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GadgetUtopia: My Descent into Full, Immersive Multimedia

Miné Salkin, @min_oy
06.25.15
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You might not realize it, but most journalists are full-on, hardcore technology geeks. Nearly every reporter I have ever met (including yours truly) has been obsessed with how research and development of media technologies have forged a new arena of storytelling through the gadgets and tools themselves.

On my desk above you can see all the tools of the digital media trade; a superb 5K iMac, an URSA Blackmagic 4K camera, a GoPro, and of course, an iPhone. Give me extra points for editing a video of a drone and also taking this photo with a second GoPro cam. I have been an avid user of anything Apple-related since I was a wee one, a tender young geek at the age of 7, and while Android has its merits it has always lacked the premium interface and feel of Apple. With the gadgets you see here, I have everything in front of me required to be a lean, mean multimedia publishing machine.

I finished J-school five years ago, graduating at a time when multimedia reporting was finding its voice, Twitter was only two or three years old, a 6 megapixel camera was super sweet and 2GB of RAM made you edit video at (what felt like) superhuman speeds. But what resounded with me the most fundamentally was the power of citizen-generated media, our growing ability to consume it and broadcast it from our phones, and how easily we can share it. My teacher Alfred Hermida wrote a book called Tell Everyone, explaining the fundamental reasons why social media trends are so compelling and shareable for society as a whole. But at the root of it, having the technology in our pockets has been the facilitator for these new realms of journalism and storytelling.

So what's hot now? You might even hear it whizzing next to you. It's drones. Companies like DJI and Solo have reinvented indie filmmaking with their accessible, consumer models—and this has bred journalistic opportunities as well. Drones were used by CNN to explore hurricanes and chase storms. While the FAA and the public have some concerns (rightly) about the fact that nearly everyone can buy a drone and fly it anywhere, drones have ushered in a whole new age of multimedia reporting.

Until the "glasshole" speculations became so common they blindsighted the public, I had some very strong beliefs as a journalist that Google Glass would reinvent a new form of first-person narrative that would be invaluable to the reporting and documentary filmmaking communities too. I still hold that belief and while the Explorer program (in which my company participated) created other types of communicative functions, that gadget has been put aside for very specific purposes, at least for the time being.

The common theme that many reporting gadgets and technologies interfere with the public's private lives is a big issue as a whole that is endemic. Like the Professional Society of Drone Journalists advocate, responsible and ethical journalistic practices form the basis of how one should use any technology for reporting. Most of this is based on principles of newsworthiness and common sense.

Technology and storytelling go hand in hand, and feed off the other. One provides the content, the other the vessel for broadcasting and contextualizing that said content.

Journalists are no strangers to the newest forms of multimedia storytelling—and the delightful arsenal of gadgets that come with the territory. As a self-proclaimed geek and journalist I have never been more excited to glance at the horizon and adopt the next gadget that will help me tell a story.

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