MARVIN GAKUNYI: Telling stories through mobile journalism

As part of mentorship, Mwangaza invites an established youth in various fields for an online discussion, with its community. Here is our session with Mr. Marvin Gakunyi.

Kindly introduce yourself to us.

My name is Marvin Gakunyi, team leader at www.mobilejournalism.co.ke (MoJo). I’m passionate about changing how narratives are told in Kenya and Africa at large.

What does mobile journalism mean?
It means the use of smartphones ( which are the most available gadgets in Kenya with a penetration of 90% ) to tell stories. At Mobile Journalism, we call them pocket studios ( because they can record, shoot and type ) or walking editorial rooms since can cover a story’s part pre-production (scripting e.g on notes ), production ( shoot a clip, take a photo or write text ) and post production which is about editing and verification.

What made you shift from the `normal’ journalism to focus on the use of smartphones for storytelling?
All arrows are pointing towards “Mobile Only” news consumption and distribution. Media houses are going digital with Live feeds and use of social media to break news. Secondly, the media industry especially mainstream is becoming congested with many professionals with very few job opportunities.

Moreover, everyone is a story teller and therefore a need for a platform to share and network. Finally, the narratives in Africa have been told with an interest which happens to be sinister. In addition, we have desire to change the notion that “What Bleeds Leads.”

How do you ensure quality? Who is your audience? How do you determine what story to tell and how has been the reception so far?
We have a team of professional editors on the back end of the site who edit and package the story to look journalistic without altering it.

The platform started as a site targeting university students but it has gained both national and international attention with people expressing their will to be part of us. We let people tell their stories in how they feel and interpret it. When we are in need of articles for a certain topic we create a theme to guide our contributors.

The reception has been positive and we hope for the best as we do what we can to restore the beauty of Kenya and Africa at large.

Do you have an office?
We have a virtual office where tasks are created and shared. Our aim is to devolve editorial rooms for people to work from the comfort of their homes.

When it comes to smartphone, can any kind be used or does it require the high-end smartphones with better camera resolutions?
If you want to do a quality photo or video story you will a good quality phone which average ranges between 10-15K. For text stories any phone can handle it well.

Marvin Gakunyi
So, what is the future of the feature phones (that is Kabambes)? Is it the end of an era for them?
Those will be thrown in the dustbins of history. Even my shosho is on Whatsapp. If there will be any may be in very minimal numbers.

Now, how can you use a smartphone for mobile journalism? What apps do you need to install?
For video editing we use Quik and iMovie. For photo editing and posters we use canva.com.

After you have collected your stories, where do you share them?
We share them on our social media handles( all- Mobile Journalism Africa) but mainly on our site (www.mobilejournalism.co.ke)

Do people pay for their stories to be featured? Or, do you pay them for featuring their stories? Also, where do you get funding to run your organisation?
We give people a free platform to shares news and human interest stories. When someone or an organization want to be featured we charge. For now the project is running from our pockets but we have been trying to rope partnerships.

What challenges do you face? Has MOJO been well received?
Our main challenge is that we can’t be online all of us all the time. This has forced us to share the roles of checking out for new stoey submissions though it gives editors email alerts.

If one is interested to share on your platform, as an individual, how do they go about it?
You visit the site, register and use your credentials to login everytime you want to submit a story.

The youth have been blamed for being hooked to their smartphones. Are they using these smartphones correctly to our advantage? What opportunities lie in these gadgets?
Smartphones have exponential potential that the generation before us may not understand. On the usage, it depends on how one uses the phone. There is a thin line between addiction that makes you like a slave and using it as your office. For example I also work as a digital marketer and social media manager for different people so I have to constantly be on the phone. Internet is therefore a basic need for most of us at MoJo.

What has been your biggest highlight/achievement so far at MoJo?
We got featured in a UK based blog and we can consider that as a big achievement as at now. Our biggest is in the future.

What lies in the future for MoJo? Where do you see yourselves in years to come?
We want to be a household brand where everyone is accommodated and has confidence in the truthfulness of the stories they read on our platforms.

Can one join/be part of the MoJo team if they wish to be? What are the requirements, if any?
At MoJo we believe passion dictates pursuit. If you’re a passionate storyteller you can join as a contributor and as we work together you get promoted. That happens when we spot talent in our contributors.

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