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Pocket Reporter: A news editor in your pocket

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Pocket Reporter, your personal “news editor in your pocket”, has been given a makeover that includes lots of new elections reporting templates and resources, just in time for South Africa’s General Election.

While the elections resources are specific to South Africa, the reporting templates are relevant to any country where elections are being held. Other templates in the tool include health services, hard news and service delivery.

Several important changes have also been made to the tool in the new version, based on user feedback. But one thing that hasn’t changed is that Pocket Reporter remains free to use – and you don’t need to sign up and share personal information to use it.

When you visit Pocket Reporter for the first time on a smartphone, you will be prompted to add Pocket Reporter to your device’s home screen. This means that from then on you just have to click on the Pocket Reporter icon on your phone to load the tool in offline mode, so you don’t consume data while filling in your chosen template. You only need to go online to send your story.

The tool is collaboration between Cape Town-based civic tech organisation OpenUp and the Association of Independent Publishers (AIP). Originally, much of the work on the tool was done on a voluntary basis, but the new tool was built with funding support from the South African Media Innovation Programme.

The latest version of Pocket Reporter is just the latest development of an idea that began life over two decades ago, when the internet was brand new and many believed it was just a just a passing fad.

The genesis of Pocket Reporter lies in a reporter’s notebook conceptualised by veteran United States journalist and journalism educator Melvin Mencher, who realised there was a need to ensure that less experienced reporters had practical support in the field.

The 21st Century iterations of the tool, in an age where any smartphone user can be a reporter, are aimed at more than just journalists. Ordinary people without journalism training often find themselves on the frontline of breaking news, not knowing what questions to ask and what to look out for.

But Pocket Reporter is more than just a reporting tool: it is also an excellent example of how civic tech can help solve a real world problem.

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Author: Raymond Joseph

Published in: News & Politics
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Pocket Reporter: A news editor in your pocket

  1. 1. Pocket Reporter A news editor in your pocket
  2. 2. How Pocket Reporter works – and how it can help you write better stories
  3. 3. To use Pocket Reporter offline, go to www.app.pocketreporter on your phone. At the bottom of the page press on “add to home screen”. This will add a Pocket Reporter shortcut icon to your phone’s home screen. From now on, you an use this icon to access the tool without consuming data . Your stories will still be saved and you can send your info/pictures/video/audio by going on online.
  4. 4. To start using Pocket Reporter, on the Home Screen, click “Select language” Note: If the language of your choice is not available for the template you choose, the tool will automatically default to English.
  5. 5. Start a new story * Click on the subject folder that your story relates to; * You will also see resources folders. These folders do not have story templates, but valuable information on your story topic and journalism best practices for covering different issues. * Use the Resource folders for extra tips and information to add to your story. * For more info about Pocket Reporter click on “Profile”;
  6. 6. * Once you’ve chosen your subject folder, you’ll be directed to various story templates related to the topic; *Click on the template your story relates to, and a prompt will appear to give your story a name
  7. 7. Naming your story *Once you’ve entered the title or name for your story, click “Create”. *This title will help you identify your story if you want to come back to it later. * A title also makes it easier for the person you’re sending the story to, to identify what the story is about.
  8. 8. Gathering information *In the story templates, each question will have a space underneath to enter your answers or information. *Fill in the information in the space below the questions as you gather it; *Avoid answering yes/no to questions and include as many details as possible in your answers; •Look for “colour” – describe sights, sounds, smells – that will help enrich your story when you sit down to finally write it; *Don’t forget to get direct quotes from the people you speak to; * If you don’t complete a template it will still be automatically saved . To return to a saved template click on “My stories”;
  9. 9. Info not covered in the template questions * The template is only a guide to remind you about important questions you need to ask when covering a story; * It does not mean that you shouldn’t ask your own questions, or ask follow- up questions to answers you get; *Use additional info/notes for anything that doesn’t answer a specific question in the template; * Use the Contact Details space at the end to record dettails of people you interviewed in case you need to check something later, or follow up on your story in the future; * Once you have all your info press “Send via WhatsApp”
  10. 10. Sending your story *You are now working in WhatsApp and you must select a contact to send the content to; •Click on the paper clip to attach a document, a picture, audio or a video directly from your mobile device; * Or you can take a picture or record video or audio to send with your story; * Ideally, news rooms should create a dedicated contact number for staff or freelancers to file their Pocket Reporter content; * Remember that WhatsApp compresses data before sending it; * If the editor decides high resolution pictures or high quality video or audio is needed, you will have to send them via email or via a free service like WeTransfer
  11. 11. Important! * Pocket Reporter is a free, responsive web app that adjusts to the size of your screen; * You do not have to sign in to use it; • While we track general usage data of the tool, we do not collect any personal information and have no idea who you are or where you live, beyond your city and country; * If security is an issue, ensure you delete completed templates once you’ve sent them * We do not keep copies of your stories so we suggest you send copies to yourself as backup
  12. 12. About Pocket Reporter Pocket Reporter is a collaboration between OpenUp, a Cape Town-based civic tech NPO, and the Association of Independent Publishers. It began life as a volunteer-driven side project of a few techies and journalists. Pocket Reporter was the recipient of a grant from the South Africa Media Innovation Programme in 2018, which helped fund further development of the tool. Send your feedback and queries to: pocketreporter1@gmail.com Follow us on Twitter at @reporterpocket And on https://www.facebook.com/Pocket- Reporter-661869637528089/Facebook on Pocket Reporter

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