Tuesday, 3 May 2011

iPhone. A Reporter's Friend.

I've written the following as a guest blog post for the website www.newmediamonster.co.uk which covers all things new media.

My work as a BBC reporter has been helped enormously by finally giving in and investing in an iPhone in November last year. I now heavily rely on it to help me tell stories. I’m often the radio car reporter, which means I drive a people carrier around my patch (Derbyshire and East Staffordshire) and broadcast live for the breakfast show on a range of light and hard news stories to do with fires, rubbish bins collections, hospital targets and Derby County to give you just a few examples. I use my iPhone from the start to the end of my working day.

After being woken by the phone’s alarm at 4:45am, I use it on the train to work to check Twitter, Facebook, and the BBC Derby and Derby Telegraph websites. I look for any stories we need to be covering on the BBC Radio Derby breakfast show and some background to the stories that I will be reporting on.

Once I’m at work and have printed off the details of the five or so stories I’ll be covering, I set off on the radio car and often use my phone to help me get to the locations. I use Google maps as a reassuring back up to the unreliable sat nav in the car.

If I have time when I get to the story, I often use the Google app on my phone to do some further research such as finding out statistics, for example I recently went to a story about the closure of Sure Start Centres in Derby and I used my phone to find out exactly what they are. I found a definition from the government website and used that in my live. I use this research to more effectively challenge the interviewee or to help set the scene when the presenter throws to me and before the interview starts. If I’m doing a story where distance is important, I’ll use Google maps to find out how far two places are apart.

After I’ve finished my live I take photos of the locations and people I interview and then email them from my phone to the presenter, producer and web team. It allows them to upload the photo straight to the BBC Radio Derby Facebook page which the presenter will then refer to on air and sometimes the snaps are used for articles on www.bbc.co.uk/derby. I also upload some of the more interesting photos on my personal twitter feed and sometimes record a video on my phone to enhance my blog posts, here’s a good example.

I’ve recently started using the app VR+ to record audio on location and then email it to the newsroom in seconds. The app came into its own recently when I was reporting from Birmingham Crown Court on the murder trial of Sylwia Ciapcinska. The court is a 25 minute walk to the Mailbox, the BBC building in the city, and I wanted to get my material on air as soon as possible once the verdict had been returned. I used the app to record my report on the court steps for the news bulletin and an interview with the police as well as the victim’s parent’s statement. I then emailed the audio to my colleagues in the newsroom in Derby which meant they very quickly had material for the news bulletins. It also meant that when I went to the Mailbox to do an interview about the trial with our drivetime presenter from one of the BBC Birmingham studios, I could focus on quickly typing out my script rather than dealing with the time-consuming process of sending back audio form the Birmingham newsroom.

The iPhone is an incredible aid to reporting and is an exciting way of enhancing the way we tell stories by, for example, adding photos and video. The next step for me is to use my phone to broadcast live which I know the radio car reporter at BBC 3 Counties Radio in Luton does. I’d encourage reporters and wannabe journalists to embrace new technologies like the iPhone. Don’t be put off by the hindrance of learning how to use the iPhone or even its price tag as it soon becomes a very big help indeed.


  1. Interesting that you say "iPhone" when nearly all the apps you use are Google. Have you considered an Android phone? The one with built in keyboards are particularly good if you're filing text.

  2. I must admit I've never used an Android phone but do know one journalist who prefers it to the iPhone - perhaps because you don't have to pay the premium price tag that goes with every Apple product.