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Mobile Journalism Reaches a “Benchmark”

May 12th, 2010

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, 573-882-6217, hurstn@missouri.edu

Bentley-Voices of the Past from MU News Bureau on Vimeo.

Clyde Bentley, an associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, a Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow.

Clyde Bentley, an associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, a Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow.

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— As the proliferation of mobile phones throughout society continues, media organizations are looking for ways to capitalize on opportunities that mobile phone usage presents. An MU researcher believes he has found a new way for news outlets to take advantage of the mobile revolution.

Clyde Bentley, an associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, a Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow, and an expert on mobile journalism, sees many possibilities for mobile phones in journalism, ranging from breaking news updates to long-term projects. He believes a person’s cell phone could be very helpful in explaining confusing geographic stories.

“Instead of trying to mentally picture what a new development might look like, what if you could go to the site, call a number, and have a reporter explain project details while you look at the area first-hand?” Bentley said. “This technology will allow news organizations to put readers in perspective. News isn’t just on paper anymore, so news outlets need to find ways to take the news to the people. Having a mobile phone will now allow people to go where the news is.”

Using technology first developed to provide self-guided museum tours, Bentley’s “Voices from the Past” project allows hikers and bikers on a local Columbia, Missouri trail to hear stories about people for whom memorial benches along the trail honor. Walkers, runners and bikers use their cell phones to call designated numbers indicated on the benches, which are donated by families and friends of their loved ones. The listener hears feature stories produced by senior convergence students at MU’s School of Journalism.  The stories include recorded quotes by family and friends and very often heart-warming details of lives well lived.

Bentley says that the success his project has enjoyed shows that there are more applications for this non-smart phone technology beyond tours and landmarks.

“Right now, most people have cell phones, but not phones that have access to the Internet,” Bentley said. “Not many people can look up a news story on their phone right now, but anyone can call a number and hear a detailed report that can be easily updated by a reporter in the field. Basically it can be radio news on demand.”

To view a video of the “Voices of the Past” project, visit: munews.missouri.edu

Clyde Bentley worked in the newspaper industry for 25 years before joining the University of Missouri School of Journalism faculty. Bentley is currently serving as a 2009-2010 Donald W. Reynolds Fellow at the Reynolds Journalism Institute. Bentley’s research focuses on the habits, preferences and comfort levels of media consumers, especially users of digital media.

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