Yusuf Omar, senior social reporter at CNN Digital, presented the keynote speech for the 2017 INMA World Congress Brainsnack session, while streaming on Facebook Live. Because that’s how news is done these days.

Omar explained that he is called everything from a mobile journalist to a selfie journalist, then passed his phone to an audience member to continue live-streaming the presentation while wearing SnapChat Spectacles.

Yusuf Omar, Senior Social Reporter at CNN Digital, gives the keynote speech at the 2017 INMA World Congress.
Yusuf Omar, Senior Social Reporter at CNN Digital, gives the keynote speech at the 2017 INMA World Congress.

Despite all the opportunities to tell a story with camera rigs or drones, sometimes the best storytelling happens through a phone, Omar said: “A mobile phone is the most intimate and real way to tell a story.”

He began mentioning various phone brands, asking audience members to raise their hands when he mentioned theirs. The demonstration showed that most people in the room used the same type of phone (iPhone).

Acknowledging that most audience members take journalistic content very seriously, Omar pointed out that social strategies may need a different approach. 

“I don’t think we can have the same social media policy for all types of content. If you’re going to build a mobile newsroom, you need to understand what mobile phones are in your space and how people are using them.”

For example, team members at Hindustan Times had more than 75 different phones. This creates a challenge when creating apps and software that will work across so many various devices.

“Fragmentation really is the ‘F word’ when developing a mobile newsroom,” Omar said. 

But getting newsroom reporters to rely on their phones as a primary storytelling tool can be a challenge, he admitted. “If you’re working at a newspaper, it’s often quite difficult to convince people to shoot video on their phones.”

Gamifying the newsroom can create the motion that is needed behind a mobile social strategy. To get people to think socially, begin by tagging and mentioning their work to grow followers. The key, Omar said, is to reach a point where the entire workflow happens on a phone.

Training can play a big role in shifting these mobile habits. Omar explained one such strategy: “I set up a Mojo Mondays — mobile journalism Mondays.”

Such training is an important step to identify influencers in the newsroom. Once they have gained trust in the social media sphere, you can turn over access to the accounts and give them the opportunity to apply the skills theyve learned. By using those skills, journalists will stay up-to-date with the latest trends.

Another area that has also fundamentally changed is video formatting, Omar continued: “We are specifically looking at Facebook and saying, what should a Facebook video look like?”

Mobile video leans itself to reaching wide audiences. Omar’s most viral video, done for Hindustan Times where he worked prior to CNN, has reached eight million people so far — and was shot and edited completely on his mobile phone. 

Every video, like the “Ugly Indian” viral video, should be rooted in provocative questions, Omar said. Mobile video, and the conversation around the content, is not a one-to-one relationship — it is one-to-many.

Creating these relationships happens with both edited and live video. With live video, viewers are able to get an inside, first-hand look at what story the journalist is telling.

“I’m increasingly saying to go live as much as possible,” Omar advised.

This may seem intimidating; but in a demonstration that took less than two minutes, Omar used his iPhone, its camera, and the iMovie app to make a quick video. In addition to the iMovie app, he pointed to other tools that may be useful in the newsroom:

  • Lumatouch editing software.
  • Promptware, which turns your phone into a teleprompter.
  • Quik, a GoPro app that creates a video in seconds.

Although creating engaging video can be a simple process, Omar said that video on social media does not have to be frivolous or short. It is a platform for serious journalism, as well: “People often get distracted by the gimmicks of the social media apps.”