Philip Bromwell on how small devices can create big stories

24 Jul 2018

Philip Bromwell. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

The ubiquity of the smartphone belies its true capabilities as a creative device, says video journalist Philip Bromwell.

Philip Bromwell began his Inspirefest 2018 keynote with an uncomfortable experiment. The RTÉ video journalist, who has covered everything from the Olympic Games to the refugee crisis, asked the audience members to unlock their phones and pass them to the person next to them. As the nervous laughter rang through the theatre, he asked: “How does that feel?”

The importance of the mobile phone in everyday life, Bromwell said, is inescapable, particularly in his own profession. For the past five years, Bromwell and his team at RTÉ have been creating mobile video reports.

“The actual barrier to doing this kind of stuff has never been lower, from newsrooms to other organisations or indeed individual members of the public.”

He compared using your smartphone just for Facebook scrolling and email to having a Ferrari and only driving it in first gear.

A newsroom in your pocket

The potential of a mobile device for media and the development of mobile journalism (mojo) makes the smartphone like a type of “Swiss army knife” or  “like having a newsroom in your pocket”. With a phone you can go live, edit and publish all from the one device, and it is also the primary source from which people get their news.

Bromwell explained that he and his team have developed a “mobile-to-mobile workflow” to create original stories to be published on RTÉ’s digital and social platforms first. “That’s where the audience is.”

He is passionate about stories that centre people, following the manifesto: “Make me feel, make me think or give the person in it a voice.” While many of the stories may not be on the “general news diary”, Bromwell enjoys when a story starts small and has a big impact.

Enthralling stories

The story of Alma Harrak, a 14-year-old refugee from Syria living under direct provision, enthralled the crowd. The young girl taught herself how to play piano, and her passion and dedication to the instrument were evident in the report. This led to both President Michael D Higgins and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees becoming aware of her story, and she is getting the piano she longed for.

Bromwell concluded by harking back to his manifesto and love of human-centric reports, calling on attendees to consider the power their devices have beyond responding to emails on the go. “Small stories can have a big impact and they can be done on a small device, and it’s one that all of us in this room probably have.”

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event celebrating the point where science, technology and the arts collide. Ultra Early Bird tickets for Inspirefest 2019 are available now.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects