The 20 students and international visitors in the University of Missouri's J4462 Emerging Technologies in Journalism will take a trip to Barcelona next week.
Make that "virtually" take a trip.
The class will test whether the digital technology easily available to anyone can allow them to cover a major event in another country. In this case, the event is the Mobile World Congress to be held Feb. 24-27 in Barcelona, Spain.
The congress is the world's largest gathering of those whose lives and businesses focus on mobile phone technology. Organizers expect 75,000 attendees who put down $1,000 to $7,000 each for tickets. The event will feature 1,700 exhibitors spread over a venue so large it is described as a "village."
The exhibits will range from consumer-level products -- such as new models of phones -- to highly specific technical products -- such as cell phone towers and internal components. More than 4,300 CEOs are expected to attend, along with more than 3,400 credentialed members of the press from 79 countries.
The students will monitor blogs, news reports and official dispatches to cover the congress. Each has a specific topic area and will use multiple sources to keep readers abreast of developments.
A major function of the class project is to test the extent to which technology can be used in lieu of travel for journalists. While few journalists dispute that "feet on the ground" provide the best coverage, staffing for bureaus and correspondents has plummeted in the past decade. Can technology fill the void? We'll see.
Key to good coverage at a distance is the mix of traditional media and blogger reports. The traditional media reports the expected stream of facts. The bloggers, however, add opinion, insight and emotion that is more like what a reporter would get by interviewing attendees on the floor of the exhibition.