Ask Spanish television reporter Leonor Suárez what role mobile journalism played during the first wave of the pandemic and she barely pauses for thought.
“Mojo was the key to staying on air,” she says. “It’s now an essential tool that adds to traditional gear.”
Leonor is both reporter and producer on a weekly current affairs programme, Asturias Semanal, for RTPA, a public television network in northern Spain.
In 2016 she was a joint winner of a Thomson Foundation competition to find the world’s most creative mobile journalists who use smartphones to create multimedia content.
When a first lockdown was imposed across the region in March 2020, Leonor and her team immediately grasped the gravity of the situation. It was vital, they knew, to keep on top of a rapidly evolving story, to verify and disseminate information.
“It was not just about storytelling,” she says. “We had to be both innovative and imaginative. In the end, everything was done remotely.”
During lockdown none of the team spent any time at the television studios. And yet they were still able to produce high-quality long form stories and documentaries that explored the medical, economic, social and educational impact of Covid-19 on their local audience.
Information was gathered using a mixture of mobile phones, GoPro cameras and, where possible, traditional video equipment. The stories were recorded, edited from home using iPads and laptops, and sent to the station to be aired. The show itself was ‘anchored’ from home, using a smartphone and a green screen.
Among others, there were stories from inside a temporary hospital, an intensive care unit, and a care home for the elderly. At times, with access denied on health grounds, Leonor called on hospital staff to film behind the scenes, using either a smartphone or a GoPro. A short tutorial was usually enough to guarantee the required quality.
We had to be both innovative and imaginative. In the end, everything was done remotely.
When it came to interviews, the subjects – whether the general public or experts in their field – were taught how best to record themselves. The footage from all sources would then be woven into one, all-encompassing piece.
Innovation was being driven by need, but underlying everything was a strong commitment to journalistic values. These, Leonor insists, were non-negotiable.
“The fact that you are able to ask someone to film him or herself and send us the video is good because it allows you to reach more people,” she says.
“So, you have the clips, you have the video. But that’s not the story. You have to do your job as a journalist. You have to check the story, verify the story and then tell the story according to the platform of the audiences you want to reach.”
Images courtesy of RTPA, Spain
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