Your Phone As A Reporter's Toolbox
August 07, 2012

EL PASO, Texas -- I have a confession to make about conventions. My favorite part is not the sessions, it's the socializing.

Why?

Most of the time I only remember one or two truly great sessions that taught me something or provided useful take-home tips. But the one thing I can always count on is making new friends and catching up with colleagues from around the country. Conversations over happy hour drinks is usually where new ideas are born and sage advice is shared.

At this year's UNITY convention, where hundreds of minority journalists gather every year, I only went to a few sessions. Most of my time was spent mentoring young aspiring journalists at the UNITY student project.

Luckily, one of the sessions I attended was a jackpot. Read on and I'll share the juiciest bits.

The session was called 'Mobile as MacGyver' delivered by Val Hoeppner of the the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute. Her goal was to teach journalists how turn a smartphone into a mobile reporting tool. That's possible thanks to a handy list of applications or 'apps'.

Some of these apps work on iPhone and Android. Some only work on iPhone. Also Hoeppner recommends downloading Google Chrome. Some of the recommended applications only work with this browser and are available on the Chrome store.

Here's some of the apps on her list:

DROPBOX - Allows you to view files on the go, download files for offline viewing, sync photos and videos and share links to your personal Dropbox. Journalists can use this to transfer mobile text, photos and video back to the newsroom. FREE, iPhone, Android, Blackberry

TRANSCRIBE - Purchase from Google Chrome store. This app claims to transcribe audio into text. I haven't tried it yet. Sounds too good to be true, but if it is true it could mean the end of 'logging tape' for radio journalists.

GENIUS SCAN - A PDF app that allows you to scan a document, create a PDF and email it as a JPEG or PDF. The Genius Scan + version costs $2.99 and allow you to send scans to Dropbox, Evernote and Google Docs. FREE, iPhone and Android

ABBYY TEXT GRABBER - Capture printed text from documents, magazines, books, ect. Text can be copied, pasted and edited. Text Grabber recognizes 60 different languages. A similar software is used by law firms to copy documents. Journalists can use this to scan documents and quickly enter their content into a story. $2.99 iPhone.

FREE WIFI FINDER - A handy app for finding Wi-fi (wireless) hotspots wherever you are. The app locates wireless Internet signals and displays them on a map, providing addresses and phone numbers. FREE- iPhone, Android

HOOTSUITE - Allows you to manage multiple social media accounts from one app. Manage multiple Twitter accounts, Facebook, Foursquare and LinkedIn. This app automatically shortens links and allows you to schedule tweets, like when you have a story to promote. FREE, iPhone

iTALK Recorder - This is a full-featured recording app with a streamlined and intuitive user interface. Press the big red button to record, press it again to stop. Journalists can use this app to record interviews and send them to the web. Files can also be saved to Dropbox with the Pro version. FREE for basic, $1.99 for Pro

You can follow Hoeppner on Twitter @vhoeppner and check out her blog.