Welcome to the Reynolds Institute mobile reporting tools gear guide. Inside you’ll find almost a hundred different tools — from hardware to apps and web services — broken down in 13 different categories that help with many different aspects of mobile reporting.
A little background
This project was funded by the Reynolds Institute as part of my fellowship studying mobile news. This is one of three focal points of the fellowship (the other two are mobile motivation research and emerging mobile development platforms).
The foundation for the guide was based on training workshops I created for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch staff (while working as Interactive Director there) and expanded for Lee Enterprises (the owners of the Post-Dispatch) corporate training workshops around the country for our properties. My brobdingnagian archive of Delicious.com links that I’ve been building for mobile and multimedia reporting tools also helped immensely.
Our student team of Drew Dumas, Jen Elston and Amanda Heisey also did interviews with experts in the field to help get more current ideas and feedback before we started evaluating almost a hundred different mobile reporting tools in the gear guide.
Most organizations don’t have the resources or knowledge to test all the different tools out there, so we were hoping to expedite the mobile evolution and shed some guidance and best practices on what works and what doesn’t. Obviously, we couldn’t review everything on every platform. Our focus was Android and Apple tools because they’re growing quickly and the most innovative and open platforms, but many of the hardware devices and some of the website apps are available on Blackberry, Windows Mobile and other platforms. If you see something you’d like reviewed or that you have questions about, please let me know at will [at] journerdism.com or ?@Journerdism on Twitter?.
You can pry my HD SLR from my cold, dead hands.
Let me be clear: You should always use the best quality tools that will let you do your job as excellent and timely as possible. Those last two values often conflict but some of these tools can help narrow chasm between those challenges.
Coming from a multimedia/photography background, I know what some of this might sound like: an excuse to replace professional gear with consumer electronics. (Although some photographers have already regularly been using their phones professionally.) This guide is by no means that and as you’ll see in some of the reviews, some of these products are not ready for regular usage or worth the money spent on them. If anything, I hope to prevent organizations from investing in poor-quality equipment, spinning their wheels and wasting limited time, staff and financial resources. Again, let me be clear: You should always use the best quality tools that will let you do your job as excellent and timely as possible. Sometimes that may mean putting on your MacGuyver hat in breaking news situations.
The majority of this guide is written for the perspective of news reporters — especially those covering extremely timely events, such as breaking news or sports — but most people in the newsroom could gain something from it. From photographers looking for quicker ways to transmit, tag and caption content to desk editors looking to collect reporting resources from multiple mobile reporters in the field. Organizations from the biggest traditional mainstream publishers to the new journalism start ups with limited resources can benefit from this guide. Hopefully, putting more reporting tools in more professional journalists hands will help create better journalism with more perspectives, especially among underserved communities and issues.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Mobile reporting — especially working with community members who have some of these — is going to grow for years to come as devices become more sophisticated, quality rises and network speeds. Citizen journalists, activists and anyone near a news event also stand to benefit substantially from this guide. Journalism organizations need to understand how to use the tools, as well as partner with others using them.
This is just the beginning of the guide. Although the capstone students will be finishing their project in December, I’ll keep updating the guide as I find new tools. We actually still have several items that are on back-order and I’m constantly finding new interesting hardware and software. I’m also going to be reviewing some more tablet tools to help fill out the guide. Again, if you see something you’d like reviewed or that you have questions about, please let me know at will [at] journerdism.com or @Journerdism on Twitter.
Thanks & Acknowledgments
So many people contributed to this project, I know I’m going to forget someone, but off the top of my head here’s the running list off folks I’d like to acknowledge for their mobile ideas that inspired me over the years and some with direct information that helped this project:
Richard “Koci” Henandez, Gary Hairlson, David Stephenson, David Carson, Jeremy Rue, Paul Bradshaw, Jen Reeves, Ray Meese, Chase Jarvis, Regina McCombs, Steve Outing, Adam Jadhav, Melissa Lyttle, Steve Buttry, Steve Yelvington, Pam Maples, Joyce Dehli, Seth Gitner, Stephen Quinn, Damon Kiesow, Clyde Bentley, Zach Wise, Gene Roddenberry and Angus MacGuyver.
I’d like to thank all the app and hardware makers out there in the mobile space, especially Apple and Google for breaking through the shackles of carrier dominance to create development platforms and devices that empower their users to create and communicate in new ways.
A huge thanks goes out to all the RJI staff, especially those that had a direct hand in making this project a success: Pam Johnson, Mike McKean, Keith Politte, Sandra Kubal, Karen Stockman, Brian Steffens, Keli Jackson and Kelly Perry.
And thanks to the most important part of this project, the best Mizzou Senior Capstone group, ever: Drew Dumas, Jen Elston and Amanda Heisey.
Will Sullivan is a 2010-2011 Reynolds Journalism Fellow studying mobile development. He blogs on the RJI Mobile Blog and Journerdism.com. He can be reached at will @ Journerdism.com, on Twitter @Journerdism or on Facebook.