Using your iPad as a mobile newsroom: Part I, the apps

This month, we got the news that Gannett was purchasing iPads and iPhones for use by journalists in the field. This prompted me to start thinking more seriously about how Star-Telegram journalists could do just that, as part of an experiment I’d like to conduct with select reporters.

I decided to pull together a post on best iPad apps for journalists. And, to follow up, I’m going to spend the next week using (almost) nothing but my iPad, iPhone and bluetooth keyboard to create content, just to test out how realistic this experiment might be.

iPad with case and keyboard

I should note that this is obviously not a true test. I’m mostly going to be home working on non-deadline tasks. On the other hand, it’s probably best to work out the bugs in a controlled situation, so that’s what I’m going to do. More info on the test itself will come soon, part of what I hope will be a series of posts on using mobile devices to create content in the field.

Let’s start with some suggested apps for journalists.

I’m going to spend much of my testing time with some apps suggested by CNET’s Eli Milchman in “Top 5 iPad apps for journalists.” I’ll let you know the pros and cons in future posts.

The most important, of course, is the writing app, and Eli suggests WriteRoom. ($4.99) If you like simple interfaces, this may be your app. It auto-syncs with your Dropbox (free) account, so as long as you have a connection, it will save a copy for you to access from the cloud. (In a .txt format.)

For photos, I’m using a couple of apps: Photoshop Express (free) and Filterstorm. ($3.99) PS Express is a quick and easy way to crop and auto-correct photos taken with your iPad or iPhone; Filterstorm contains more complicated editing controls and, most importantly, a way to add metadata to your photos so that when you submit them to the S-T, they will come with cutlines, date taken, credit line, etc. It’s much more efficient than including a cutline in an email.

For recording interviews, I’m trying SoundNote. ($4.99) If you record while taking notes, you can touch the notes and the recording will jump to that part of the interview, allowing you to fact-check, double-check quotes and even mark the best editing spots for an audio upload. The notes and the audio travel together to the office, allowing someone else to actually do the editing and upload the audio. (The audio is in an .m4v format.)

For video editing, I’m determined to master iMovie. ($4.99) There are other options, but iMovie is probably the most efficient iOS editor because it’s made by Apple.

I’m also going to experiment with 5-0 Radio HD, ($4.99) a police scanner that includes Fort Worth, Arlington and some Northeast Tarrant cities. I’m reluctant to rely on an app for something as crucial to us as monitoring police calls, but I’m going to kick the tires. Of course, following DFW Scanner on Facebook and Twitter might be the best way to keep up with local emergencies out of the office.

There are a few other apps in my “iPad Journalist” folder, including Dropbox and Typepad, our blogging app.

I’m going to toss in a couple of hardware options as well, including Apple’s bluetooth keyboard, a case that allows me to stand up my iPad in horizontal mode, Apple’s Camera Connection Kit and a Joby GorillaMobile tripod set up for my iPhone.

A note about photos: Don’t try to take them on your iPad. The still camera isn’t good. Videos might be a bit better. But you’d be better off taking both with your iPhone 4 and above, if you have one, and then either transferring them to the iPad for editing via the Apple camera kit, or syncing them via iCloud’s Photostream. (More on that workflow later, plus a look at how to get photos and videos from your Android phone to your iPad newsroom.)

I have a long list of apps that can and should be used by journalists in the field, including those for posting to Twitter, for recording standalone audio and for communicating with the office via IM.

More on those later.

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