What’s in the bag? #mojoconedc

Glen Mulcahy’s MojoCon – that’s the mobile journalism conference – is running a very cool competition in the build-up to the event, asking journalists to show the contents of their mobile kit.

Now, some of the rigs being shown are seriously impressive, with thousands in gear – but here’s what I get by on as a digital scribbler on a personal budget.

Bag contents, numbered for reference
Bag contents, numbered for reference.

Basically, I’m not a professional TV broadcast journalist, so my bag needs to cover web production – basic photo, video, audio, copy-filing, internet and call recording.

Not pictured is my photo equipment – except for the tripod, which I only lug around when I know I’ll need it.

What’s all this, then?

1 – iPad: Self explanatory, really. I don’t carry a laptop, as an iPad weighs far less. I sold my MacBook Pro after I built a custom media / gaming PC a few years ago, and I haven’t missed it. Unless you need to use specific software mandated by work, tablets can do almost everything for you on the go.

2 – Incase Origami and wireless keyboard: The Incase is beautiful. It’s a cover for the official Apple bluetooth keyboard that folds into a stand, transforming the iPad into a great writing device. But it can be left behind when you know you won’t need to write.

3 – iPad charger: Handily also charges the iPhone with a lightning connector, meaning I only need to carry one.

4 – Microfibre cloth: For lenses, screens, and the glasses on my head.

5 – Shoulderpod S1: A brand new addition, but I already love it. The Shoulderpod is a smartphone mount for any phone that acts as a tripod attachment, desk stand, and a handy freehand filming rig with wrist strap. Very well designed.

6 – iPhone 6: The heart of the operation. A much-needed upgrade from the 4S, encased in an Otterbox Commuter case.

7 – Olympus WS-650S and TP-8 pickup: This ageing warrior has been with me since college. I’d love to upgrade to a better audio recorder, but with its stereo microphone, this guy does just fine in most situations for recording external audio for video, or just for notes.

The TP-8 in-ear pickup is great for phone conversations, too – recording both sides of any call when placed in the ear.

8 – Victorinox ‘climber’ model: Because having a pocket knife is really darn handy.

9 – Pen and paper: Again – handy. The Pilot G2 is a damn good pen, by the way.

10 – Slik Able 300 DX tripod: Extremely optional. This tripod comes from my DSLR photo gear, and it’s not very mobile. It only gets carried over the shoulder when I know I’ll need it – when I’m specifically going out to do video or photo work. I really need to get around to buying a lightweight gorillapod etc.

My other photo gear isn’t really brought out that often – a Nikon D80 (anicent, I know) SB-800 speedlight, 18-135mm, 50mm 1.8, and 70-300 VR.

The point is, I may not own a huge amount of expensive gear, but this small bag covers everything I might need to do well enough. Minimalism is important!

PS – taking a photo of your own smartphone is a bit of a logistical problem.

Facebook’s 800lb gorilla – 2014 media developments

What are all the big players doing in the media business?

I was catching up with podcasts at the gym and finally got around to listening to journalism.co.uk’s round-up of 2014 developments in the media business.

It’s very good.

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The interviewees are the head of innovation journalism, City University London, senior writer at GigaOm, and the social media editor at the The Wall Street Journal. Here’s a fantastic little gem from their section on Facebook’s growth:

The biggest issue is … Facebook is this giant, 800-pound gorilla. They get to determine which content you see and which you don’t see, and they don’t tell you why or how…

It’s the biggest catch-22 in media right now – you cannot avoid Facebook – it has a billion people – and it’s got huge levels of engagement … but the more you deal with it, the more value you’re transferring to [it].

Facebook owns all the printing plants, all the satellites, all the trucks and all the news stands, and all the boys who sell papers in the streets.

That’s Mathew Ingram of GigaOm, who concludes that because we’re promoting our best content on social, our audience will end up associating good content with Facebook, not the creator.

It’s well worth a listen in full, as they also cover what business models companies tried out in the past year in a quick summary – the sale of Auto Trader, the Times paywall, and so on.

Work: Trinity Today


If you’re a Trinity graduate, you might have received a copy of the alumni magazine in the post. I’ve two pieces worth reading – a profile piece with Stuart Coulson, Dublin-born entrepreneur and angel investor who made his fortune in the online travel business, and another with Paul Johnston, on the future of engineering.

Trinity Today is a great little project – they hire alumni to write the pieces, which is a wonderful money-where-your-mouth is gesture.

You can find an online edition of the magazine here.

Story geography

Think of a story as a piece of terrain with varying topography.

Over there, in the thickets to the west, workers are striking a key industry; the good reporter travels there briefly to tell part of their tale from their turf.

To the east, on the city on the plain, managers are planning countermeasures. The reporter visits, again briefly, to tell us what they see from their office windows.

The rest of the time, he spends on the snowy summit of Mount Objectivity, apart from the action but able to view it in a general way.

… but if a latecomer finds the high ground occupied, it only makes sense that he move to another, different vantage point.

—William E Blundel, The Art and Craft of Feature Writing, p.13
Photo Credit: twiga269 ॐ FEMEN via Compfight cc

Free Shorthand Course!

UPDATE: I still get a lot of traffic from search engines to this post, so I thought I’d include the fact that, since Geocities shut down, this site and the course document on it is no longer available. I’ve been unable to find an archived copy or mirror, and I have no right to re-upload the university’s content. Sorry.

Following on from yesterday’s post, in which I argued it’s possible to improve your journalistic skills outside of a degree course, I’ve tracked down one of my all-time favourite links.

It’s a free, online shorthand course for the Teeline system, the one used by the NCTJ for their vocational training courses.

And it’s not a poor quality document, either. It’s the documentation for the University of Westminister shorthand course, which is publicly accessible on this Geocities site from 2003-2004. It’s an ever-so-slightly customised version, geared for journalists (as opposed to secretaries etc). My guess is that the course lecturer and other staff forgot about it.

Click here to go to the site!