By Sommer Ingram
A laptop, a hand-held portable video recorder, a GPS unit and a cell phone used to be all that multimedia journalists needed to do their jobs.
Kerry Northrup, a professor at Western Kentucky University, came to the Society of Professional Journalists’ convention on Monday to show off the latest gadgets.
The most recent update to his NewsGear kit includes an Apple iPad, a Nokia N8 smart phone, a VuPoint scanner and a Sony NEX-VG10, a combination camcorder and digital SLR camera.
Northrup developed the first NewsGear kit in 1998 after media organizations around the world began asking for advice on what equipment to use to report news on multiple platforms.
Since then, Northrup has updated and revised his NewsGear kit with the latest technology, including the version he showed off Monday.
Northrup said he chose the Nokia over an Apple iPhone because it works overseas and for its photo capabilities. The Nokia takes 12-megapixel still shots, is equipped with a Xenon flash and shoots high-definition video.
Though the iPad has some limitations for journalists, Northrup said accessories will make up for what the device lacks. A connection kit will allow cameras, microphones, keyboards, scanners and external storage to be connected to the iPad, he said.
Northrup said the Sony NEX-VG10 HD shoots HD video, broadcasts quality audio, takes 14-megapixel pictures and can accommodate an external microphone. He said it is worth the approximately $2,000 investment.
While Northrup said it is important for journalists to learn multimedia skills, he stressed that they should not forget how to actually report news.
Training is important, too, he said.
“We can’t just drop a camera on someone and expect them to use it,” Northrup said. “It’s about making them much more aware that they work in a multiplatform world. They have to understand the strengths and weaknesses of all the tools in the toolbox.”
Some multimedia journalists who attended Northrup’s session questioned whether such fancy gadgets would really help them get their reporting done.
“Some of the new gear is very interesting to look at, but I’m interested to see what the applications are under real-time deadlines,” said Ben Winslow, a multimedia journalist for KSTU-TV, a Fox affiliate in Salt Lake City. “I look forward to using some of it, but what helps one person may not help another.”
Other journalists said the important part of the session was not the technology, but rather, the mindset reporters developed from using it.
“It was interesting to learn about, because new technology is being integrated so much,” said Craig Lyons, a reporter for the Berlin Daily Sun in New Hampshire. “Learning the tools is critical in being able to operate and think on a multiplatform level. Being familiar with the technology makes it easier to adopt that mindset.”