News Organizations and Citizen Journalists Need Mobile-First Solution

St. Peter's Square iPhoneDo you have a mobile phone? So do most of the 7.1 billion people in the world.

And the number is growing.

By 2014, the number of mobile phones in use will exceed the global population.

That’s a lot of potential journalists.

So why don’t we have a mobile-first news publishing infrastructure? A one-stop shop optimized for mobile where journalists can create and publish any type of content from anywhere at any time?

Moblish will solve this problem.

The mobile phone is a powerful device with the ability to write text, shoot photos and video, record audio and disseminate that information almost instantaneously via cellular and WiFi networks. A mobile phone has become the Swiss Army Knife of communication. Moblish will be the Swiss Army Knife of mobile journalism — a simple application on a smartphone that streamlines live news reporting for mobile devices and makes real-time news reporting easy, efficient and accessible.

We need Moblish.

Journalism is at a crossroads. Newspapers are being sold for pennies on the dollar. Print publications are focused more on exit strategies than content budgets. TV news programming has become sensationalized, partisan exercises in who can yell opinions loudest. The Internet is the noisiest place of all, with websites racing to produce the least original, most SEO-gamed link bait fastest.

The current media landscape features much more style than substance, and brings to mind Shakespeare’s famous quote from “Macbeth”:

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Replace “Life” with “Journalism,” and you have today’s state of the news media. The days of independent, objective, fact-based, mainstream reporting are an anachronism. When a big story breaks that warrants serious coverage, such as the Syrian government’s reported use of sarin gas on its own people, getting news from the battleground requires a reliance on social media and second- and third-hand accounts. News organizations and journalists struggle to cover stories in the field because the tools are not in place to streamline real-time mobile reporting. The results are inaccurate, incomplete, ineffective stories.

We do not know if the YouTube video we are watching is true. That video can be vetted, but that takes time. We are not sure if the photograph we are viewing is real or doctored. We are skeptical of the audio coming through our speakers. We are not hearing the issue from both sides, or all sides, to make an informed decision. We are not getting the full story.

The world is a very complex place with very complicated problems. Traditional news formats are unable, or unwilling, to delve into issues. Instead, they rely on jumbled reports of truncated sound bites or news briefs. We hear the same information reworked and reworded, repeated over and over again.

Now more than ever, we need a news platform that can deliver credible information in real time. We need a news platform that provides perspective and puts information in context. We need a news platform that meets the needs of the mobile age and makes the job of journalists easier. We need a news platform that provides an archive of real-time reporting. We need a news platform that restores journalism as an activity of the people, for the people and by the people. We need a news platform that informs readers. We need a news platform that uncovers the truth. We need a news platform that unites the world.

Moblish is that platform.

Moblish will provide diverse news coverage. When journalists are in the field, they can use the Moblish mobile app on their smartphone to capture breaking news as it happens. They can write text, shoot and edit video, record and edit audio, take pictures, create graphics, verify content, build timelines, and more, in one place (an editing window), with one click, without having to jump in and out of apps. They can curate social media content in the same place. And they can publish all of the content in one story, a live blog, or real-time reporting. They can share this story with the world in real time on mobile devices, social media channels, any website (via an embed code), or the Moblish network (a site that promotes Moblish content). As news develops and unfolds, they can update the story. Live.

The future of news is live reporting — streams of video, audio, photos, text, tweets, social media updates, community engagement and crowdsourcing. Live blogs are the ideal medium to deliver this media in one place, in real time, as interactive narrative journalism. Still, live blogs remain underutilized, partly because a cost-effective, all-in-one live reporting publishing system does not exist. Moblish will fill this gap.

Moblish will provide the whole story. Take the unrest in Syria. Vignettes from people in the action will help everyone who isn’t on the scene get to the root cause of the conflict and see for themselves what is really happening. People on the ground anywhere will be able to show an event from different angles through multimedia in real time. The outcome will be a 360-degree view, an antidote to the “Rashomon” effect. No more conflicting accounts of the same event by different witnesses. Moblish will provide the means to document news as it is, as it happens.

Digital tools have given professional journalists and everyday people the ability to capture news and distribute news. But existing technologies have limitations. Some are expensive, so they are not available to the masses. Some are cumbersome because they are not built for mobile first. Some are difficult to use. None are effective real-time news reporting tools for mobile.

Remember when digital photography went mainstream and created a way for everyone to become a photographer? The world became more open, accessible, and gave people ways to really see the global community. The Internet connected the world and gave us access in the same way. Moblish is the next step in the evolution.

We live in a mobile-first world. We need a way for professional journalists to become more efficient and effective mobile journalists. We also need a way for regular people to become better citizen journalists. Moblish is a platform that can help professional and citizen journalists learn from each other, and will offer a way we can understand the issues of our time better in real time.

Citizen journalism — also known as participatory, guerrilla or street journalism — is not a new phenomenon. The idea of the public participating in the production of news is a very democratic concept that goes back to the earliest days of America and the adoption of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1791. But the modern citizen journalist movement wasn’t born until the late 1980s, after some Americans grew wary and distrustful of the media. The 1999 anti-WTO protests in Seattle put citizen journalism on the map and showed the power of a collaborative, organized, independent media model.

Today, the trend continues. Major world events in the early 21st century (see: 9/11, Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street Movement) have intersected with technological advances to show the impact of everyday people being sources of news and information. Citizen journalism is rising to prominence as a legitimate form of media, a viable alternative to traditional media, and a potential collaborator.

Look at Midia Ninja (Ninja Media), a burgeoning media collective in Brazil whose motto is “independent narratives, journalism and action.” The group gained notoriety in June by hitting the streets of Sao Paulo and Rio to cover mass demonstrations against the status quo with real-time reporting and live streaming. Midia Ninja mainly used social media channels (Twitter and Facebook) to distribute the content, but even Brazil’s biggest TV network showed an interview of its footage. Midia Ninja has grown to a network of 2,000 collaborators and its Facebook page — its main platform – now has close to 200,000 fans.

Think if Midia Ninja had a platform like Moblish that was optimized for real-time reporting. Journalism could be reinvented, and mobile journalism could be revolutionized. All types of journalists — from enterprise news organizations to activist hubs to community weeklies to hyperlocal dailies to independent freelancers to everyday citizens – could benefit. Moblish will make the entire process of mobile real-time reporting more fluid and agile. Journalists will have every tool they need to produce in-depth, interactive, multimedia stories in one toolbox: Moblish.

Versatility is key. Besides using Moblish to cover major global stories in the field, Moblish will be usable for any vertical. Sports, and their live nature, are ideal for real-time reporting. Sportswriters could use the Moblish platform to live blog NFL/MLB/NBA/NHL games, golf and tennis matches, league trade deadlines, meetings, combines, drafts and more. Local journalists could cover high school events. Little League moms and Pop Warner dads could cover peewee games. Entertainment events such as award shows, concerts or TV show episodes all could be live blogged. Politics (debates, election days, city council meetings), food (festivals, farmers’ markets), business (conventions, internal company communications) are other ripe fields for real-time reporting. The opportunities are limitless.

Moblish will give journalists options. If a major-market journalism operation such as The Boston Globe wants to start a Red Sox live blog and control who contributes content, they can keep the content private and moderate the flow of content from citizens. If the Globe wants to make the Red Sox live blog public, anyone can contribute content without moderation. If a citizen journalist wants to live blog a parade in a small Midwestern town, he/she will be able to do that also. Moblish will change the way everyone thinks about journalism. Professional journalists can look at citizen journalists as collaborators and partners instead of amateurs. Moblish will make journalism more inclusive.

To paraphrase the old “fish” proverb, give a person a live blog, and he/she will be informed. Give a person the tools to live blog, and he/she will inform the world. Moblish will provide the tools and instruction to make real-time reporting intuitive and open 24/7. Moblish will be what happens when the audience takes an active role in reporting the news and disseminating that information.

We need more quality journalism, not less. We need to provide the tools and platform to sustain a free press and improve the quality of news and information reaching the public. Journalism is the foundation of a free society. It provides the checks and balances of power, and the currency of information. Good journalism prevents citizens of the world from becoming a mass of nonthinking, automated robots. Empowering professional journalists can reinvigorate a moribund industry. Empowering citizen journalists can transform the world.

Journalism is undergoing a seismic shift. According to “We Media: How Audiences Are Shaping the Future of News and Information” — a 2003 report commissioned by The Media Center at the American Press Institute and written by Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis — media futurists predict that “citizens will produce 50 percent of the news peer-to-peer” by 2021. Mainstream news media that adopt new forms of reporting and storytelling will be successful.

Mobile is the new frontier. Just as the Internet disrupted journalism a decade ago, mobile will change the news industry. More people are getting smartphones and tablets. More people are getting Internet access on mobile devices in developed and developing countries. Moblish will be on the frontline of the revolution. Everyone needs to think mobile first. The alternative is irrelevancy.

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