Mobile reporting tips from the Online News Association conference

It’s every tech journalists’ favourite time of year: the annual Online News Association conference.

This year’s digital news fiesta was in Atlanta Georgia from Oct. 17 to 19. I was lucky enough to attend the conference and pick up some useful tips. I’ll be sharing the best of the bunch on this blog over the next few weeks.

First up: Mobile reporting

We all know that so much can be done with a smartphone or a tablet. What are the best apps to do the job? What about gear?
Jeremy Caplan, education director at Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism, offered his tips at #ONA13.

** Apologies in advance. These tips are really geared toward iPhone, iPad and Android users.**

Caplan’s overall mantra was to follow four ‘rules’:

* Stay Home – Put the apps you use most frequently on your phone’s home screen. (My home screen below. Yes, I need to update my apps.)


* Airplane Mode – When you’re out on the field, this will help keep you focused. It’s hard to ignore the pinging of text messages and tweets.
* Go wide – Ensure that videos are shot horizontally NOT vertically. Common mistake.
* Pick. Stick. Dig. – Be selective about the apps you use and get to know them really well. This is my favourite tip as someone prone to downloading too many apps.

The below pics illustrate some of the gear mobile journalists should consider as part of their toolkit.


* My suggestions on mobile gear to consider:

1) Tripod – Shaky video, out of focus pics are OK if you’re capturing a breaking news scene (readers will forgive you) but if you have more time, it’s worth it to set up a tripod. Here’s a good list from Mashable featuring cheap (under $20 tripods)
2) Mic – Sound quality on mobile is not great. It’s worth taking a look at mobile mic options. This one is under $50.

The Apps:

Caplan suggested several apps to enhance your mobile reporting. You can find the full list here. I’m going to highlight the ones I’ve used and know to be killer.


My recommendation: Camera+ This app allows you to edit, enhance, sharpen crop and add filters. Yes, iOs7 has some of these features now, too, but I still prefer Camera+ if I want to take a good mobile pic. Others to consider: Snapseed (photo editing), one I want to check out that Caplan recommends, GorillaCam (features incl. timelapse and stop motion)

Sharing photos: Instagram. We’ve started sharing photos on a SunMediaPhotos account. Here are more examples of how newsrooms are using Instagram to engage readers. No, you can’t push out links, but you can build a community of dedicated local photogs and share your best work with your audience.


My recommendations: YouTube Capture (quickly uploads videos to YouTube), Vine (six-second social video clips – you can edit them now), iMovie (editing)

Livestreaming: Livestream app. Broadcast events live from your smartphone.

What I want to try: SMAPP (an app to help you take better mobile videos)


SoundCloud: Now lets you record from the app. Limited editing.

Live coverage:

Scribblelive: Our realtime coverage tool of choice. There’s an app for Blackberry, Android and iPhone.

GIF creator:



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