A little while back I got a call from Kevin Coughlin, reporter for the Newark Star-Ledger. He said his paper's management is urging reporters to become more techno-savvy, so he was calling some journalistic technophiles to find out which tools and services are especially useful to working reporters.
His questions triggered a memory for me about something I observed at the Society of Environmental Journalists conference this past October.
While there were plenty of laptops in view at the conference, I noticed an amazing number of longtime reporters whipping out various brands of smart phones and using them for diverse tasks: taking notes, performing online searches, Web surfing, recording contact information, noting events on calendars, messaging with editors, recording audio and video, taking pictures, checking e-mail and feeds, and more. Occasionally, they even used them to place phone calls.
I was surprised because I've known many of these smart-phone-wielding reporters for a decade or more, and several of them are rather, um, technophobic. At least, they used to be. But something about smart phones seems to suit them -- maybe even better than laptops.
One thing's for sure: A really great smart phone costs a lot less than most laptops. That might be attractive to news organizations -- or reporters who are paying out of their pockets for better gear.