By Talia Whyte, founder and director of Global Wire Associates and freelance journalist
For the last few weeks, the Occupy Wall Street movement has taken over the headlines worldwide and put the future of the global economy up for discussion. Based on the quickness this movement has grown in such a short amount of time, there are clearly strong feelings out there among the general population about the current financial system.
As a freelance journalist I not only find this to be a monumental moment in recent history, but it is also a great opportunity to practice mobile journalism. As technology and digital tools to capture information on the go becomes more common, many reporters are spending more time on the ground, filing stories online and interacting with followers on their social networks.
I live in Boston where the Occupy movement has both fascinated and angered local residents and politicians. I have visited the Occupy Boston site located in the city’s financial district multiple times just so I can better understand what the group’s complaints, demands and recommendations are for improving the system.
Anyone who follows me online knows that Twitter has become my BFF in the last couple of years. I have been using the social network on my Blackberry to tell the stories of the “Occupiers,” as well as tweeting out pictures of the activities in their tent city. My followers have been re-tweeting my posts and I have been getting feedback from others all over the world. The feedback has been good for me because I have gotten many ideas for future stories.
I generally cover issues concerning Boston’s communities of color, so I was quick to notice the lack of people of color in this movement. I put this observation up to my Twitter and Facebook followers, as well as my email correspondents, and had quite a discussion about how the role of race plays in this debate.
Luckily in the last month, there have been two major rallies involving mostly people of color taking on economic issues that directly impact their communities. National housing justice organization Right to the City made noise in Boston last month, when 2,000 activists rallied in front of a Bank of America, protesting its alleged predatory lending practices towards vulnerable customers. Twenty-four people were arrested during the protest for trespassing on the bank’s premises. This was a great opportunity to use my Flip camera to interview both victims of foreclosure, as well as those who were arrested during the protests.
I did the interviews because I wanted to put real faces on this pressing issue. Again, I received inspiring feedback online from professional journalists and activists alike that sparked further discussion about the issue at hand.
The other rally I attended with my trusted Flip camera just last week was the first gathering of Occupy the Hood Boston – the first such gathering in the country to address issues directly affecting communities of color. I captured on video tear-jerking footage of a woman who lost her nephew last summer to gang violence.
I also used Twitter to report on the many speeches given by community leaders on a wide range of issues, including police brutality, education and black unemployment.
One thing I learned so far from doing mobile journalism is the importance of keeping it simple. There has been much discussion in recent years about what a backpack journalist is supposed to use for equipment. Many technological advances have made it possible for journalists to do more with less. All I use for my field reporting, especially in an ever-changing protest situation, is a Blackberry and a Flip camera.
Also, my mobile journalism in the last few weeks has helped expand my personal brand. I have more people looking out for my work online, including more editors contacting me about doing freelance assignments using my digital skills. Being open to using many platforms for storytelling really does help further your career.