Snapchat glasses, smartphones take journalism to new level

By Dawn McMullan


Dallas, Texas, USA


Yusuf Omar, senior social reporter at CNN, is obsessed with his glasses — Snapchat Spectacles, worn often and eliciting many questions at the 2017 INMA World Congress in New York City. With the press of a button on the side, Omar is recording what he’s seeing in 10- or 20-second bytes.

“What it means is two-fold. Firstly, when I’m doing an interview, I don’t have a wall between myself and the world. I can look at the person in the eye. I shot a documentary in Sweden after Trump made those comments .... And I was able to look at people in the eyes and have a really personal relationship with them. So you get that point of view.

“The other thing that’s spectacular about these particular glasses is they shoot a round frame, so you can hold your phone landscape or vertical and watch it both ways. Because the big debate at the moment in social video is do we do vertical, do we do landscape? They’ve created a format where you can do both. And that's brilliant.”

Omar is a big supporter of mobile journalism, what he calls “mojo.” Many media companies, however, disregard the mobile platform, technology, and skill, feeling the quality doesn’t meet their standards.

“I believe that reality is the new quality. And as soon as you appreciate that, you start getting such intimate and real storytelling. It started in 2008, the recession hit and organisations ... needed to make drastic cost cuts. One of the first places they cut was big camera crews and big fancy cameras.

“It then moved into it becoming the fastest way to get the story out there. In fact since 9/11, it hasn’t really been traditional cameras that have caught the biggest stories of our times. It’s been people with phones.

“It’s now becoming something else. It’s moved from cost to speed to actually often doing better journalism, of being more personal, more intimate, often providing people with more dignity. When I’m interviewing sexual abuse survivors in India, for example, I don’t want to put a mic in their face and lights. I want it to be as discrete as possible. That’s how mobile journalism helps me do better journalism.”

There will always be a place for traditional journalism, of course. It is at one end of the professional spectrum while mobile journalism is at the other. Omar believes the industry will find the middle.

“What I call ‘elastic,’ where you can use the speed and agility and intimacy of mobile journalism and the quality of broadcast with the right microphone and the right lighting. And at that intersection, I think, is where you're going to find really good journalism.”

About Dawn McMullan

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