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PAINTER: Mobile devices playing key role in news gathering

• Jan 22, 2018 at 2:00 PM

The incident earlier this month received national attention. A Louisiana school teacher was handcuffed and taken to jail after she criticized the Vermillion Parish school board’s decision to give its superintendent a $30,000 pay raise.

Deyshia Hargrave, a middle school teacher, spoke out against the raise at a school board meeting, saying that teachers and other school employees have been working without pay increases. ”I feel like this is a slap in the face to all the teachers, cafeteria workers and other support staff,” she told the school board.

As Hargrave continued to express her feelings, a video from CNN affiliate KATC showed a city marshal, hired by the school district, escort Hargrave from the meeting. The marshal eventually ended up handcuffing her and taking her to jail.

After the video went viral, many people became outraged by how the teacher was treated.

That video reveals how much our lives are now impacted by social media, especially the use of mobile phones to take photographs and videos. We now regularly see videos like the one taken of Hargrave’s arrest, giving us an bird’s-eye view of the news.

According to Variety.com, more than half of all video viewing is now happening on mobile devices, and most of those views come from phones. Variety wrote that, since 2013, mobile video views has grown 233 percent. Yes, 233 percent.

It is amazing how videos also have changed the landscape of news reporting. 

For example, a similar situation involving administrators’ pay raises occurred recently in Muskegon, but without as much fanfare as the situation in Louisiana. Muskegon Public School teachers and others attended a school board meeting to protest large pay raises given to several top administrators, while teachers were given much smaller increases. While that was an important story, it didn’t get as much publicity as the story about the teacher being handcuffed, because it went viral.

When I was a reporter on my first job, I was asked to cover an annual township meeting, normally a routine assignment. But this meeting didn’t turn out to be routine. A shouting match ensued and escalated into a fistfight between two men. I didn’t have a camera with me, so the incident was just a small part of my story, and nothing much came of it. Think about if that incident happened today. It would have gone viral and be watched by perhaps millions of people.

The news media now use mobile phone videos on a regular basis, and even rely on citizens to provide them with videos. For example, a number of people recorded videos of the shootings in Las Vegas last October, and provided their videos to various news outlets. We see videos of such incidents of police officers mistreating people who they are arresting.

A few years ago, the owner of the Grand Haven Tribune and a number of other newspapers addressed a meeting of journalists in Las Vegas and expressed the importance that videos will play in news gathering. He urged newspaper publishers and editors to take advantage of this new tool.

He was right. The Grand Haven Tribune, as well as other newspapers, blends its news coverage with printed stories and videos of breaking news. The immediacy of video reporting is amazing.

Print journalism is still the bread and butter for newspapers, but publishers and editors also know that the use of social media plays an important role, as well.

The Mashable, a digital media website, reported that journalists are increasingly using mobile phones to collect videos, photos and even to file stories. “We also have a veritable army of citizens out there armed with their increasingly advanced reporting tools: mobile phones,” the website reported.

Rima Murdoch, of the Murdoch publishing empire, was quoted in a Reuters Institute story that “mobile phones are a crucial piece of equipment changing not only the way readers and viewers consume the news today, but also the way content is being produced.

The good news is that the print media understand the need to evolve, and is taking advantage of the tools available to them, including the use of mobile devices in helping them gather news. This is a good thing for readers.

— By Len Painter, Tribune community columnist

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