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.
How Pocket Reporter works
– and how it can help you
write better stories
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.
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.
Start a new story
* Click on the subject folder that your story
* 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
* Use the Resource folders for extra tips and
information to add to your story.
* For more info about Pocket Reporter click
* 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
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
* A title also makes it easier for the
person you’re sending the story to, to
identify what the story is about.
*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
*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
Info not covered in the template
* 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”
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
* 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
* 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
* 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
About Pocket Reporter
Pocket Reporter is a collaboration
between OpenUp, a Cape Town-based
civic tech NPO, and the Association of
It began life as a volunteer-driven side
project of a few techies and
Pocket Reporter was the recipient of a
grant from the South Africa Media
Innovation Programme in 2018, which
helped fund further development of
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