Having the right tool for any job is important, especially when your finished product is due right now.
Since February 2010 I’ve been doing all my field production and reporting on my iPhone for all-news WTOP-FM and wtop.com in Washington, D.C. You can read my in-depth report on how I use the iPhone for reporting in this previous report for MediaShift.
The demands and possibilities of mobile journalism have me rethinking the newsgathering strategies I’ve used in the past.
Instead of covering an event purely as a radio reporter, the job now requires prioritizing which information should be recorded first, whether it needs to be edited, in which form and when it should be transmitted to the newsroom, and how social networking can help drive traffic to our website. While recording audio used to be the only option, often photos or video become my first priority — or I’ll break a story on Twitter.
Using the iPhone4, I can deliver audio, video, photos and copy for on-air, online, and social networking platforms from a single device.
The key is the apps — here are the five applications I depend on the most:
Despite the name, this application made by Vericorder is more than just a video app. It includes VC AudioPro and VC Showcase, in addition to the video application. This three-in-one app allows me to do multi-track video, audio, and slideshow recording, editing and transmission. A reporter can do interviews, pull audio or video cuts, record vocal tracks, extract audio from video, adjust audio levels, and mix down to a final near-studio-quality product. Audio reports of 10MB or less can be emailed using .wav or .m4a files. Video can be uploaded to YouTube or emailed. ($9.99)
In years past, it would be heresy for a radio reporter to break news anywhere but on the radio. Now, WTOP and many news organizations realize it doesn’t matter whether a consumer hears news on the air, reads it on the website, or receives it through social media. Twitter is the fastest way to report news to interested followers, with the added benefit of a time stamp as proof of when a story was broken. The application by Twitter, in addition to it broadcasting text, allows me to upload pictures and video much quicker than through email. The quality isn’t as good as video uploaded through YouTube, but in a pinch, and when speed is crucial, Twitter is a valuable transmission tool. (Free)
For live reporting, applications developed by broadcast audio companies, including Media5-fone and Report-IT, allow the iPhone to connect to expensive codec hardware in the studio, but I’ve found them to be finicky and unreliable. When I don’t have time to preproduce a piece, I use Skype. With a WiFi connection, Skype with the built-in iPhone microphone is near studio-quality. With a sketchy 3G connection, the quality is better than a cell phone. The dialing process is quick, straightforward and reliable. And, video chat works well. (Free)
4. UStream Broadcaster
UStream allows me to stream video and audio live through the iPhone camera. With one touch, the phone is transmitting content to my UStream page, which can be followed by others, or embedded at wtop.com. Not only can the video be used live, UStream automatically records and saves each broadcast, for future sharing through social media or emailed links. The app allows chat, which appears in the lower portion of the viewfinder. So, if someone back at the station wants you to wrap up your live report, or pan toward an object, you can receive the request while continuing to stream. (Free)
Many radio reporters are getting on-the-job experience as photographers, due to the importance of providing images for the website. Speed and ease of use are important to a reporter on constant deadlines. I snap photos using the built-in iPhone camera. To crop, I go to Camera Roll, reposition the image, and take a screen shot by simultaneously touching the on-off button and the Home button. For photos that need the exposure tweaked, Camera+‘s presets can almost always quickly improve the image. Granted, while applications like Adobe Photoshop Express allow much more precise adjustments, they also require the user to be well-schooled in photography. Camera+, made by tap tap tap, gets the job done fast. ($1.99)
So, for 12 bucks, a radio reporter can have the tools to keep several editors happy, and more importantly, several audiences informed.
Neal Augenstein is a reporter with WTOP News in Washington, D.C. He is the first major-market radio reporter to do all of his field production on an iPhone. Email Neal at email@example.com, and follow him at www.twitter.com/NealAugenstein.