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Gear And Strategy Upgrade Day: Mobile Journalism Improvements

I upgrade my mobile journalism software.

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I filed eight articles and six blog posts last week. While that’s hardly a week’s work for the average staff reporter, that’s a heavy load for me. I admire how those staff reporters can machine-gun off stories with hardly a pause between them, but that’s not really what I specialize in. I’m mostly a features writer — although I have to admit that five of those articles this week were general reporting for the SCMP.

This is all to say that on this Monday morning I woke up searching for something a little different to do. I figured that it was probably time to do a gear and strategy upgrade.

Around two or three times per year I look at my journalism gear and how I utilize it and I look for ways to improve on both. My last upgrade lead to me getting a Blackberry Passport, a move which revolutionized my working process. For this one I’m looking into how better to use it.

Over the past year I’ve been relegating more and more of the work flow to my phone. This is mostly because this enables me to better utilize time that I would normally be putting into waiting in line, sitting on trains, or lounging around in airports. Laptop time is precious — this is where the articles and books are produced, and don’t want to sacrifice this time on tasks that could be done during less valuable periods of the day. While breaking out a laptop when on the move isn’t necessarily a difficult thing to do, it is more cumbersome than just taking out a phone, and there are many situations where you simply wouldn’t do this — like while standing or when your wait is probably only going to be for ten minutes or so. Using my phone for all the nuances of my profession frees up more space to sit on the laptop and plow.

This has led to me using my phone for more types of tasks than I ever have before:

  • Blogging
  • All note taking
  • All photos and video
  • Almost all social media
  • Almost all email
  • Teathering WIFI
  • Booking hotels
  • Buying airline tickets
  • Handling finances
  • All other bullshit that I do not require a laptop for

This is what I want to upgrade:

  • Video editing
  • Video publishing
  • Photo editing

One task that I want to add to my phone repertoire is video editing and publishing. Videos are one of my baseline sources of income — much of the research travels for the ghost cities book was funded by my YouTube channel. While my videos are made for documentation and illustration alone and don’t necessarily take much time to produce (too much time spent on them makes them monetarily not worth it) they are not something that I want to use laptop time on. I want to be able to shoot videos on location and then be able to immediately edit and publish them while riding away on the train, subway, bus . . . Just get them done and out there, quick and easy.

While I can upload videos from my phone to YouTube via the mobile version of their website — not through an app — I would like this to be more streamlined and fast.

So I began looking into the best ways to make this happen this morning and found myself at a familiar impasse: the best apps for mobile journalism are Apple only. YouTube Capture looks to do exactly what I want it to, but I just can’t use it with a Blackberry with Android capabilities.

I’ve thought of getting a refurbished iPhone 5S for photo and video work as well as to take advantage of Apple-only mojo apps — such as one that allows you to geo-locate users of various social media networks, which would be extremely useful for my work — but I’m not sure if I could bring myself to it after years of talking shit about Apple. I’ve waited for years for the Android market to come around and be competitive, but it just hasn’t, and the Blackberry developer community . . . really doesn’t seem to exist anymore.

I’ve tried to use many different video editing apps in the past but haven’t yet found one that’s adequate. I don’t only need an app that can edit single clips but one that can combine clips together into a real video. Based on the recommendation of this site, I tried Viddy — that shit didn’t work — and now I’m on AndroVid.

Works excellent. Compatible with BB10. Check.

As far as image editing goes, I really don’t do too much of it. Most of the photos that I publish here and in other outlets are delivered “as-is.” I don’t find it worthwhile to spend quality work time toying with images — again, I take photos and videos for documentation and illustration, not to be artsy or to impress anyone. That said, cropping photos is sometimes necessary to better show the story that the image is intended to tell. I take all photos with my phone now, so there is no zoom capabilities which sometimes leads to the subject of the photo being drowned out in a sea of excess space.

So I installed Snapseed and I’m playing with it now. I’m seriously impressed. The app is as straight forward as it can possibly be — it’s only a single screen and superimposes all options over the image you intend to edit — and allows for quick work, which is essential. It is also compatible with BB10. Done.

The reason why I’ve dramatically altered my image/video acquisition strategy and equipment — using only a phone rather than a separate camera — will be outlined in a future post.

That’s it for this round of gear and strategy upgrading. Now it’s time to get back to work.

Filed under: Digital Nomad, Journalism

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3632 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York

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