Friday, April 27, 2012

So, is the iPad the journalism god?

My newsroom yesterday morning.
I set out this week to see if it is possible to be a mobile reporter with an iPad and nothing else. Because protracted suspense (like on "The Bachelor" when they go to a commercial break right at the rose ceremony) makes me want to punch walls, I will answer first and then explain.

Sort of.

What the iPad is great for 

(Beyond the obvious basics, and the great app that allows you to turn the screen into a mirror to reapply your lipstick during meetings):

- Note-taking and interviews. Try the app Notability (99 cents, plus a stylus for about $12). Now you can talk to and look at your interviewees like actual humans, while jotting down a few notes and highlights, and get 100 percent accurate quotes every time.
As you can see by my psychotic handwriting in this Notability file, re-checking quotes via audio file can be useful, indeed.

- Being the pimp that you are on social media.
* The free HootSuite app lets you juggle and queue up various different Twitter and Facebook pages to make you look so much more on top of things than you actually are.
* Tumblita has proven to be the best app to manage Tumblr accounts; it's easy and it works.
* The free Pinterest app is OK for uploading pictures to your Pinterest board, but you need the separate free pinWebFree app to be able to browse the web and repin from outside web sites. (I haven't found the upgrade that costs extra necessary so far.)

- Managing to-do lists, a must for any multi-tasking journalist. I am obsessed with ListnDo for $2.99 (beware of the free, scaled-down List n Do Lite, which only allows 10 tasks at once -- as if! -- and then you have to re-enter them when you upgrade). This app syncs with your e-mail, allows you to categorize and prioritize to-dos and doesn't have any extra annoying fluff to distract you.

A solid to-do list is more satisfying to me than a bloody steak. Mmm.
- Typing short messages, such as e-mails, Tweets, short Pinterest cutlines, etc. Compared with the microscopic iPhone keypad, this is living large and in charge.

Where the iPad is breaking my heart 

(Disclaimer: I was a liberal arts major, not Nick Burns, Your Company's Computer Guy, so please let me know if you know any solutions that I'm missing). 

- Writing stories without an external keyboard attachment. It's like trying to write a dissertation via text. Solution: You need a wireless keyboard ($88), or better yet, a laptop.

- Shooting basic video and photos. Not only is aiming the awkwardly big screen schmawkkkkward and not in the least be sleuth, I can't figure out how to make basic video cuts (unlike the iPhone, which you can do on the spot), and the resolution is weak. I even downloaded multiple photo editing apps (free: Pic Stitch, BeFunky, and the $4.99 Snapseed per a professional photog's recommendation), but these still don't erase the cumbersome size, lower quality and lack of flash, although I see there are flash apps that you could try. Solution: Just stick to your iPhone 4, if you don't want want to carry around a separate camera.
Eww. Look at the weak resolution on this photo of an otherwise glorious piece of furniture. Tragic, really.

- Editing and uploading video. I learned the hard way that my iPad is not compatible with Brightcove, where my newspaper uploads its videos (and there is no Brightcove app). I tried to e-mail the video to my PC so I could upload it from there, and at 1:30 minutes, the video was too long to send. Wasted effort? Solution: Download the iMovie app, for starters. Or another good, free video editing app that is hiding from me. And, of course, continue playing around, digging for solutions. Surely there must be one, right?

Other things I am still exploring: 
- The best way to sync the iPad with the iPhone.
- The best way to access Google Docs on the iPhone, since we use that for all planning at our newspaper.

The bottom line

(After using an iPad on the job for about a month.)

The iPad is still a crucial piece of equipment for a mobile journalist -- if you use it as a "pad" (as in note). It can seamlessly replace your mountain of skinny spiral notepads, Bic pens, agenda and calendar, and help you juggle your social networks remotely. Use it for blurbs and quips, but if you want to write an in-depth story with high-quality video and photos, you're going to either need to get some significant accessories and (not free) apps, pack your laptop for writing or buy dinner for Nick Burns Your Company's Computer Guy.

I hope this helps any budding mojos out there, and please share your opinions, too. And of course, by the time I hit "publish," all of this technology will already be obsolete. What's a gal gotta do these days to stay on top?

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