Toolbox

What's in the journalism toolbox?

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Journalism.co.uk has asked five tech-savvy journalists about their favourite tools. Here are their answers in no particular order.

1. Delicious

Nominated by Paul Bradshaw, a visiting professor at City University, London and part-time course leader for the MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University.

"My favourite tool would, funnily enough, be one of my oldest: it's Delicious, the social bookmarking service.

"Despite being neglected for years by Yahoo, and its new owners hardly improving it, it's still hugely useful to me, in a multitude of ways with functionality that no competing services provide.

"Firstly, Delicious makes it possible to work more quickly than would otherwise be possible. It's my personal cuttings file – and when a story emerges it means I can access reports, documents, data, sources, experts and articles in an instant which I would otherwise take far longer to find, or not even think to look for (often I'll find something I'd forgotten even existed).

"Secondly, the RSS feeds it provides means I can publish at the same time that I bookmark – to multiple platforms. So, for instance, depending what tags I use on a bookmark, it will be tweeted by any one of a number of accounts (using Twitterfeed), it will be published on one of a series of Facebook pages (using RSS Graffiti), it will be blogged (using a Delicious to Wordpress plugin) and it will be sent in an email round-up to subscribers (using Feedburner)."

2. Google Fusion Tables

Suggested by Kevin Anderson, a freelance journalist and digital strategist who has worked with the BBC and the Guardian.*


Very few tools are as forgiving to people just dabbling with data journalism while also offering powerful tools as your skills developKevin Anderson on Google Fusion Tables
"Google Fusion Tables is brilliant because it both has simple tools for filtering and aggregating a lot of data, like pivot tables for the numerically intimidated, but it also has a lot of very powerful features such as its ability to create custom boundary maps. The geo-coding engine is really good at interpreting just about any type of data you throw at it.

"Very few tools are as forgiving to people just dabbling with data journalism while also offering powerful tools as your skills develop."

3. Digital audio recorder

Recommended by Andy Dickinson, who teaches digital and online journalism at the department of journalism at the University of Central Lancashire.

"I would say my iPhone because it keeps me connected but in truth I would have to plump for my audio recorder. It's got me out of a number of holes in terms of dodgy audio on video clips as well as transcribing content.

"The content is almost instantly usable not just as reference but as content that can be put in front of the audience."

4. Internet telephony

Nominated by Bobbie Johnson, editor of GigaOM Europe and co-founder of Matter, a new venture which aims to provide a new outlet for long-form science and technology stories.

"The obvious winner here is Skype, which has saved me hundreds and hundreds in mobile phone bills, and lets me see people I'm interviewing on video chat – which can be very useful if you need to see the whites of their eyes.

"But I also use Rebtel, which has saved my bacon on more than a few occasions. It basically builds an internet bridge between your local telephone exchange and the exchange of the person you're calling, so that it only costs you the price of a local call. It's money saving, but can also be really handy when you're trying to get hold of people in other countries who aren't connected to the net."

5. Taptu

Added to the toolbox by Benjamin Cohen, technology correspondent for Channel 4 News and founder of Pink News.


"I really like Taptu because it's an RSS reader for the modern age but it doesn't actually use RSS feeds. You can simply add the sources you regularly consult and either in full or in extract form they're pulled into your iPad [there is also a Taptu Android app]. Taptu also has some nifty curated feeds on a genre basis.

"Not everyone is happy though, it strips out advertising. PinkNews (which I own) and sites like AllThingsD are going to restrict its access and it doesn't work offline. But it's still a useful tool and I find it a great compliment to my breakfast read of the Times on my iPad."

*You can learn data journalism from Kevin Anderson on a one-day training course. There are two levels: introduction to data journalism, being held on 9 or 28 May and intermediate data journalism on 29 May.

Those looking to expand their skills quickly can book on one of the introduction to data journalism courses and the intermediate course. If you book both options the cost is at the reduced rate.


This is the last time we will be offering this course led by Kevin Anderson due to his commitments – so take advantage of the final opportunity to learn from this former BBC and Guardian journalist.

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