By sheer coincidence, next week we will be going out to do some hands-on journalism with our smartphones. I recently went to a lecture at the BBC College of Journalism about being smarter with your smartphone. It was presented by Marc Settle and I wrote a piece on it for Wannabe Hacks:

All this week, Digital Bristol, alongside the BBC, are providing a series of workshops and events to showcase the best and cutting edge technology currently in use, or that will be soon. The BBC are capitalising on this in order to maximise content production, speed, cost and audience engagement.

One thing that came up over and over yesterday were smartphones and tablets. Not only are they incredibly cheap compared to full spec broadcast equipment, but they are reaching the same levels of quality, mainly in audio, but slowly in other mediums too.

This is both simultaneously good and bad. All of a sudden, anyone can produce content, crowd-sourcing goes up and more news items are covered from more angles. Also, being a journalists means you are out and about a lot and taking all the equipment everywhere, all of the time, is nigh on impossible. However, your phone is always with you.

The down side though, with nearly everyone now having a smartphone and the ability to produce content, organisations like the BBC have to go the extra mile in order for the audience to see something they could not do. This is where Digital Bristol comes in and why as journalists, we have to be using our smartphones in more productive, creative ways.

Marc Settle from the BBC College of Journalism hosted a talk, with the first thing on the agenda being to get an iPhone. It is unlikely as a journalists nowadays you can go for long without a smartphone, but there are smartphones and then the iPhone. This may sound like Apple propaganda but nothing simply matches up. While Samsung might have 30 different models on sale at once, Apple has one, updated on a 6-12 month basis, no other app store can compare and there is a much wider variety of accessories.

But even with an iPhone, how do you use it more effectively than the general public? Well, it can be very simply to very complicated. For instance, simple things like not covering the mic when doing interviews (which happens surprisingly often) doing all photography and video in landscape and making sure your phone is in aeroplane mode (so it can’t receive any incoming communications). That all sounds simple but people make mistakes with it all the time.

Then there are the apps. It seems weird but the majority of people are opposed to paying even the slightest amount of money for an app, but this can be just the advantage a journalist can use. Apps are incredible for providing you with software that may cost hundreds of pounds on a computer for less that £20.

Apps like this can really set you apart from the general public in terms of quality, finish and the diversity of things you can do. With apps now you can edit professionally, live broadcast, stream, two-way, and share to almost anyone, be it securely or publicly.

Depending on what your looking for, apps like Filmic Pro, Wave Pad, Report it, Bambuser and Dragon are really useful. There are of course a whole host of others and no one person can test them all.

In a world where anyone can be a journalist, we have to use the technologies at hand more effectively than before. Don’t be afraid to pay for an app or a piece of equipment that will set you apart from the average smartphone owner. It could be the difference between a high quality piece and one that looks amateurish.

Remember, you always have your phone with you. It is a journalists tool box in your pocket. Make use of it.


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