The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the news media environment. Many companies have closed their newsrooms and asked journalists to work remotely while staying safe at home.
Here are some recommendations on how to be more productive while reporting on business from your apartment.
Video and Audio Interviews
Many of us have learned about Zoom in the last couple of weeks. It’s the program used by many to study or work remotely. There is a new phrase going around: “Zoom fatigue.” Some think that it has a couple of shortcomings, such as slowing down your internet speed, crashing other applications, freezing the computer and so on. It’s worth looking into other alternatives.
Skype is probably the most obvious option that has been on the market way before Zoom. It’s free and allows users to record the video chat which could be very useful for broadcast business reporters as well as for those working on multimedia content.
WhatsApp and Facetime can also be effectively used for video chats. But if you are looking for something more professional, www.androidauthority.com names Google Hangouts Meet – a video conferencing service that allows up to 250 users to be at the meeting at the same time. You would be able to invite participants to join via a link and record the interview. The price starts at 6$ a month and Google does not offer a free option.
Zoho Meeting is another alternative that has similar features as Zoom, such as sharing screen, recording, being able to mute the mics and hide the video and others. Like Google Hangouts Meet, Zoho can also allow up to 250 participants, but it depends on the type of plan that you choose. The simplest one starts from $8 per month.
Zoho and Google Hangouts Meet can be more suitable for newsroom meetings. If you are looking for a free program for a smaller number of participants, LifeSize can be an option. It allows up to 25 participants for 90 minutes with a free plan.
One of the most challenging parts of reporting from home is getting good visuals. There are a couple of tools that you may have been already using before but can master to create high-quality content.
Business journalists can use Google Earth to see the places they are unable to visit. For example, if you are interested in a construction site of a certain company, all you need to do is to find it on the map. The desktop version of the application allows you to see the historical imagery and, for instance, find out how the site was developed over the years. Keep in mind that only the desktop version has this function, not the website.
Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) offers some online resources for creating effective visualizations, such as Datawrapper which is useful for easy and quick charts and Snagit, which is better for graphics and Gifs. Flourish allows users to create not only charts but maps and animations as well and it’s free for newsrooms. Another good source for quick visualizations is Canva which offers many of its features for free and is easy to use for beginners.
Reporting tips and tricks
Once you have mastered the online software and tools, it’s time to make the best use out of it.
IRE recently published a tipsheet of resources for TV and radio journalists reporting from home. The document lists tools for recording videos and audios, as well as online platforms for data visualizations. It would be especially useful for those journalists who continue working remotely as broadcast reporters.
Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) has also opened its EdTalks to the public and offers tips about remote multimedia reporting.
If you are looking for more recommendations for narrative writing and reporting, Twitter is the platform to visit. Fernanda Santos, a professor at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and a former Phoenix bureau chief at the New York Times, published a list of remote reporting strategies on Twitter that she has gathered with her students.
These tips are mainly focused on getting as much visual content remotely as possible, as well as gathering details about the characters. These techniques can be useful for business journalists writing profiles and longform pieces. Santos recommends asking the interviewees to allow you to attend, for example, a family gathering as an observer by just “being there” in a Zoom video chat. It can also be useful for the narrative if the characters keep a daily diary, written or audio piece that would provide information about their lives. “The diary can also be used to keep a narrative of daily activities to be shared with and reconstructed by the reporter,” Santos wrote in her Twitter feed.
Santos also talked about the importance of research and backgrounding in adding depth to the story. She recommends spending more time on this now that all of us are still in front of computers.
Start with mastering these tools and techniques and look for more as you transition to working remotely. Some of these will be useful even once the pandemic is over and we go back to our usual work environments.