A lifeline for journalists cast adrift on the seas of new media

Photo by Steve Rhodes/Used under Creative Commons

Increasingly, journalists are working “mobile,” setting up shop at Starbucks, McDonalds or even in a home office. For journalists in traditional newspaper companies, the transition can be daunting. Many people my age have spent our careers in the protective arms of the big corporation — everything we needed was provided to us.

For too many of us, that bred a dependency of sorts: When things began to change in our industry, we were unable to summon the initiative to make the transition. We let things spin out of control and waited for the big corporation to train us or provide us with equipment or tell us why it was important to change.

But time has run out. We’re all on our own, more or less, and we can either complain about that or reach out for the tools that can help us.

Those tools were the subject of a training overview called Going Mobile, presented in four sessions in April 2011. Here are the takeaways from that session:

5 essentials for the mobile journalist

  1. Getting connected 
  2. Instant messaging (AIM Express)
  3. File storage (Dropbox)
  4. File sharing (Google Docs)
  5. Note taking (Evernote)

1. Getting connected

Going mobile starts with a basic knowledge of connectivity. If you don’t have Internet access, you can’t accomplish much.

You have three ways to hook up: Wired ethernet, which we have on our newsroom desktops. It’s the fastest, and least mobile, way to connect; WiFi, which broadcasts a limited-range signal via a router in your home, office or at a public spot; and cellular, which is the slowest (in most cases, until the next- generation “4G” connections become more widespread) but most mobile way to connect.  What this means to you: If you need to upload a video clip, it’s best not to use a cellular connection unless you have some time and patience.

2. Instant messaging

The easiest way to have real-time text conversations with your editors or colleagues is via an IM client. You have many options, but try AIM Express, a browser-based client that requires no downloading.

3. File storage

The days of storing your documents, photos and other files on your computer hard drive are all but over. To the cloud! Working mobile means you don’t want to be tied to one particular computer — and what if it crashes! Try Dropbox, a free filing cabinet in the cloud. It lets you sync your files so you can access them anywhere with your Dropbox account. Find Dropbox tutorials here.

4. File sharing 

When colleagues are spread to the winds, it’s important to have a way to collaborate that’s outside the corporate firewall. Google Docs is perhaps the best way to do this. You can create or upload a document, share it with anyone you’d like, and make group changes to it in real time. Get Google Docs tutorials here.

5. Note taking

Trying to break away from the reporters’ notebook or the scattered Word documents that you can never find when you need them? Try Evernote, a powerful free application that just might be the mobile journalist’s best friend. In a nutshell, Evernote allows you to take notes, tag them, archive them, put them in notebooks, search them later, and access them from anywhere using your Evernote account. You can post audio notes and photos, and you can add web pages and documents found during your research. Browse Evernote tutorials here.

Is your brain overloaded yet? Watch this fun little video, Cutting the Cord.

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