Students from ACJ take up a 24-hour mobile project on economic inequality

If digital journalism is the future, then budding journalists across the world are trying their best to get it right.

 Armed with their smart-phones and other gadgets, students of the Asian College of Journalism on Saturday carried out a 24-hour, live, mobile journalism project — Pop-Up Newsroom — on the theme of economic inequality.

The project that went live at 9 a.m. also saw participation from students in the U.S., the U.K., and Taiwan — from the California State University Northridge, Newcastle University and National Chung Cheng University in Taiwan. 

 Explaining the project, coordinator Priya Rajasekar said the students, using their cellphones, iPads and iPods posted videos, audios, tweets and stories all day about the problems of poverty and discrimination, such as gender, disability, LGBT concerns and deprivation.

A group of students at a ‘command room’ at the institute monitored the tweets sent by their classmates who were on the field, gathering information for their stories.  “As the number of tweets permitted per page is limited, we are trying to compress many tweets into one so that we can tweet more stories,” said Atisha Jain, a student. Students said that while on the project, they also got an opportunity to learn about apps that helped them edit and present the material better. 

Students from the participating journalism schools took charge of the newsroom for eight hours each, depending on the time zone.

The content was tweeted and shared using designated hashtags. It was curated on the Twitter account @PopUpNewsroom as well as on other forms of social media including, RebelMouse, Instagram, Pinterest, Storify, Tumblr and Facebook.  

“The online media is not constrained by space and is cost effective. Also, since people have to speak only in front of a phone, they are far less reluctant,” said Ms. Rajasekhar. The challenge, however, was in ensuring that no insensitive material went up online. “We took care to see victims of sexual violence were blurred and the consent of parents was taken, before we got their children to speak,” she added.

Kalyan Arun, faculty member, ACJ, said one of the challenges of the project was to attract readers’ attention by bringing out the essence of the story in merely 140 characters. “The notion of poverty is different in every country. So, while we are looking at deprivation, those in America have stories on the recession and the U.K. students are looking at austerity measures and their impact on social security,” he said.

The stories by the student-reporters at ACJ touched a variety of subjects. Akshaya Nath had a story on caste-based professions in the city. Anther student Vivek Narayanan was on the lookout for people whose lives have been affected by wastes from factories.