The Cutting Edge: 6 Tools for Tech-Savvy Journalists
As far back as 2009, major outlets declared the newspaper long dead. Just as print media gave way to the instant access and constant connectivity of digital distribution, the tools of the trade have become increasingly expansive. While it’s true that emerging tech like deepfakes and algorithms that know just the right ways to spread disinformation cast a long shadow on the future of journalism, there are just as many technological tools that cast a bright light on the road ahead. From apps you might’ve already downloaded to platforms that could shift industry paradigms, these are just some tech tools that, if used effectively, can help working and aspiring journalists build careers on solid foundations of integrity and transparency.
Online Trend-Monitoring Tools
While great journalism often breaks stories that expose the masses to brand-new topics, it also has a duty to answer public calls for information, to serve the interests of its consumers (that’s why they call them “human interest” stories) with factual reporting. Easily accessible and often free online trend-monitoring tools help journalists get a hold on what sorts of insights their audiences are after, which is especially valuable in volatile, trendy, online spaces. Tools like Muck Rack Trends, AnswerThePublic and CrowdTangle reveal what other outlets are writing, which stories readers are reading and which topics are currently trending across the spectrum of social media platforms. Knowing those metrics not only helps journalists serve their audience, it might just help keep them in business.
Near Real Time-Satellite Imagery
One of the most exciting tech tools for journalists is so far out that it’s literally in space. With a growing network of more than 70 partner satellites, we here at SkyFi know a thing or two about satellite imagery, and we know that access to near real-time visual data from anywhere on the planet isn’t just an expressive visual aid for a more engaged readership, it’s a ground-breaking tool for tracking global stories both as they happen and across periods of time (think about aerial data on crowds or long-term visualizations of geographical changes over time).
This goes way beyond platforms like Google Earth by finally offering affordable access to ultra-high-resolution images — where “high resolution” means “high visual data density” — and, at long last, the ability for the average person to purchase an image. Previously, that was a privilege of big businesses or big governments willing to spend millions of dollars; by expanding that access, SkyFi simply allows a much wider spectrum of journalistic sources to come to the table with highly expressive primary sources. With an intuitive app interface and options like nighttime photography and hyperspectral shots, it’s not just a tool for journalists, it’s a tool for the future.
Remote Conferencing Platforms
After years of remote work and long-distance socializing, online video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Skype and Google Meet are still absolute essentials for both democratizing and globalizing journalism. No matter the beat you work, whether you’re a YouTube upstart or CNN, journalism in the ‘20s relies on remote video connectivity for everything from conferencing with peers to facilitating real-time interviews with experts and sources, regardless of geographical bounds. Shortly, video conferencing apps empower important sources to relay information without borders.
And if you’re understandably bored of remote conferencing apps, they just so happen to pair extremely well with a touch of our next category.
While some tools for journalists are as direct as organizational software or broadcasting devices, immersive journalism is more of an emerging platform. Immersive journalism enables audiences to experience news in the first-person via tech like virtual reality, augmented reality and 360-degree video. As Reuters puts it, this new perspective on often-unfolding events “constructs a world where the user is encouraged to play an active role.”
While it may not yet be within every outfit’s budget, immersive journalism is more than worth keeping an eye on for its potential to make the distribution of information more attractive and interactive and for its ability to let consumers experience news from enveloping perspectives that put them closer to the source than ever. And that’s to say nothing of its immense potential to generate social empathy within the context of a story.
Streamlined Data Analysis
The thing about data is that it grows exponentially over time. While that bounty of accessible information can be beneficial, the sheer amount of info journalists have to parse nowadays often makes integrity a long road. Online tools like Pinpoint, Google Knowledge Graph and Journalist Studio help ease that pain point. These tools not only help streamline searches across thousands of digital documents (including images, text files and all sorts of audiovisual media), they can even graph and visualize key points from data sets and leverage neat tricks, like optical character recognition and speech-to-text, to make large file sets more manageable and ultimately more accessible.
Artificial intelligence (AI) often works in sync with high-quality satellite imagery or other large, data-dense primary sources, powering the microlevel analysis of images and data sets to process and decompose information. For instance, in a story about fish migration patterns, journalists can “train” AI to identify fish in large-scale images. The manual alternative: identifying and counting fish with the human eye, which would be unwieldy at best or nigh impossible at worst. Like Monika Sengul-Jones of DataJournalism.com says, “With data increasingly stored in extraordinary volume, investigative journalists can and have been piloting extraordinary analysis techniques to make sense of these enormous datasets — and, in doing so, hold corporations and governments accountable.”
Ultimately, these emerging tools for journalists help deepen our relationship to data, and when new approaches to journalism put data first, they put transparency first too.
Insider — The Year the Newspaper Died
Reuters Institute — What We Can Learn from the Best Examples of Immersive Journalism
Global Investigative Journalism Network — Journalists’ Guide to Using AI and Satellite Imagery for Storytelling
DataJournalism.com — Bring in the Machines: AI-powered Investigative Journalism