Best productivity apps: journalism edition

Mar 5, 2016
Best productivity apps: journalism edition

Journalism is one of the most demanding professions in the world, especially in today’s digital age. The era of the printed medium is on its way out, but journalism and journalists are still going strong, having adjusted themselves to modern technology.

However, while technology has made some things easier, it has also made a journalists’ job a lot more challenging.

These days, information travels faster than ever. It only takes a few seconds for an actual event which happened moments ago to become public and seen by millions of people. This means journalists need to be able to react in a split second, and report on the go at times.

Fortunately, even though modern technology has created a bit of a problem, it has also created a number of solutions in the shape of apps journalists can use to make their jobs easier and their reporting more accurate and up-to-date.

We've rounded up a list of different productivity apps journalists find useful, along with the comments from 10 pros about what sort of apps they prefer to use. 

Note-taking apps

Using a pen and paper nowadays is not only archaic, but it’s also very time-consuming, which is why most journalists turn to their smartphones and tablets in order to take notes, and send them to their editors right away, or store for later, when they are writing the articles.

For those who prefer devices made by Apple, the Notes app comes recommended. This full-featured app enables journalists to write down notes, create sketches, insert media files, links to external apps, and plenty of other stuff. 

Adrienne LaFarance (@AdrienneLaF), reporter and staff writer over at The Atlantic, swears by it:

“I write a lot of my stories on my phone, which is something I never thought I'd be able to do, but it makes me so much more efficient. Notes is also a great, simple app for jotting down middle-of-the-night story ideas.”

She also points out another device which comes in handy for note-taking:

“Camera. Obviously a good camera is useful for photographing news events, but I find I use it a lot as I'm reporting, too. I've become a much more visual notetaker over the years. I'm always going to need a reporter's notebook to write in, but I also find myself snapping photos of scenes and people I have to later describe, and taking photos of key passages from books, documents, or other resources that can't be removed from the library (or if I just want to take notes quickly without having to stop reading).”

Journalists and reporters can also rely on Evernote, which is the most popular cross-platform app which enables you to write down, save, and organize your notes, insert images into them, attach files, or even entire webpages, record voice memos, or capture handwriting.

Here is what Koci Hernandez (@koci), Assistant Professor of New Media at University of California @ Berkley had to say about it:

“Best app for notes, thoughts, interview notes, etc. The desktop/cloud syncing makes it a great tool.”

Sometimes, the simplest solution is often the best, which is not lost on Sean Flynn (@BuffalFlynn), Senior Editorial Producer at Travel + Leisure, and writer for About Travel, who prefers to use the Notepad app:

“I said that I like to keep it simple and there’s nothing more basic than the Notepad app, but it’s perfect in its simplicity. There have been a few times when I’m on a tight deadline but need to turn a story around quick. We all know that there’s no internet in the subway system so you can waste as much as an hour going to your destination, but with this app, that time doesn’t have to be wasted. I’ve written plenty of stories in Notepad while riding the N train through Manhattan on my way to the office.”

Communication and news-sharing apps

In order to stay on top of current events, journalists need to be in constant communication with their colleagues and editors, and sometimes, even their readers. There are plenty of apps out there which are able to facilitate reliable communication, as well as serve as platforms through which reports can share news, curate content, and find their next story.

For internal communication, many reporters prefer Slack, with real-time communication and archiving, which makes email look like a dinosaur. They also don’t shy away from using mobile versions of Facebook and Twitter, in order to post the latest content, see what’s trending, and receive quick feedback from the readers.

They also find Nuzzel very handy for finding top stories and saving time by not having to dig through hundreds of posts on Twitter. However, some of them still use Google Inbox and Microsoft Outlook, because of their ability to filter received messages and provide notifications about the most important ones. For those who place security above all else, there is also the Signal app, with its encryption protocols. Let’s see which of these apps journalists prefer.

Adrienne LaFrance, (@AdrienneLaF), reporter and staff writer over at The Atlantic says:

“Slack. Being able to stay connected to my colleagues from anywhere is a blessing. In 2010, my newsroom used Skype to communicate from remote locations (various campaign headquarters, the place where returns were coming in, the newsroom) on election night. At the time, it was a super high-tech approach. We were able to get election results up on our site, Honolulu Civil Beat, faster than TV, which is something no one else had done before. Today, news organizations are able to use Slack to transmit reports directly to readers. (Nieman Lab has had great coverage of how the Times is experimenting in this space.) I know six years is an eternity in Internet years, but that's still mind-blowing and awesome to me. Slack is this extraordinary, elegant tool for internal newsroom use; but it can also be used for publishing and reader interaction.”

Chris Krewson (@ckrewson), editor at Billy Penn says:

“Slack -- we're a very small team, and the ability to communicate from home, the field or the office in one place has all but killed internal email, which was a workflow clog.

Facebook / Twitter -- For story ideas, to see how our news is hitting those communities. I was glued to Facebook's app yesterday afternoon, because that's when we launched on Instant Articles, and it was really cool to watch our stuff take off inside the platform.”

Angela Tague (@AngelaTague), independent journalist and writer says:

“Facebook Pages and Twitter Mobile: I enjoy chatting with my readers whenever I have some free time. It's not uncommon for me to post photos from the gym or give a behind-the-scenes look at what I'm working on. I'm a real person on social media, not just links to articles I've written.”

Dan Kennedy (@dankennedy_nu), Associate Professor of Journalism at Northeastern University says:

“Facebook. The app everyone loves to hate. It can’t be ignored because it’s so useful. There is no better platform for sharing links to your work and sparking a smart, useful, real-names (for the most part) conversation.

Twitter. Even though I don’t think I use it the right way (I keep trying to turn it into a discussion tool when it’s really much better for following news), there’s nothing that matches its immediacy.”

Matt Waite (@mattwaite), Journalism Professor at University of Nebraska, founder of Drone Journalism Lab, co-founder of Hot Type Consulting LLC, developer of PolitiFact says:

“Google's Inbox and Microsoft Outlook, both on iOS for email. Both, in their own way, sift important email from not important email and only alert me to important ones. This cuts waaay down on notifications and lets me focus.

Nuzzel for news consumption. Saves me so much time trolling through my twitter timeline for important links.

And Slack for team communication. I use Slack in classes to help students with technical problems or questions about code. It works great.”

Paul Bradshaw (@paulbradshaw), Programme Leader, MA Online Journalism at Birmingham City University says,

“Signal is good for secure communication.

Slack, Twitter, Vine, WhatsApp are too obvious to explain. Hootsuite for following Twitter lists however is very useful for making sure you check in on certain groups of contacts.”

Audio-recording and editing apps

Obviously, writing down notes or an even an entire interview is sometimes not possible due to time constraints, which is why professional reporters and journalists rely on their portable devices which are capable of recording sound. This way, they save time, but they also benefit from being able to focus on the interviewing process and the events around them, instead of trying to write down everything. 

Angela Tague says:

Tape a Call Pro: This app allows me to record phone interviews so I can fully focus on the conversation, not taking short-hand notes and making sure each quote is exactly perfect. I email the audio files to myself, then later review the talks and transcribe what I need for my articles.”

Ciara Byrne (@deciara), tech journalist for MIT Technology Review and Fast Company, co-founder of FORGED says:

Rev which I have started using for transcription. It costs money but really speeds things up.“

Dan Kennedy says:

iTalk. A great way to record interviews. I like to transfer the audio files onto my Mac and transcribe them with a program simply called Transcriptions. It is exponentially better than fumbling with a tape recorder.”

Koci Hernandez says:

Voice Record Pro- Every great story needs audio or at least an app to record interviews, simple and powerful app.”

Paul Bradshaw says:

iMovie and Ferrite are great for editing mobile audio and video on the move.

Audioboom for recording and uploading audio immediately.”

Sean Flynn says:

Audio Recorder. This app has been a lifesaver for me more than once. There are plenty of times when you’re out for dinner or at an event and run into the perfect interview subject, but let’s be honest, you probably don’t have a notepad and pencil. That’s where this recorder comes in handy. It’s relatively basic but perfect for a quick interview and the audio recordings are high quality.”

Video/photo-recording and editing apps

Thanks to high-speed Internet, video streaming enables journalists to report live for the scene, or upload high-definition video captured on location, directly to their video-editing team, or to the cloud, so that they can edit it themselves later. There are many brilliant image and video-editing apps out there, but journalists don’t always need the most powerful ones, because they only need a handful of features they can provide. They need apps which are easy to use, and provide professional results without much hassle.

Koci Hernandez says:

Filmic Pro- The best video recording app on the market. It's simple to fire-up and record something right away and advanced enough to record more complex documentaries.

ProCamera-Hands down the best and feature-rich still image app.

Videolicious- Brilliant video editing app that allows you to edit, add commentary, graphics, etc.”

Sean Flynn says:

Pixlr. This photo editing app is great in a pinch. Ideally I’d be using my DSLR to take pictures but sometimes your phone is more convenient, or the only thing you have on you. This app let’s you edit with ease and turns out high quality photos.

Miscellaneous apps

Apart from being able to take notes, record video and audio, take pictures, and communicate with their co-workers and their readership using mobile apps, journalists can also benefit from using them when keeping track of how their articles are doing, organize their work, set up their schedule, brainstorm, edit their work, and even do stuff like work out. Check out some additional apps which help journalists to be more productive.

Alicia Lawrence (@Alicia_Lw), content coordinator at WebpageFX says:

“I would definitely suggest Trello to organize topics and research or ideas for an article.”

Angela Tague says: 

Google Calendar: I juggle multiple clients each day and Google Calendar helps me prioritize and schedule each task so I don't miss deadlines. I map out time for research, pitching, writing, outlining, brainstorming, marketing myself and even breaks to get away from my desk!

My Fitness Pal: As a freelancer, I have to keep my business healthy in more ways than one. That means watching what I eat and making time for yoga, swimming and walking my dogs. I take nutrition and fitness extremely seriously so that I can be healthy and productive for my clients.”

Chris Krewson says:

Google Analytics -- there's no better way to keep track of how the site is doing on the go.”

Paul Bradshaw says:

WordPress for editing posts. Bitly and Google Analytics too.”

These tools will allow you to shift your focus to what really matters: your story. They automate some of the tasks, and save you plenty of time, thus enabling you to do what is expected of you as a journalist, even in these challenging times.

What other apps and tools do you love? Let us know!

Antonio Tooley is a marketing specialist at online editing service EduGeeksClub. He loves writing about business, education and productivity. He's also crazy about riding his bike and bumping into new people (when he's on foot). He will be happy to meet you on Facebook and Twitter.

Photos via: Pixabay: 1, 2, 3, 4 & Unsplash: 5

About the author

marketing specialist at online editing service Edugeeksclub

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