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Smartphones Changing Face Of Journalism

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Before the Smartphone, Journalists focused on meticulous note taking and their observational skills to report the news.  Now, the device that can fit in a pocket has revolutionized the industry and has quickly become one of the most important tools in the journalism field, including the popular area of sports reporting.

Journalism has evolved tremendously over the past decade. According to Springfield Republican Newspaper reporter Russ Held, the smartphone has given journalists more duties that go beyond writing a story and meeting deadlines.

“In this field you needed to be a writer first, but now you’re almost responsible for taking video, and photos, and social media and it’s all in one,” Held said. “You can keep it in the palm of your hand.”

Richard Hanley, who served as a journalist for twenty-three years and is now a Professor of Journalism at Quinnipiac University and directs the journalism graduate program, says smartphones have had a tremendous influence in reporting from the field.

“The smartphone is a unique tool in the history of journalism because you can use it to both gather information and disseminate information,” Hanley said. “So when you think about it, you have one tool, a smartphone, that can be used to acquire information and distribute it.  That means you’re not carrying a lot of stuff, but it also means you’ve reduced the time from gathering news to distributing it to virtually zero.”

Held agrees with Professor Hanley and says there are no longer any deadlines in disseminating news.

“Deadline now is now,” Held said. “Where once upon a time or still with print the deadline would be 10 o’clock at night, its 8 in the morning; I’ve got 14 hours to cultivate this and get it set and I’ve got workspace and time set at my laptop in my office or my room, but now it can be done instantaneously.  People expect it quickly and the smartphone just gives you that option availability to be able do that when your readers want it.”

Smartphone usage is on the rise.  According to a Pew Internet and American Life survey conducted in 2013, 56% of American adults own a smartphone.  The device is versatile, but can also be distracting while covering an event as Springfield Armor TV/Radio broadcaster Pete Sousa explains.

“The phone in itself can be somewhat of a distraction,” Sousa said. “Smartphone’s have so much going on with them, as far as I’m concerned, that the only time you can go to it is during a timeout because to go to it, like, during the action when you’re not actually breaking, you could look at a piece of information, then see another piece of information, then you’re interested in another piece of information, and then you look up and you’ve missed two possessions of the game.”

A survey by the Reynolds Journalism Institute finds that the smartphone has become an important platform for accessing the news. 63% of smartphone users report that they used their smartphone to access news semi-regularly during a 2012 survey. This makes the tool irreplaceable for most reporters and Held says that to report without one puts reporters at a significant disadvantage in producing their story.

“To be able to have a smartphone when minutes, or even seconds, are so valuable, everything’s at your fingertips and it really makes a difference between getting a job done and getting it done well and without the Smartphone to not only maximize what you’re doing and the speed of what you’re doing, but knowing that everybody else around you is probably doing it better and faster is a major disadvantage and it can be a frustrating thing if you don’t have it,” Held said.

While Hanley agrees that the smartphone is an amazing addition, he believes the device is not the most important part of being a journalist.

“News is unscheduled,” Hanley said. “Smartphone’s allow you to be prepared for everything at anytime and anyplace as long as it’s charged and ready to go. Still, the most important tool is the eyes, and ears, and the brain of the reporter. If you’re not smart, you’re not gonna get a good story.  If you’re not agile intellectually, you’re not gonna be able to tell a good story, regardless of the tool. So if you have a smart reporter, with a Smartphone, you have a pretty good combination to do a good job in this business.”

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