Two Minute Tips

Tech tools that increase a reporter’s productivity

July 11, 2017

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Ticking timelines mean reporters need to be nimbler than ever. (Image from "Foto-Rabe" via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain)
Ticking timelines mean reporters need to be nimbler than ever. (Image from "Foto-Rabe" via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain)

Productivity is important in any line of work. And for reporters with seemingly endless deadlines, efficiency is a must. Here are four areas where apps and online services can help you speed your day.

Calendar scheduling

Emailing back and forth to find times for a conversation or meeting can be a drawn-out process. A calendar scheduling program is a great help as it acts like a personal assistant to set up appointments. I like Calendly, software a client of mine asked that I use for scheduling with them. The website syncs with your calendar, whether it’s on your desktop through Outlook (PC only, not Mac, for this option), part of Office 365 (the cloud version of Microsoft Office) or on iCloud or Google Calendar. There are mobile versions as well. You send a custom URL to people and they’ll automatically see what days and times are taken and which are open.

When discussing search, people often focus on the web. But for anyone who deals with large numbers of files, documents, spreadsheets, and emails, the ability to quickly find material on your own desktop is important. Get the right Word processing document , spreadsheet, PDF or email and you’ve got the fact or contact detail you needed. I currently use an application called Copernic and pay for the full edition, which supports more file types than the free version.

Expense account reporting

If you travel for business, this can change your on-the-road experience. When I was out of town on a weekly basis, snagging, storing and then entering all of my receipts was an utter pain, but necessary in order to receive reimbursement. Using a phone app helped me manage the paper chase. I took a photo of a receipt and forwarded the image to an email address. A cloud-based system pulled out the text and returned a report I could submit, or an entry for accounting. A number of companies like Neat and Expensify offer such systems.

Transcription software

I don’t generally record interviews as I typically do them over the phone and am a fast typist. But there have been times I needed to record and transcribe later. Transcription software (often called dictation software to distinguish it from speech-to-text translation) is a boon. Some packages let you slow playback speed without changing pitch so you can more easily catch what people say. Others will let you add time codes, which is particularly useful if you do multimedia work. Some, like the web-hosted Transcribe, do both. Services like Trint use speech recognition to create a first draft and then let you edit it. Some people love them and some hate them, but they’re at least worth testing to see how they work for you. One idea: When recording, watch the time codes. When you hear something of interest, write the code down. Then you go to that part of the recording and transcribe only what you want. Full transcripts can be more helpful in the long run, but under tight deadlines, this saves time.

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