Saturday, September 7, 2019

Integrated Media: A new UToledo course for 21st Century journalists


Hear ye, hear ye:
Bright and early on the morn of Tuesday, August 27, at the obnoxious dawn hour of 8 a.m., I officially became a Toledo Rocket!  
I humbly and enthusiastically greeted 16 students who willingly (an elective) signed up for a new, curious course taught by an instructor they undoubtedly have never heard of. 
So let the collaborative learning begin!
   But seriously, I’m super excited and honored to introduce a new course in the University of Toledo’s communications department called Integrated Media, which is basically mobile journalism (MOJO). As defined by Mobile Journalism Manual, MOJO is a form of digital storytelling where the primary device used for creating and editing images, audio and video is a smartphone.
   This is the future of journalism, and the future is now.
Toledo Blade reporter Brooks Sutherland gets his MOJO on.
   In the summer of 2018 I was struck with the idea to teach this course because most Toledo Blade journalists are now using their phone cameras to shoot video stories. They literally stand right next to us photogs, both of us shooting our subject at the same time. This leaves no doubt that it's time for university journalism programs to prepare its students to walk into newsrooms ready and able for MOJO. 
   In full disclosure ... I first resisted the idea of journalists doing the job of photojournalists. After all, we are trained for visual work, not most of them. Many of us have photojournalism degrees, or at least a photography background. We have a trained eye and understand camera operations, but not most of them. 
   But these days that doesn't matter. Regardless of visual experience, journalists in newsrooms across the country are handed a smartphone and told to replace us. I dare say the quality of the content certainly suffers. And I question whether it's fair to either of us. But it doesn't matter, because that's the way it is these days.
   So, my ultimate goal for this course is to help students develop a MOJO frame of mind, and to guide them along as they construct and maintain a MOJO workflow for their smartphone storytelling. By exclusively using their smartphones to create and produce native content to disseminate on social media, they will hopefully learn to trust their phones for visual and audio content.
   During the first week of class the students set up a website, and linked Twitter and Instagram to it. YouTube will be added later. But before they start to put their work out there for the WWW to see, they will first learn to be responsible MOJOs by learning their ethical and legal boundaries, their copyrights, and, of course, the First Amendment. They will also learn AP style caption writing, and about audience engagement and analytics.
   Because this is a new course, I will have a learning curve, as well. I don’t typically shoot stories with my smartphone (iPhone 8) because I don’t have to. I use my Canon 5Ds and a Fujifilm X-H1 on most assignments, particularly when shooting sports. Let’s face it, the smartphone is definitely not cut out for replacing long, fixed lenses. However, there are times when I use my phone camera, particularly for breaking news. Timeliness is the key in those situations.
   That said, I need to practice what I teach, so last week I shot a simple, short video story on my iPhone (except the actual interview was recorded on my Fuji because I needed an external mic). That story is below:



   Can you tell it was shot on a smartphone camera? Can you tell the difference between the moment clips and the X-H1 interview? 
   Although I edited this story on a MAC laptop using Adobe Elements Premiere, I am teaching myself to edit on my iPhone using iMovie. I must be able to pass what I learn along to the students. But let's be real here ... many of them will actually teach me a few things! Yes, I expect to learn from them, as well, which is why I consider this class to be ‘collaborative.’
   So, stay tuned to see how this course develops in the next few months!
   Thank you, UToledo, for this great opportunity!

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