You don’t need a smart phone to be a good journalist. But it can be a useful tool, just like a notebook and pen. You can rely on it in a pinch if you don’t have the gear in your man pursesatchel with you. And a few apps might radically change the way you find, organize and share information.
Here are some cool Android apps I’ve been experimenting with:
For notes:Evernote is a free app that lets you take notes, pictures, and audio recordings. Your files are synced with Evernote and can be accessed from your desktop computer. Evernote is also useful for taking pictures of documents — it automatically scans the image and recognizes the text. You can search those keywords. Tech consultant Shawn Miller wrote a detailed review of Evernote and how he uses it for just about everything.
Police scanner:Scanner Radio checks for live streams of emergency channels in your area and lets you listen to police scanners on your phone.
Live stream video: You can record free, live videos with Qik, Ustream, and Bambuser. Very handy if you’re at the scene of a compelling story or covering a speech. Here’s an example of a Qik video taken by Express-News police reporter Eva Ruth Moravec when she was at a school where authorities detonated a dangerous substance:
Photo editing: You can crop and edit pictures on your phone with Adobe Photoshop.
Reference:Dictionary.com has an app that gives you a mobile dictionary and thesaurus, and Wapedia offers a simple interface to look up information on Wikipedia. There’s an app for CIA Factbook to look up profiles of every country in the world. Yellowbook puts the yellow pages on your mobile phone, allowing you to look up local businesses.
For political junkies, the Sunlight Foundation made the Congress app. You can look up bills and profiles of U.S. senators and representatives, read their tweets and check out their YouTube videos, and contact them.
Bookmarking tools: When you find a cool Web page on your cell phone, apps for Diigo and Delicious let you bookmark the page and look it up on your desktop computer.
Google Voice: Etan Horowitz at Poynter offers a nice review of Google Voice for journalists. Google provides a free phone number that can be assigned to multiple phones — even a land line. Your original phone numbers will still work. In the Google Voice app for Android, when someone leaves you a voice mail, Google transcribes (somewhat accurately) the message, so you can quickly read it and get the gist of what the person wants without even listening to it. When someone calls your Google number, you can press 4 to record the call — another handy tool if you’re caught without a recorder. You get an e-mail of each voice mail and audio recording, and you can embed them on Web pages. Lifehacker looked at the pros and cons of Google Voice.
Feel free to share other handy apps. I’ll update this post with your suggestions and other discoveries I find later.
Update: Poynter’s News University hosted a Webinar on June 17 about tools for mobile journalists. Here are some more smart phone apps and tools:
Audioboo: For instant podcasting — make a recording on your phone and upload it straight to the Web. Simple.