For the Technologically Savvy

It is no secret that the rise of new technology has changed the face of journalism, and in my experience, for the better. Here’s a look at some of the free apps out there which reporters can use to refine their techniques.

Photoshop Express – Photo Editor

This app is great if you want to add filters or change the brightness/contrast of your photo. I’ve had mixed experiences with the iPad 2 camera; sometimes my photos look clear and great, other times they’re blurry like the one of the Scholastic staff dinner at Mikado below. Granted, you can also add filters on Instagram, but this is another tool that you can use if you prefer Twitpic like I do. The editing experience was simple, and I even liked the swipe better than using a mouse on a desktop. The swipe isn’t instant though, so be sure to brighten/sharpen/etc in small increments so you can see the changes as you go along.

scholastic staff 2scholastic staff 1

Pro Tip: The filter I used is actually a part of a package you pay for. Don’t want to pay? Take a screen shot of your edits and then crop – it looks exactly the same on the iPad. Plus, I like the second version because it adds an old newspaper feel to the photo – perfect for a dinner with journalists!

Banjo – Friend Finder

I personally am not a big fan of tracking apps. I’ve still got reservations about the privacy issues they open up, and I refuse to join Foursquare despite the potential in-store savings I might receive from announcing to the interwebs my location. Banjo syncs with your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare and/or Instagram. Banjo only includes your location when you include it on a post on one of those social media sites. It maintains the privacy settings of the networks you’re syncing it with, so if I wanted to tell only my Facebook friends where I was, instead of my public Twitter network, I could choose to do that and I would appear in the city on Banjo. So, fine, Banjo is more protected. The biggest problem I have with it is that until all your friends register for Banjo, you can’t see any of them and are just looking at a bunch of random people with unprotected accounts. And I’ve currently only got two friends registered.

Storify – Social Media Synthesizer

Storify is great – see my #Inauguration2013 post to view an example of a Storify. What I like about it is its synthesizing of various social media to create a narrative for readers. You can’t just print tweets and video and photos all in one story in a newspaper. And there’s only so much you can do with links and embedded video in a normal blog post. Plus, the very nature of Storify attributes your information to original sources by presenting the components in their original form. Only one problem with Storify though – it’s got a lot of bugs it needs to work out in app form. Pro Tip: I personally prefer to build my story and publish online all in one sitting at a laptop. The app can’t access as much original content and often crashes. And don’t bother trying to start a draft on the iPad and switch to the laptop to add some additional info, unless you want to risk losing your story to the cloud.

Dropbox – File Sharer

This app is so great that Notre Dame is now using it’s own version “Box” to replace previously prehistoric-like programs for professors and students to access course material. Get the app – you get unlimited storage and if you’re tired of emailing yourself your work, you can access your work by logging into Dropbox online anytime, anyplace. I see no downside to this app.

Hokusai – Audio Editor

The sound quality for a crazy Super Bowl get together was great. Perhaps that was the iPad microphone, but I was really impressed with the audio clarity of the podcast I was creating. You can be the judge though:

db.tt/YqOQWnMd

This app is also very clean and easy to use. You can edit multiple tracks at a time, apply basic effects and filters, and cut clips. It appears you can also work with mp3 files from your music library and record voice overs, though I have not had the chance to try either of those functions. You’ll want to use it in conjunction with a public Dropbox folder if you want to tweet what you produce instantly. So be sure to have that set up first.

Video Editor?

Would love to update this post with a video editing app recommendation. I could not find a free one that I liked for the iPad. Of course, I’m happy to pay for one, but it’d be great to have all free recommendations. You’re welcome to comment what app you use!

USTREAM – Video Broadcaster

This app is great for live broadcasting events and I’m really glad that they also save versions of the video to watch later. I found it particularly helpful at the Fred Graver talk to use the tweet function to let people know I was broadcasting. My apologies in advance for the shakiness near the beginning of the video – had a few people moving around in the row at the start of the talk. Overall though it was easy to use from the iPad.

Pro Tip: If you log into your account from a laptop or desktop computer, you can sync your account with your YouTube account and have videos uploaded there to get more viewers. Keep in mind though, the video has to be less than 15 minutes, so the YouTube upload is not ideal if you want to get a lecture all in one stream.

Evernote – Web Clipper

When I worked at Northern Virginia Magazine my boss introduced me to Evernote. It changed my life. This is the number one tool I would recommend for any creative mind out there. I am obsessed with the internet clipping function. I have made my own recipe book in Evernote so that when I’m in the kitchen, I can prop up my iPad with the recipe, listen to the NPR app, and cook without worrying I’m going to stain a book or a sheet of paper. Pro Tip: Organize your various recipe notes into one recipes notebook to keep your clutter down. I also make checklists in Evernote to keep track of the things I’m doing. I have a note with random quotes I’ve heard from people for play inspiration, a note with a list of material for if I ever become a stand-up comedienne, notes from books I’ve read that I want to remember and so much more. When I was dramaturging a show, I compiled research about the characters, the history and the crazy French words all in Evernote, which the actors could then access from their own computers. At NoVA Mag, managing editor Lynn Norusis uses the app to clip and share articles or designs that she likes. At Scholastic mag, Design & Art Director Kerry Sullivan and I used Evernote to do the same thing – only we were clipping and sharing designs we liked. If you like how the  magazine looks now, it’s a little bit of us and a whole lot of inspiration from resources on the web. All shared through Evernote.

Not reviewed was Twitter. Just get one already.

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