Inspired by this, I tried to come up with ten tools that will be useful for journalists. I have tried all these at one time or the other and found them quite useful. Here they are, not in any particular order.
1. Handsfree: There is a theory that man evolved so much only because of one small absent bone somewhere around the back of his neck. This allowed him look up and stand straight. With his hands free, he could rub a stone against another to make fire, count with his fingers and design wheels. Some say a Bluetooth headset is more convinient, but others say it drains battery fast. Bluetooth or no, it frees you hands. To take notes on computer during a phone interview. To Google search when you talk.
2. Voice recorder: I have Olympus W210S. It’s good. Stereo microphone. 138 hours in low quality mode. I dont have to change batteries often. No software needed to connect to computer. I keep promising myself that i will use it only as a backup. When it’s on during an interview, i tend to pay less attention and get sloppy in taking notes. Transcribing can be a pain. But, if you are writing a feature, it’s worth listening to some of the key interviews again.
3. Freemind: A very good mind mapping software. It’s free. Helpful when you structure a story. Even more helpful when you are planning one. I feel it slows down my computer a bit. But, given the benefits, i don’t mind.
4. Dictation software: I am typing this post, which should say something about how comfortable i am with using this software. David Pogue says he uses it. Once you train it, it can be an amazing tool. Remember the scene from Finding Forrestor, where Sean Connery says first write with your heart, and then rewrite with your head? Dictation software makes the first part easy.
5. Blogger: I recently moved to wordpress. But for all password protected blogs, blogger is still favourite. You can use it with your Gmail account. We tend to look at blogging as a social tool, and generally ignore its other benefits. The blog format, the way posts are organised, the fact that it’s dated, its labelling/comments feature, the ease with which you can link to other sites, and the control you have on who can access it, the ease with which you can post through mails (and it says mobile too, even though I haven’t tried it) – makes it a great tool to store and organise any information. I feel, it’s most useful when you store contact details. It betters any other address book I can think of – for all the reasons I mentioned before. Make sure you label them. And make sure you update it everyday. I don’t. But I still benefit from what I and a friend used to do once upon a time.
6. Memory sticks: Carry them. Especially when you are going for a meeting or attending seminars/ press con. The PR person will never send the amazing presentation you just saw.
7. Good old notepad/pens: It’s good old….
8. Mobile phone with internet access / qwerty key board: Been accessing internet on my mobile for quite sometime. But a bigger screen and qwerty keyboard can make a lot of difference. It’s obvious that big screens are easier to read. The benefits of Qwerty keyboards aren’t that obvious. Easier to send mails, and even type shorter stories. I have this
9. Calendar / to do list on mobile: A friend once told me ‘Journalists are generally not very disciplined. Otherwise why would you even be a journalist?’ With this, we can atleast say, not for the want of trying. Whether we like it or not, we carry a kind of to do list in our heads. Transferring them to our mobile kind of makes your mind free.
10. Google Docs: Many advantages. You can go straight from your Google account. Google saves different versions, so it’s easy to go back and check. Most importantly, it’s a collaborative tool. Useful when two or more people work on a story.
Like Azeem Azhar says in his post: ‘So those are a few things that make my life a little easier. Would love to hear yous.’