On June 25th 2009, when "the King of Pop", Michael Jackson died a friend of mine happened to be in LA on a business trip. He had first heard about the popstar’s death on his Twitter feed and out of curiosity, he headed on down to UCLA hospital where Jackson had just been pronounced dead. Outside, quite a sizable coterie of the world’s news organisations had gathered. But the scene also provided a snapshot of how radically the media environment was beginning to change.

if you have a smart phone, you have in your hand a mini-broadcasting studio.

Beside an OB (Outside Broadcast) truck complete with satellite link, one international reporter spoke live into to the camera. Beside him, a local news station reporter spoke into a smaller camera with the upload happening via mobile phone. Beside him an entertainment news vlogger, spoke into a handheld iPad. Beside him, another blogger filmed the scene on her mobile phone. What struck him forcibly was that it was Twitter on his phone, not a news broadcast or a newspaper headline, that had alerted him – and probably the majority of people – to the news of the popstar’s passing. Now, here in front of him, was a clear illustration of the evolutionary chart for the future of broadcast video – from the OB truck to the mobile phone.

Cut to the west coast of Ireland in May 2017, nearly 8 years later and that evolution is well-underway. Sunshine smiles on the Radisson Hotel in Galway where RTÉ MojoCon is about to start. RTÉ MojoCon is an international media conference focusing on mobile journalism, mobile content creation, mobile photography and new technology - all in one event. The brainchild of RTÉ journalist, Glen Mulcahy, the conference has become much more then just a gathering, but a global movement for journalists. Gathered are over 500 journalists who are passionate about, not only their vocation, but also about utilising technology to ensure that journalism doesn’t die. None are under any illusion as to how under threat their trade is. Commercial pressures, fake news, new competitors. But overall, the mood is upbeat and optimistic. Many of these journalists have been in life-threatening situations as part of their jobs. Pressure is part of the course. In fact, you get the feeling the adrenaline is what motivates them.

Statista suggest that by the end of 2017, there will be 4.7 billion connected smart phones in the world. Here, as RTÉ MoJoCon’s proves, if you have a smart phone, you have in your hand a mini-broadcasting studio. You have the power to film, record sound, edit, overlay graphics and, most importantly distribute, content from anywhere in the world at any time.  The disruptive capacity of this is immense. As is the opportunity. For journalism, it means there is potentially a ‘stringer’ in every part of the world. For the movie or documentary film maker, the means of production rests firmly in their hands. For the ordinary citizen, there is the ability to tell and share their stories, something that traditionally has been the purview of a media elite.

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One challenging session was called "Is journalism dead?". Michael Rosenblum, a seasoned US media veteran, believes it is. He believes that it killed itself when the media owners allowed "the geeks to eat their lunch". By that, he meant that with the advent of the internet and the ushering in of the information age, traditional media owners failed to see how the platform for consumption was changing rapidly. Whilst they felt safe in their ownership of the television stations and newspapers, which provided sizeable commercial revenue during the 20th century, they failed to see that the internet was democratising access to information. Companies like Facebook, Google, eBay and Amazon have thrived because they understood that by lowering the barriers for entry for anyone to create content, they get more content and more eyeballs to monetize – and on a global scale.

Mobile Journalism is fundamentally about enabling the reporter and this is, ostensibly, what this conference is about. But the tools used by the Mobile Journalist have a much more far-reaching application. They have the potential to equip every citizen with a smartphone with the basic skills needed to tell their story. An example Rosenblum uses – which was verified by his colleague, Montaser Marai, from Al-Jazeera, was the Syrian refugee crisis. He queried the point of sending a foreign correspondent who doesn’t speak the language nor know the territory to report on the crisis? Why not get the refugees themselves to tell their story? Al-Jazeera did just that during the Arab Spring and managed to get the stories on the ground in realtime as well as building a loyal and engaged audience who felt they were now participating in the platform.

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This is the challenge for traditional media owners. We have to unburden ourselves from the idea of control of the narrative. We have to open up our organisations and become a two–way platform, not a one-way channel. This is not about going on social and allowing people to comment and share. It’s not about running a competition for your best weather photos. It’s a profound mindset change. It does not mean losing editorial control – all the same rules apply in terms of verification and objectivity in terms of reporting.

But suggesting that "journalists" are the only ones who can create the content is to embrace inevitable decline. It goes against everything that the information age is built on. Traditional media must accept that it is a legacy of the industrial age. We now need to build a new media fit for a new world which reflect the fact that everybody has the legitimate potential to tell their story.