Advice to a new MoJo

The other day, Dan Telvock of Fredericksburg.com sent me an e-mail and told me about his potential new job — he’s may become a MoJo, or Mobile Journalist.

Cool job, if you can get it.

While not asking for advice, per se, my sense was Dan would like to know what I think about the job.

My response to that, however, would be in the form of advice.

If I were going to have a MoJo at one of our papers, this is what I would expect.

First, the area you cover is your beat. But you can’t approach this like a beat reporter. For most beat reporters, the beat is something you do during the paid hours, and afterwards, you go home and kiss the wife, pet the cat and watch TV.

But if you’re going to be a serious online journalist, you need to be passionate about what you cover.

This is taking a pixel or two from blogging.

All of the best bloggers are passionate about the topics they cover. You need to be passionate about your beat in the same way. For the MoJo, the town is the beat. You need to LOVE the town. You need to love it’s people, it’s identity, it’s good things and its bad things (and be discerning enough to recognize the differences). You need to be the foremost expert on your town — know all the history, all the people, all the things that make it the marvelous place that it is.

Second, you need a blog. You need to blog your town. Most MoJos are assigned the task of finding news updates for the home page of the newspaper.com.

That’s all well and good and part of the job, but the main task should be blogging the town. If in the process of doing that, some news item worthy of the home page comes out of it, then let an editor make that decision. The editor can pull the blog post and promote it to the home page (re-writing the post, if necessary, to be more “news style,” though, frankly, I see no reason to do that).

Of course, you’ll always have a video camera with you, but your job isn’t to be a video storyteller. Your job is to document what’s going on as you see it. You should be after the small bits of video that are interesting, amusing and occasionally newsworthy.

Sometimes, you might produce the story video, but the more time you spend shooting and editing video, the less time you’re spending with the people in your town.

You should spend a lot of time with the people in your town. You should be better known around town than the mayor or the leading business owner. EVERYBODY should know you, know who you are and what you do. If you do that well, they will clamor to give you information and maybe even show up in your blog, or you home page story, or your front page story.

You should carry plenty of business cards, all with your blog URL front and center, bigger than the newspaper name, and they shoulbe handed to every person you meet.

You need to spend more time with people than you spend driving around.

The classic image of a MoJo is a reporter sitting in his car, filing a story. Certainly, you must spend time doing that, but the less time you spend actually driving that car, the better. You need to be out and about, on foot, with people.

Your job isn’t to find scandal or hard-hitting news. Your job is to unlock the life of your town in a way that print journalism hasn’t done consistently for generations.

It’s all about people.

So that’s my advice.

Dan sent along this example of his first MoJo piece, which is a fine piece of writing, reporting and producing related video.

And it’s a fine thing to do for a MoJo.  It’s perfectly suitable. Sometimes, that’s exactly what will come out of being a great MoJo, but mostly you will be the blogger of your town.

5 thoughts on “Advice to a new MoJo

  1. I still think that would one awesome job. Covering the community by basically being embedded in it? Sign me up!

    I know two kids I graduated with who hold the job and both have very different expectations/experiences, but both love it.

    I applied for a few then-open mojo positions when I graduated. Actually, I interviewed in person for one and went as far as the phone interview for the other, but then my current job offer came through and I grabbed that. Don’t regret it, but I’m just sayin’, I would consider a mojo position in my next go-round. It’s about as community as community can get if you do it right. And your idea of the street-level blog is how I always envisioned it.

  2. Great post, Howard. At Messenger Post, a lot of us have assumed the role of a MoJo. I must admit it’s a pretty cool job. It’s proven to be beneficial as well. I had been playing “phone tag” for a few days with a source I needed for a story I was working on. One day, I happened to be in the public library in town filing a story and in he walked! He saw me, sat down and I got what I needed. A few times a week, I try to go down to this local diner in my beat for breakfast or coffee. I’ve done interviews there and I’ve run into past sources and some big wigs in town as well.

  3. Pingback: Video journalism: it's 'all about people' (2008) | Evolving Newsroom

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