5 Things @TCUSchieffer: Mobile Journalism Makes Storytelling Accessible to Everyone

A professor helps a student at the computer inside a student newsroom.

Assistant Professor of Professional Practice Patty Zamarripa helps a student in the Student Media newsroom on March 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

The media landscape is constantly shifting. We see this in our courses across the Bob Schieffer College of Communication. Faculty and staff in our college consistently update and add new courses to reflect what is happening worldwide. We spoke with Assistant Professor of Professional Practice Patty Zamarripa ’10 (B.S.), M.S., about her new experimental course, Mobile Journalism. Here are five things to know about Mobile Journalism based on our conversation.

#1: Mobile Journalists use their mobile devices to do journalism.

Mobile journalists, or Mojo’s, started around 2007-2008 with the financial crisis. Suddenly, journalists found themselves doing the work of five people.

“Mobile journalism isn’t necessarily doing the one-person band anymore; it’s just using your mobile device to do all those jobs,” she said. “Which we were already doing but with a computer, a big camera that would break your back, a tripod, and all these extra microphones, cables and lights. You don’t need that anymore; everything is in the palm of your hand with a mobile device.”

Mobile journalism doesn’t deviate entirely from traditional journalism, she said. “The journalism part of it isn’t very different. It is about the story and the basic principles you learn about fact-checking, using sources and not making things up,” she said. “All of that stays the same. The fundamentals of good reporting and journalism don’t change. What’s different is the technology.”

#2: The power of compelling storytelling is for everyone.

Mobile journalism allows storytellers to be where the action is: online. “That’s where our audiences are. Our young people are consuming everything on the phone, so go to them with something they recognize. And create good stories and good content where they are. Meet them where they are,” Zamarripa said.

“It is important that they know how to be not just an influencer on Instagram. How do you tell a good story? What connects us all? The storytelling part doesn’t change—just the technology. Putting a couple of stickers on a Snapchat filter doesn’t make you a great storyteller.”

#3: The Mojo Motto: “I wonder if…let’s try!”

Zamarripa said she was most excited about the possibilities of creativity allowed when you have such powerful technology in the palm of your hand. “I think any mojo would tell you that the possibilities and the ease of not having to invest tons of money in equipment [excites them],” she said. “We all already have [a phone]. It is as easy as ‘I wonder if I can do this; let me try.’ You get that in mobile journalism.”Drake meme. Top photo text: Storytelling without a focus. Bottom photo text: Storytelling with a focus.

#4: Storytelling requires that your find your focus.

Zamarripa challenged her mobile journalism students to create a meme and get 1,000 shares in 48 hours. Many students didn’t take the assignment seriously, posting memes about failing grades or silly subjects. Every student failed. Many of her students didn’t understand and asked her what the assignment had to do with journalism and content creation.

Zamarripa flipped the script and asked them what they learned; students realized that “meme-making is a huge part of mobile journalism and very sought-after skill. It helps you gain traction; it helps tell your branding story; it helps with brand recognition. There are many reasons you should learn how to be a good meme maker because you can make big money if you know how to make good memes.”Photo of a horned frog status outside Amon G. Carter stadium. Text: How we feel when mojo students don't find their focus when storytelling.

“But how does it apply to journalism and storytelling? It teaches about shifting expectations. It teaches about failure. It teaches about audience engagement and what is important to the audience,” she said. “The reason that all of these failed was that they all did the same thing and didn’t pay attention to what does the audience want. What are they looking for? They didn’t find focus. That is one of the biggest parts of a story. If you don’t have focus in a story, you don’t have a story.”

#5: Mobile technology makes storytelling easier; it just takes a little practice.

Zamarripa suggests that anyone interested in becoming a mojo go out, start having fun and practicing. She challenges her students to think about creating content.

“How can you tell something was done on a mobile phone? How can you tell an armature clearly shot this on their phone? The video is shaky. It’s in 9×16, not 16×9. The audio is bad. They are panning, tilting and zooming. There is all this movement, and I am getting sick just watching this. Come up with your list of what makes it look like it was shot on a phone and do the opposite of that,” she said.

“Just have fun and go practice. Use apps. Start looking at what other people are doing. I love to see what people are doing, learn their techniques and try to mimic them. Then eventually I can make it my own. Just go out there and practice. You already have [a phone]; the only thing holding you back is you.”

Are you interested in learning more about Mobile Journalism? Take Mobile Journalism next semester with Patty Zamarripa. The course is open to all majors. Learn more in Class Search.

Want to keep up with the work the mobile journalism students are doing this semester? Check out Mojo Moments in TCU News Now starting on Oct. 5, 2022.