Academic journal article Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication

Mobile Journalism 101: Teaching Students to Use Mobile Devices to Produce News Content

Academic journal article Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication

Mobile Journalism 101: Teaching Students to Use Mobile Devices to Produce News Content

Article excerpt


Mobile devices such as smartphones and media tablets present significant technical innovations to the news industry. The technology offers users the ability to consume as well as produce news. Mobile devices are powerful reporting tools that can produce audio, video, photos, and texts for nearly instantaneous publication online.

News organizations are increasingly requiring their reporters to use mobile devices for reporting. A broad range of broadcast journalism positions, for example, now require mobile skills and, regardless of media platform, journalism employers want new hires to understand how to gather news with mobile devices (Wenger, Owens, & Thompson, 2014). The demand for these skills is growing. Wenger and colleagues found that in 2010, references to mobile skills were mentioned in just a little more than 2% of television job postings. However, "By the end of 2012, mobile was mentioned in more than 27% of all TV news job listings-and that still lags behind mobile's prominence in newspaper and online job ads" (Wenger, Owens, & Thompson, 2014, p. 139).

The Gannett chain, which owns 82 U.S. daily newspapers, including the nation's top newspaper in print circulation, USA Today (Gannett, 2013), has purchased thousands of dollars worth of smartphones and other mobile equipment for its reporters' use (, 2011a). A fact sheet distributed to Gannett reporters indicated the phones were "meant to enable you to do better, more timely journalism. ... There are also many basic functions of a smart phone-voice recorder, video camera, still camera, etc.-that enable you to capture notes or imagery you can use in your reporting" (Romenesko, 2012). Meanwhile, developers have been adapting a special app that would allow BBC reporters to file video, photos, and audio directly to the network's production system from an iPhone or iPad (, 2011b). To effectively use mobile technology in reporting and to reach digital audiences, future journalists must understand how to produce news on and for a variety of mobile devices.

In university settings, increasing numbers of journalism students own smartphones and tablets, but it is not clear how many have integrated the devices into their classroom reporting assignments. A study that examined journalism and communication programs in the U.S. found that only one in four journalism and mass communication programs is teaching students how to create content for mobile devices (Becker, Vlad, & Desnoes, 2010). But whether or how students are using mobile devices to gather information and produce content has not been well documented. This study seeks to fill this gap by examining how the next generation of journalists is adopting mobile devices in order to produce news content.

Factors that influence an individual's decision to adopt a new technology or device have been a focus in user acceptance, social cognition, social psychology, and innovation diffusion scholarship for the past several decades. User acceptance research and innovation diffusion scholarship, in particular, have been used to develop several theories and models that help to explain the adoption of new information technologies.

This study uses particular aspects of a unified user acceptance model to assess journalism students' use and acceptance of mobile technologies and devices for reporting assignments. The study was conducted as part of a university-sponsored mobile journalism project in which journalism faculty taught and provided technical assistance to students in using mobile devices for their news reporting assignments. A component of the project was a survey to determine how students were currently using mobile devices, whether and how they were using them for journalism projects, and how they evaluated their experiences with the devices. The project investigators also wanted to assess the influence of teaching on the students' decision to adopt the devices for journalism projects. …

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