Digital Natives Are Changing News Reporting, And That's A Good Thing

It’s easy for those of us who remember life before mobile devices and a ubiquitous internet to stereotype teens as rabid, but not particularly mindful, content consumers. We may see them as narcissistic, with their constant selfie-taking and snap sending. What we probably don’t see is that their mobile habits and constant usage make them the first generation of “MoJos,” or mobile journalists, who will shape the future of reporting. 

That’s a good thing for media companies and audiences alike.

Once upon a time, there was a morning edition and an evening edition of the daily newspaper, and TV news hours similarly bookended the day. Then came CNN and the 24-hour news cycle, and with it, the expectation of constant updates. The advent of internet news has compounded this expectation, and now, media companies are challenged to provide immediate coverage of breaking news with video and minute-by-minute updates. This content has to be distributed across both owned and operated sites and social platforms, and all of it needs to be supported by ads. 

Imagine you’re a TV news producer. You get word that a kitten is stuck in a tree, and that the fire department has been called. This is local interest story gold. You immediately send out your spot reporter and news truck, who speed to the scene. They arrive and … there’s no one there. The whole rescue was done and over with before you even had a chance. 

But then you get the good news: A neighborhood teenager was able to capture the moment, interview the firefighters and granted you permission to use the footage. Your day is saved, just like the kitten. This is the type of live-from-everywhere, constant content capture that mobile-enabled reporting makes a reality. 

“Mobile journalism” is more than UGC or any story captured on a mobile device. Rather, it’s a new set of tactics for reporting, defined by an ever-ready, DIY approach that allows an individual to act as a one-person news team. Whether a professional or an amateur, the lone reporter in the field can easily capture moments as they happen, without expensive equipment or extensive personnel resources. It opens doors to coverage of local news, community events and niche topics, with interviews and live broadcasts conducted at the drop of a hat, and it brings to the viewing public stories they might not otherwise see. 

In theory, anyone with a device that can capture an image can be a “MoJo.” In reality, Gen Z is the population whose life experience has reinforced a mobile-first philosophy and for whom the skills and instincts for mobile journalism are woven into the fabric of their existence.

All of those selfies have perfected their eye for a good shot. Those snaps have honed their abilities to tell succinct, shareable stories. Their socially mediated lifestyles have granted them seemingly innate knowledge of what works best on which platform. They know if something is shareable the second they see it. Whether it’s capturing footage of an event, conducting an interview with a notable figure or live-streaming an unexpected event, teens are always ready to capture assets and produce video coverage independently.

It’s not the end of traditional coverage

Mobile journalism is a rising trend and it’s sure to continue shaking up the industry on a global level. It’s a new and important tool for newsroom managers and media companies who must increasingly build audience with fewer resources at their disposal. It is not, however, going to replace hard-core investigative journalism and we will still need those professionals who have dedicated their lives to the free press and are working with this next generation of reporters and their way of reporting — and consuming — news.

2 comments about "Digital Natives Are Changing News Reporting, And That's A Good Thing".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Jenny Mirken from, February 2, 2017 at 12:22 p.m.

    Great article, Elizabeth! Thank you for covering this topic. It seems like every kid nowadays is adept at using their device cameras -- combining to form a many-million strong, field-reporting force. Our app,, is built for just these kids. Only we don't call our U13s "digital natives," we call them "mobile natives," as they were born into a tap-tap-tap world rather than simply a click one. Kids are hungry for first-person, unfiltered evidence of the world around them. We've just signed up a large Boston suburb as one of our first Verified Accounts. Its innovative mayor and communications team are anxious for a platform to share and gather a (protected) view into the daily lives of their U13 residents. Kids' voices are too important not to be welcomed, heard and catalogued, and it's time mobile media got the message.

  2. elizabeth hellman from Wochit replied, February 2, 2017 at 2:50 p.m.

    Jenny - congrats on Boston. It's a great initiative. And thank you for the feedback - for Gen Z, I agree, mobile natives!

Next story loading loading..