A grand experiment

The new year will bring about a lot of changes to many Gannett properties, not the least of which will be outfitting our reporters and photographers with iPhones, iPads and other accessories. Of course, this move has been met with mixed reactions within newsrooms, mine included. The usual qualms about being asked to do too much with too little … fear of the unknown for those that are less tech-savvy (will Gannett be able to read all of my personal communications seems to be the most prevalent concern).

Even a digital-first journalist such as myself has a few reservations, such as if the money used for the accompanying iPhone rig could have been better spent elsewhere. The allure of the iPhone is its portable, do-it-all nature … but hand a reporter the OWLE and a cheap tripod and suddenly the iPhone doesn’t feel like the freedom inspiring tool it is, and more like a ball-and-chain dragging slowing them down from the work they feel they should be doing.

In general though, I am all for our staff having smartphones. Reporters (hopefully) can begin to treat their Twitter account like their notepad, adding observations on the scene and returning to their stream when writing their stories (one of our reporters, Beth Miller, is already adept at this, and I hope that she can spread her knowledge to some of the more skeptical members of our newsroom). As a photographer/videographer, I can use the phone as a hotspot to send both video and photos back to the office wirelessly (currently I think we have two working wifi cards to spread among both reporters and photographers). And, as the main emphasis for this push seems to be a focus on breaking news, everyone can shoot video and upload it directly to our Brightcove account via a related app.

I have no idea just how this experiment will end … On it’s face, it seems like a no-brainer … replacing pen and paper with something smaller that can also act as a camera, video camera, audio recorder, radio scanner, etc. But perhaps it will end up as Gannett’s previous video initiative did, with only a few properties actively using smartphones. Follow-up to come in a few months…

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