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Monthly Archives: July 2016

Try these gadgets, tools and apps for mobile journalism

Building on the video and photo apps recommended in a prior post, the Kiplinger Program has corralled other mobile tools to explore for reporting and storytelling.

Portable power

For starters, to keep yourself on top of your game, you must have active devices, meaning they are properly charged. Portable options are plentiful these days. You can pick up a 2200 mHa charger for $5. Typically they are good for about 80 to 100 charges.

But, let’s widen our view. Consider some of the following ways to make sure you’re prepared for life beyond the outlet. A good, reliable charger with 300 charges shouldn’t cost more than $50.

Solar chargers are plentiful, so if you plan a beach getaway, this may be the best way to keep powered without being tethered to an outlet. If you want to store energy, carry it along with the suntan lotion and your paperback. Here is a list of the top 30 charging devices as determined by All of these are one-stop shopping on Amazon.port-suction-cup-window-solar-charger-xl

Ever been caught in mid-flight with a depleted cell phone battery? Reach into that “one personal item” you’ve carted onboard and pull out this device. It pulls solar power from your above-cloud location and converts it to a fully charged phone. So you don’t freak out fellow passengers, you might want to let your flight attendant know what this device is before suctioning it to a window.

Storytelling tools

Steller allows you to combine video, text, audio and photos into a seamless multimedia story using your iPhone, iPad or Android device.

The app lets you pull in video and photos from your camera roll, edit them, write text to accompany them and drop in audio if you like. Steller will create your storybook before your eyes and allow you to share it on social media. Like Instagram and Twitter, you can develop an audience of followers. There is similar app, BonJournal, that looks like Steller and operates similarly but is available only for iOS devices.

Periscope is getting a lot of play from journalists because you can live report and get instant feedback from followers. Periscope’s slogan is “Enjoy the world through someone else’s eyes.” In essence, it’s a live feed direct from you to your audience. Think of it as a live shot on TV with instance audience commentary. Reactions are mixed. With any instant audience connection you will likely get trolls, but mostly, journalists consider it a positive experience.Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 11.24.02 AM

Don’t wait to learn new tools until you’re in the heat of the moment. Skills are best honed when the pressure is off and you can have fun. Try live reporting your rides at the amusement park, your son’s sandcastle building or another adventure.

Audio recordings            

TapeACall is one of the best apps for broadcast-quality recordings. Available in 35 languages, the app is used widely internationally. Like other recording apps, it works by merging its access number with your call, which can mean lag time while you’re setting up the merge. However, it does record both incoming and outgoing calls, so you can set up the recording before dialing your source.IMG_0904

It allows you to label recordings, upload them to Google Drive, Evernote or Dropbox and share them via Facebook, Twitter or texts. The app costs $7.99 annually. However, TapeACall doesn’t charge monthly or per-minute fees, so if you’re recording a lot, you’ll probably come out ahead by making the initial purchase.

Lastly, experiment with Dragon Dictation. It’s an easy app that allows you to dictate your thoughts, interviews, notes or story into your cell phone and then watch the sounds translate into text. Clean-up likely will be needed unless you speak with perfect diction. It’s free. Once the text is created, email it to yourself. Upload it on social media or send it off as a text.


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Use summer to experiment with photo, video mobile apps

This summer, consider time with friends and family as a great opportunity to experiment with new journalism tools.

Hone your mobile videography skills by filming the kids at Disney World, upgrade your knowledge of a social media platform or launch a new app on your phone that could have professional use once you get back to the office. It’s also a great time to test out hardware.

Here at Kiplinger headquarters, we’ve rounded up some previously dispensed advice, tossed in some new recommendations and hope to turn you loose for a summer of fun and professional development. Remember, family already has accepted you as a journalist, so there’s no turning back. They have to tolerate your summer experiments.

Funky photos 

Think of the possibilities. You’re playing miniature golf for the sixth time with your kids, and your daughter is about to ace the hole. Maybe you’ve scaled the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies or you want to see fireworks in a whole new way. Wouldn’t that moment resonate more if you could capture it in 3D or a 360 image?

Two-dimensional photos are great. But, what journalist hasn’t come across a scene that could be captured better in 3D or panorama? A number of apps allow you to capture surprisingly high-quality 3-D and panoramic images with simply a few taps on your smartphone.

Given these a try. They require some practice, but that’s why you’re experimenting with them on vacation. That way, when you have to cover that four-alarm house fire, you’re on top of your game.

Fyuse is free for Apple and Android devices. Not quite a video, but not a photo either. Fyuse bills its images as “interactive representations of the world” and “spatial photography.”

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With Fyuse, just point and slowly rotate camera. Image from

Whatever you choose to call them, Fyuse photos are cool. Viewers start with what looks to be a 2-D image, then tilt or swipe the screen to see the image shift to another angle. The effect feels almost holographic. For news purposes, these images work really well with a subject or specific object within an environment.

Bubbli is free for Apple devices and has been around since 2011. The instructions are simple but must be adhered to precisely in order to get the best seamless, spherical photo — or “bubble” — that goes a step beyond standard 360 apps in it incorporates zenith and nadir, ground and sky. Viewers see all sides of the image by swiping the image and panning their devices up, down and across.

Once you’ve taken the shot, it takes a few minutes longer than some apps to stitch the pieces together, but the end product is impressive. The bubble can be uploaded and viewed in Twitter and Facebook or downloaded to your phone’s camera roll. Or email it to yourself, open it on a computer, and retrieve the embed code to download onto a website.

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A screen capture of 360 Panorama’s Swiss Alps from

360 Panorama is for Apple ($1.99) or Android ($2.99) Reviewers agree that 360 Panorama is one of the better panoramic apps, yielding cleaner images with fewer mismatches in tone than other apps.

To use, simply tap the button and slowly pan, overlapping photo “tiles” until you go full-circle. Wait a few seconds while the program stitches and voila! Instant panorama. The embed code for 360 Panorama images can be retrieved by logging into Occipital’s website and tapping on the image.

If you’d rather not experiment with 3D or panorama, but are more interested in raising the personal bar for good mobile video and still photography, we highly recommend Filmic Pro for videos and Pro Cam 8 for photos.

Video upgrades

FiLMiC Pro is a small investment but worth the $10. If you need a single reason to have this on your phone, know this: FiLMiC is the choice among many videographers and documentary filmmakers. Entire indie films have been shot on mobile with it. It’s been rated the No. 1 video camera app for the past two years. It works on iOS and Android devices.

This is how it bills itself:”FiLMiC Pro variable speed zoom, audio gain control, variable frame rates up to 240fps on newest devices. With full manual control over focus, exposure, ISO, shutter speed, tint and color temperature, you may never need another video camera again. Additionally, FiLMiC Pro has a ton of professional tools such as audio meters, stereo microphone support, informative thirds guide and aspect ratio overlays.”

Montana’s blue skies and clear water captured using Pro Camera 8 by Kevin Z. Smith.

Pro Camera 8 is a smaller investment, $4, and could easily replace your mobile’s built-in camera, or at least serve as your default. With a slew of features like rapid fire, white balance, grids, timers, shake resistance, manual and auto shutters and exposure compensation, this ups your mobile game. If you don’t want to drop $10 for FiLMiC Pro, this app will allow you to shoot video, film in low lighting and use its built-in QR code reader.

The other nice aspect is that the photos go directly into your camera roll, so there’s no searching or moving image from this app to your phone’s storage. The only drawback is your iOS needs to be 8 or higher.

Enjoy your vacation and your experiments with some of these great mobile apps.

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Kiplinger website wins Ohio SPJ awards


The Kiplinger Program’s website won two first-place prizes and a second-place finish in awards announced today by the Society of Professional Journalists.

The website took top honors for Specialized Journalism Site and for Best Overall Blog (Independent). A second-place prize went to Kiplinger Program deputy director Kevin Z. Smith for Best Blog Post (Independent) for “Reporting can come with a price in Pakistan.

The Ohio’s Best Journalism Contest was sponsored by SPJ chapters in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus. The Long Island Press Club of New York judged the competition. All winners in all categories are posted online.

The Kiplinger Program’s website, designed by Origo Branding of Columbus, debuted its new look and mobile-friendly features in September 2014.


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