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How Tos

How to Take Advantage of IFTTT For Reporting

If you’re haven’t heard of If This Then That (IFTTT), then you’re missing out on an important, productivity-boosting tool. Pulling in information from “channels” such as Twitter, Storify and even your phone, IFTTT is like an infinitely flexible bridge that connects all of your most used tools in new and exciting ways.

Here are a few simple ways that you can use IFTTT’s programs (called “recipes”) to boost your reporting skills and automate some of your more menial tasks. Take a look for yourself, and see how a couple of small steps can take the pain out of some of your most difficult daily activities.

What’s your favorite use for IFTTT? Let us know in the comments. Read more

How to Shoot Video from a Smartphone Like a Pro

These days, carrying around a full video rig is the last thing a journalist wants to do when in the middle of important breaking news. Thankfully, the smartphone is rapidly becoming the go-to option for capturing news as it happens, and the rise of HD quality video in such a small package means that more important and newsworthy moments are being captured and shared throughout the world.

The only caveat is, for better for worse, shooting video on a small, light smartphone has a steep learning curve. To get a compelling, color-balanced shot that isn’t shaky or blurry is a mammoth task — an unknowledgeable shooter can easily end up with muddy, diffuse content that isn’t share-worthy.

Luckily, there are some easy and effective tips to get a great shot. Read more

Basic Tech Tips For Journalists: Reverse Image Search

In a world with Photoshop or photo editing software at nearly everyone’s fingertips, it can be hard to know if that stunning image making the rounds is real or even recent. Also, it can be hard to track down the original source of photos or images when they pop up on Pinterest with a link to a Tumblr that links to another Tumblr that links to a blog that doesn’t cite the source.

While there’s no fool proof way to find the original, there are a few ways to track down other copies of the image and potentially the original source. One of the easiest places to start is with a reverse image search.

It’s probably a good idea for journalists to plug any images they share into these sites before passing it along or repinning it with credit to the wrong source. Why use it? Last week in the wake of Super Storm Sandy, one of the most shared photos I saw pass around social media was of soldiers standing in a downpour guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was a real shot — from a few months before, not from Sandy as it was being purported to be. (Sandy spawned so many fake images, several places started tracking the real from the fake.) Reverse image searches also could help you find other similar photos of local landmarks that people have taken over the years if you search by one you have.

It’s just another tool in the toolbox and a useful trick when it works. There are a few image search options out there, so if you want to find more just search in your favorite search engine for “reverse image search” and see what comes up. The two I’ll discuss are probably the most well known, but feel free to share more ideas in the comments or links to this post.
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EmbedPlus Can ‘Enhance’ YouTube Videos for Commentary, Context, Linkage

Here’s a tool to help annotate and direct people to points of interest in any last minute campaign rally videos or the CNN punch-drunkness vids hopefully to come after tomorrow night’s election coverage.

A few weeks ago we highlighted TubeChop as an easy-to-use tool for highlighting parts of a YouTube video relevant to your story. EmbedPlus is another such tool, but with a handful of other additional, useful features.

EmbedPlus, available as a Chrome extension, WordPress plugin and simple wizard, allows you as a journalist to (among other things):

  • Annotate YouTube videos, placing your own text and links (perhaps “explainers” or more context) at designated times
  • Crop videos to the interesting or relevant portions, per the same idea we outlined for TubeChop
  • Mark several jump-to points (“chapters”) relevant to your coverage, so a reader doesn’t have to go searching
  • Provide quick access to conversations (“reactions”) to the YouTube video on social platforms like Reddit and Twitter

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Create Interactive Infographics with Easel.ly and (Then) ThingLink

A reader (and fun Tweeter) had a smart idea following our post last week on using ThingLink creatively in journalism. I had to pass it along.

One of the ideas laid out in that post was how to quickly make infographics interactive, adding another meta-layer to the data you already made look pretty. Ivan Lajara, engagement editor for Digital First Media’s East Region, had an idea to make that even simpler:

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