How to meet the practical needs of digital journalists in the field
By J.D. Lasica
Online Journalism Review
Every year at budget time, news organizations sort through the swarm of new technologies on the market, grappling with the question of how to outfit their operations to meet the needs of a multimedia age. A new generation of cool but practical digital tools offers print, broadcast and online journalists the chance to serve audiences that increasingly demand a more immediate, sophisticated news product.
The Advanced Journalist Technology Project, an initiative of the Ifra Centre for Advanced News Operations, has been studying the technological needs of media organizations since 1998, when it put together its first list of NewsGear components. “Several of our members came to us and asked for recommendations on the best equipment that would let their reporters become more mobile and agile,” recalls the center’s executive director, Kerry J. Northrup.
Northrup and his team began evaluating hundreds of technologies for their usefulness in a networked, converged newsroom: the best laptop, digital camera, digital camcorder and mobile networking device. “After a while it dawned on us that we were essentially creating a backpack toolkit for journalists,” Northrup says. “We bought an airline-size suitcase, fit everything into the bag and, voila, we had NewsGear. One of the key issues was whether the pieces were all interoperable and how do you integrate all these elements without having to make a reporter carry around a ton of cords and power bricks. So the focus has been to get everything into a manageable size that a correspondent could work with in a car or on a plane.”
This year’s NewsGear recommendations were especially noteworthy because Northrup and his staff relied on the list of best-of-breed gadgets to outfit Ifra’s Newsplex, the $2 million converged newsroom prototype that opened on the campus of the University of South Carolina on Nov. 12.