Poynter faculty member discusses impact of mobile journalism at Must See Monday

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Regina McCombs, a faculty member at the Poynter Institute, discussed how phones, tablets and mobile browsing are shaping the future of news at yesterday's Must See Monday event. (Mauro Whiteman/DD)

Phones, tablets and mobile browsing are shaping the way that journalism is produced and disseminated, a representative from the Poynter Institute said during this semester’s eighth Must See Mondays event.

Regina McCombs, a faculty member at the institute and former (Minneapolis) startribune.com senior producer for multimedia, presented her research findings on the future of news in the era of smartphones and iPads.

“Both (users of phones and tablets) want news, weather and videos, and both are multitaskers,” she said before a crowd of about 40 people in the Walter Cronkite School’s First Amendment Forum. “So we (journalists) have a lot to figure out.”

McCombs highlighted examples of news organizations that are handling the transition to the mobile age well, such as the Orange County Register and the Boston Globe.

Many statistics showed a strong trend of journalism consumption on new devices like tablets and smartphones, which she said is very promising for the future of the industry.

But McCombs added that digital journalism skills are becoming increasingly integral to journalism professionals.

Lynn French, news operations manager of video and web for Phoenix NBC affiliate 12 News, said she strongly believes students should be learning digital journalism skills in school.

“Right now, in all honesty, each time I lose two positions in my department, we pick up one and one goes to the digital desk,” she said.

French added that journalists entering the workforce at this time are required to have a handle on basic digital skills, such as working with video software and submitting stories using a mobile device.

Last week’s Must See Monday speaker, Dave Seibert of the Arizona Republic, also focused on the changing roles for journalists in the digital age, using most of his time to address the importance of multimedia skills.

Amanda Roberts, a digital journalism senior, said she learned a great deal from the graphs, charts and statistics that accompanied McCombs’ speech.

Because of her focus on digital media, Roberts said the importance of mobile optimization — tailoring websites to be compatible across phones, tablets and computers — has been stressed in her education at the Cronkite School.

“There are definitely classes in the upper division here that deal with cross platform,” she said.

Roberts is currently in the Digital Media Entrepreneurship class, where she has learned valuable skills that she will take with her into the job market, she said.

“As the older generation struggles to adapt, those who are younger have that education and will be able to get those jobs,” she said.

French said this trend can be seen across the entire journalism industry.

“There’s no more hiring old dogs,” she said.

McCombs began the presentation with a breakdown of a 4-year-old’s experience in the era of mobile technology.

“Here’s why we care: By age 4, 60 percent of these guys have used a computer, 43 percent have used a digital camera, 32 percent have used a smartphone and 25 percent an iPod, and 14 percent have used a tablet,” she said. “These are going to be kids raised on tablets and smartphones.”

Contact the reporter at mauro.whiteman@asu.edu