By @SimonCocking. Really interesting insights from  John D McHugh Photojournalist & filmmaker, who will be speaking at RTE’s MoJocon this week. Co-founder of @verifeyemedia a technology driven news agency for freelancers and accidental eyewitnesses.

Brief background about you?

My name is John D McHugh and I am a photojournalist and filmmaker. I have worked extensively in Afghanistan, as well as covering Iraq, Sudan, the Arab Spring, and more. At the start of 2014 I put down my cameras and founded Verifeye Media, a technology driven visual news agency. Our startup is based on the premise that everyone in the world who has a smartphone is now an eyewitness, a potential newsgatherer.

Eyewitness media, either video or photo, is a mainstay of modern news reporting. Think about the current conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, the protests in Ferguson, or the attacks in Paris and Brussels. Eyewitness media is not the future of journalism, it is the now.

The single greatest problem that prevents media organisations using this incredibly valuable news commodity is verification: if you don’t know who shot it, how can you trust it? Verification is the key to unlocking eyewitness media’s true value, and technology is the key to verification at scale. We have built a camera app and a newswire to deliver verified eyewitness media to clients, in real time.

We are also mentoring and training young journalists and eyewitnesses around the world to help them tell the stories that they care about. In many places they have no access to expensive broadcast equipment, so the ability to shoot and send from their mobile device gives them a voice, and gives the rest of the world an insight we otherwise wouldn’t have. So I believe Verifeye Media is the first MoJo news agency in the world.

What inspired you to speak at this event?

I attended MojoCon last year and thought it was incredible. I go to a lot of conferences around journalism and content creation, and the event in Dublin last year was one of the best I’ve ever been at, and if you consider that last year was the first one, you can understand why we are all so excited to see how much it has improved this year. The man behind the event, Glen Mulcahy, is known affectionately as the King of MoJo, and the amount of work he has put into this event is clear when you see the calibre of speakers he has managed to get into one room (excluding me of course – he’s made a terrible mistake there!)

What will you be talking about? 

I am taking part in the panel discussion “Disruptors and Innovators.” There is a lot of talk about disruption and innovation in the news industry these days, but all to often it is about how technology is disrupting our business. At Verifeye Media we are using tech in every way possible, but we believe that our success comes from disrupting the way we “think” about journalism as much as the tech we build and use. The phrase I hear most often from legacy news companies is “that’s not how we do things” when I explain how Verifeye Media works. Quite often they simply can’t break out of their existing process, even though it is clearly failing. On the other hand, the digital native news organizations immediately understand what we are doing, and recognize the advantages that we offer. They embrace our process. If legacy media is to survive, tech alone will not solve their woes; they must start to think differently.

At Verifeye Media our motto is “We are changing journalism.” I’ve had some raised eyebrows over that statement, but the truth is, we are. I spoke to a freelancer recently and as I was explaining to him what we do I mentioned that we guarantee to pay him within 7 days of a sale, but usually we pay the next day. “Stop talking” he said, “I’m in.”

Don’t get me wrong, we are also using a lot of tech, and as a result we have massively reduced the cost while increasing the speed of verification. It also means we can deal with enormous numbers of contributors. I don’t want a news agency with hundreds of journalists, we are building an agency that represents hundreds of thousands of eyewitnesses around the world.

Why it will be helpful for people to attend. What will they get out of it?

Mobile Journalism (MoJo) as a concept has really grown in the past few years. A lot of smart people are thinking about it, teaching new techniques, and building new apps and equipment. I advise people to keep their MoJo workflow simple – experiment with a few apps until you find what works for you, and then stick with them for your day to day work. But, it’s also very important to keep abreast of new developments, because this is all moving very fast. MojoCon is incalculably valuable because it will fast track that learning experience for every delegate in the room. This is professional development at it’s finest. Every attendee will leave with new ideas and a greater understanding of the very latest approaches to MoJo.

Who has inspired you?

I am inspired by the freelance journalists and accidental eyewitnesses around the world who shed light on hidden stories and hold to account those who abuse their position or power, especially in the face of adversity and danger. Without these people our view of the world would be smaller, darker, and at Verifeye Media we are committed to doing whatever we can to support these people, providing them with a secure and safe way to deliver their stories to the world’s media companies in order to amplify their voices.

Where can people see / listen / read more about you?

If people are interested in seeing my work as a journalist they can visit www.johndmchugh.com for photojournalism, multimedia, and films.

They can learn more about Verifeye Media here;


If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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