While the elements that constitute news have not changed, the reception and delivery of news has changed dramatically over the past 25 years. It’s difficult to think that, in 1999, there were no mobile phones and no blogs. Within the past 10 years alone, media has changed more rapidly than any large-scale global industry. The area most affected by technology has been news gathering and reporting, as well as collaboration. If journalists are old enough, they might remember using typewriters, newspaper clippings, messages at hotels reception desks, and snail mail for gathering and disseminating audio, visual and textual news — plus, their news and the ability to have breaking news was coveted and protected at all costs. Now, with digital technology, wireless connectivity, and smart phones, the reporter can capture news as it happens and transmit to the public within minutes — barely beating out the general public at reporting the same issue. This list contains 15 of the many tools that have changed the face of communicating news today, and how they’ve changed the face of that information resource.
Sight and Sound
- Digital Audio Recorders: Clunky devices, such as the reel-to-reel machine, predated the digital audio recorder. Journalists now can go wherever they wish with a tiny recording studio in their pockets. Interviews, news stories, notes, and editing are easy to accomplish on the road. Within minutes, journalists can upload files from a digital record to a computer and publish the audio to the web.
- Digital Cameras: This device opened the door for journalists who focused on photojournalism. It freed that photojournalist from dark room processing and allowed photos to reach the newsroom in a matter of minutes, rather than a matter of hours.
- Podcasts: Another form of digital media allows consumers to download and consume audio material whenever they want. Enhanced podcasts display images simultaneously with audio, including chapter markers, hyperlinks, and artwork. A video podcast, also known as a vodcast, include video clips.
- Photoshop: Many newspaper editors can tell you that photographs can speak 1,000 words. But, with the advent of software such as Adobe Photoshop and other graphic tools, credibility is an issue. Although the media has manipulated photographs for a long time, the introduction of easy-to-use software makes it easy for anyone to alter an image. The upside to this technology is that it has created a whole new field — that of digital forensics.
- YouTube: The tag line for this site, “Broadcast Yourself,” says it all. Although this site, and many other video sites that have emerged over the past decade, began with personal videos, YouTube now is filled with education and journalism. YouTube not only empowered average citizens to upload and share their videos with a worldwide audience, it also transformed news video from siloed broadcasts to content that is freely shared and embedded on the web. Even newspaper dinosaurs are creating live video feeds.
- Laptops, Notepads: These lighter portable computers allow journalists to leave the office and still have access to everything they need via the Internet. However, there are some drawbacks to using any digital device, especially when reporting about or from repressive regimes.
- Mobile Apps: While this topic could cover API items, the ability to use mobile apps for smartphones has improved dramatically. Apps for text editing, film editing, photography uploads (to share on social media) and more have made the smart phone a handy device for journalists.
- Smartphones: This tool contains alarm clocks, email, texting, Internet access, video cameras, cameras, and GPS. It’s an office in a pocket, but it can have its drawbacks. Some courthouses won’t allow electronic devices, and journalists may have a difficult time printing or copying from these devices unless hooked up to a computer and printer. Still, smartphones are invaluable for capturing quick stories and details.
- Cellular Telephone Networks: In line with wireless technology, cellular telephone networks routinely carry data in addition to telephone conversations.
- Email: Email opened up vistas for journalists, providing the ability to contact experts and other sources quickly. Journalists working from a location can now easily reach out to experts in other parts of country or even abroad to gather information and check facts. The only problem is that many individuals are not in the habit of checking their mail daily, and some hesitate to respond because of the cost.
- Social Media: Although some forms of social media seem more popular than others, the popularity of these tools changes over time. Still, news organizations are using these platforms to engage their audiences and as a way of distributing news. Social media may provide a wider ranges of voices, ideas and eyewitnesses quickly, and it also is used as a way to to market journalism resources such as television broadcasts or websites.
- Wireless Internet: Most digital equipment wouldn’t be as revolutionary a tool for journalists if it weren’t for wireless, or WiFi. Wireless internet allows journalists to report from the field and file stories without having to physically return to the newsroom.
- Crowdsourcing: Crowdsourcing, or a distributed problem-solving and production model, is an extremely valuable tool that can extend a reporter’s eyes and ears into the community they cover the more they embrace it. Newspapers now are using tools to learn more about their neighborhoods without extending beat coverage. Issues such as unplowed streets after a blizzard, downed limbs and power lines after a hurricane, polling problems on election day, etc. can be reported back to media and verified by additional comments.
- Global Village Journalism [PDF]: With all that digital tools, connectivity, and social media aspects bring to journalism, one of the most interesting fallouts has been the intensification of social connections, which allows apprehending the world as a single place, creating a greater awareness of bias, opinion, and raw news. This intersection of globalization and journalism define an important and growing field of research, particularly concerning the public sphere and spaces for political discourse.
- Online Newspaper Archives: Although newspapers might be found in various archives around the country, access to Internet has enabled many newspapers to accumulate their editions online. This availability of resources allows reporters to find previous stories that can either support or contradict their current stories. However, politicians are more at risk, as reporters can easily find contradictory statements that can put those politicians on the spot.