(This three-part series is based on a presentation given at the 2010 PRNDI Conference in Louisville, KY.)
Let's talk about the equipment.
The Radio Reporter Field Kit
Carrying a recorder with microphone and headphones is still important, but most reporters now must carry the gear needed to gather visual elements. Fortunately the kits don't have to get that much heavier. You can get great audio with some of the small flash recorders, and you can get both photos and video via a single compact point and shoot camera.
The kit described here can be assembled for under $1-thousand. To go cheaper would compromise professional quality. To go more expensive would be to burden your tight budget.
Here is my suggested radio reporter kit based on my research (with lots of help along the way. Special thanks to Samy's camera, Nate Gibbs and Leng Caloh of KPBS, and Jeff Townes of Transom.org)
Discussion: I have lots of variations on these particular picks, for example the camera might be a Canon or Sony point and shoot. Or the Audio recorder might be a Tascam or Sony. It isn't the model so much that is the point here, but the suitable specs you get for that price range.
I'm all in favor of stepping up to more high quality gear -- a) if you can afford it, and b) if you can handle the added skills needed to use it properly.
I don't address smart phones as news gathering tools here because I think they still have a ways to go to give us what we'd want, especially in high quality audio. But the smart phones are growing in sophistication and this list is certainly subject to change over time (and probably soon).
Power of Photo
We've already alluded to the value of adding visual dimensions to your news when putting it out on a device with a picture screen. But let's amplify what some of those visual values are.
Photography is especially powerful when it isolates poignant moments. By freezing these otherwise fleeting moments we get to hold them in our minds and ponder them more deeply. Great photographers capture the essence of humanity by capturing meaningful moments.
Here are the journalistic values you'll want to consider every time you take a shot:
You know you can split the menu of camera choices into several main categories:
New Interchangeable Lens Cameras
My recommendation is to aim for the advanced point/shoot cameras -- with HD video capability. We skip the cheap p/s because we need sharp images and durable gear. We skip the DSLR's because of their cost and complications, and because we don't need their level of quality for the web. We imagine moving up to ILC's cameras once we get better at shooting, and once their prices drop a bit further.
Here are some fundamentals for you to get good at...
In the PRNDI workshop, the last section was a demonstration of Soundslides -- the cheap, easy and very effective tool to put up a slideshow with or without audio track. We also focused on the importance of maps and data visualization.
Take it From Here
Five Things to Do:
- Accelerate your newsroom's strategies, skills and resources toward the "visual aspects" of your coverage.
- Prioritize your target opportunities. Start with the easier ones:
- Text (then add links & aggregation)
- Photos (then add galleries & slideshows)
- Maps (then add other graphics & data visualization)
- Integrate multimedia into your "story mapping" and your team's daily workflow. Start with special projects to try it out.
- Lead by encouragement. Cross-train. Experiment.
- Make customized training a high priority. Make time for it. Use readily available training options including in-house experts.
Online Multimedia Training Resources:
The Poynter Institute's News University provides a wide menu of courses for the entire staff. It's free to join, offers many free tutorials, and is a portal for low-cost webinars and workshops. (Also try the Poynter main site for articles and discussion on journalism topics.)
There are Knight funded digital media training centers at Berkeley and USC. Both offer a mix of workshops and free online training resources. The Berkeley site is good for equipment and software tutorials. The USC site has more stuff for entrepreneurs and thinkers. But check them both as they keep adding content.
SPJ keeps tabs on most training opportunities for journalists and is a good one-stop locator: (http://www.journalismtraining.org)
Fee based sites include: