Yusuf Omar, senior social reporter at CNN, is passionate about mobile journalism — or “mojo” as he calls it. He’s also passionate about social media. Where the two come together is interesting and sometimes problematic.
“The very same things that make it so easy to access mobile journalism — the ability for anybody to go live on a phone — also makes it so easy to disseminate fake news,” Omar explained at the 2017 INMA World Congress in New York City.
Omar tested that theory himself. When U.S. President Donald Trump was on the cover of Time magazine as Person of the Year, Omar edited his face over Trump’s and posted the result on Snapchat. He even appropriately labeled it: #FakeNews.
Many of his friends believed it, congratulating him on the honour: “Which told me that fake news is very real, my friends are too gullible, but also these narratives can spread so quickly when they’re not true on social media.”
During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, engagement around fake news was remarkable, Omar says. But real news was actually missed.
“In this age, if we look at the U.S. election specifically, one of the major criticisms of traditional media is that we missed the narrative. We were so centered on East coast, West coast, wealthy people, white people that we were detached from what was happened in middle america. If we start listening to mobile phones — to people telling their stories on their devices in these communities — we’re going to have a far better landscape of what's happening in this country.”
That’s where mobile journalism comes in: “It’s especially good at the hyper hyper local stories — the stories that we’re not getting access to, that traditional media are not telling.”
Because everyone has a camera, the future of journalism is not reporters running outside with cameras, Omar says.
“The future of journalism is the ability to aggregate, curate, verify, and help people work out the real from the fake and help them contextualise and bring important stories to the top of their timeline.”
So, in the age of fake news, who do audiences trust? People they know — more than brands and institutions, Omar says.
“Having said that, you’re seeing brands like CNN that have built up a sense of credibilty, a sense of trust — and that’s come from years and years of journalism. And that’s the most important part: The platforms change. Technology changes. Mobile journalism is here today; tomorrow it might be wearables like this camera I’m wearing. But the good storytelling doesn’t change.
“That’s why in this age of social media, in this age of mobile journalism, what we actually need are editors, journalists, people that can help us make sense of all the noise and find those voices.”