WINDHOEK. Last month the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism released the Mobile Reporting Field Guide, the product of one of their classes that spent at least 15 weeks testing an idea that’s been building steam among journalists for the past few years: that it’s increasingly possible to do quick-and-dirty reporting with nothing but a palm-sized smartphone and a few well-chosen add-ons. No bank-breaking TV camera, no van to haul equipment. Event bloggers have already been closing in on what amount to tiny, one-kilogram studios; what the Berkeley study focuses on is how to get genuinely world-class production values from an iPhone: what are the best apps, what are the best peripherals (see their picks above left).
I heard about this through a review by Timo Lüge, a former Red Cross and UN worker who posted it to the Humanitarian Communication group on LinkedIn. It sparked a little discussion about how Berkeley’s kit could be whittled down further for our own reporting in developing countries: You can see the suggested changes above right. Given how mobile-phone use has exploded across Africa, I have no doubt our staff will all have handsets this powerful when they visit project sites within a few years. The problem, as usual, will be a knottier kind of social hack: How will more people get in the habit of picking up their miraculous phones and actually shooting pictures, and how to help the photos and videos of these amateur photographers live up to their world-class potential when they do.