious that quality matters for the first and easy of use for the second.

    This is definitely worth a post.

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