Journalism students develop ‘Mobile Reporting Field Guide’

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The mobile reporting course held this past spring in the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism was billed as a challenge “to see how far (students) can go using only their wits, drive, and the smart phones in their pockets.”

However, the three students enrolled in the course — Casey Capachi, Evan Wagstaff and Matt Sarnecki — transformed the eight-week challenge into a fifteen-week project of testing out different news-reporting mobile applications on the market. With the help of their instructors, Richard Koci Hernandez and Jeremy Rue, they compiled a list of the best and worst apps.

The “Mobile Reporting Field Guide” is a 44-page guidebook, complete with pictures, video and audio samples, that gives a brief review, pros and cons and a final rating of each app. The guidebook presents several categories of apps ranging from photography to video editing applications as well as reviews of different external gear attachable to smart phones, such as microphones and lenses.

According to Wagstaff, who used an iPhone to capture all of the media for his thesis project, he and the other students wanted to create something that would help reporters condense their toolkit into a single device.

“I’m hoping this guide is the extra nudge a budding journalist needs to go mobile,” Wagstaff said in an email. “Journalists today are expected to do a little bit of everything and this generation of smartphones is up to the task.”

Within the news industry, attention has been drawn to the idea of using mobile devices as tools for reporting, demonstrated by the plethora of audio and video recording and photography applications that have emerged on the market for smartphones.

“At the J-School, we are committed to exploring new ways of storytelling,” Rue said in an email. “We continually seek out new tools that are emerging on the marketplace which can aid a journalist’s mission to report the news.”

According to Rue, this course was the second mobile-focused course held at the School of Journalism — the first was taught by himself and Hernandez in Spring 2011. The focus of the first course was reporting with mobile devices, and students were required to cover live events like protests to learn the role mobile devices play in reporting.

“We quickly found out that a majority of the class focused on logistics, like which apps to use or which tools could make reporting easier,” Rue said  in the email. “So in Spring 2012, we held the class again, but with a new focus on creating a guide that can help journalists anywhere.”

Rue said that due to campus events, like Occupy protests, students often find themselves in situations where they need to quickly take and upload photos, videos or audio interviews, and a smartphone gives them easy access.

The guidebook is free from the Apple iBookstore and can be viewed on an iPad or iPhone, but it can also be downloaded as a PDF file without the example video and audio recordings.