I don’t do a whole lot of actual journalism these days. I would say I never did, actually. But I do teach a section of media production at the journalism school here. The basics of the course are learning to shoot and edit photos, record and edit audio, and use those pieces in conjunction with the reporting and writing they’re being taught by a different instructor to tell stories.
One wish I have is for a class to consist of learning to report strictly using smartphones. My smartphone is the iPhone, and I actually have no idea how any other one works. But enough of my students use iPhones that I think it could be an easy thing to cobble together a section of iPhone reporting. That’s a bit of a digression, but the point remains.
In my class, students come to a point where they are recording audio of the interviews they conduct. They use that audio to put together a 75-90 second audio report similar to something you might hear on an NPR station. That audio report is dropped into an application called Soundslides, married to a set of photos, and voila—an audio slideshow that tells the viewer a great story.
Oner issue that I have continually run into over the years is dealing with the audio. The recorders the students are asked to use have to be used in a specific way to get quality audio recordings. Then, the audio is a little more difficult to get off of the recorder than it needs to be. Because of this, I started suggesting that students use their iPhones to capture the audio. The problem with that is you have to have your phone set up properly. When you’re in a crunch, changing your phone to grab some audio off of it is a pain and can screw up all of your music and such.
DropVox is an app ($1.99) that connects to your existing Dropbox account and automatically uploads any audio recordings you make within it directly to a directory within your Dropbox. It works exactly as Voice Memo (the default audio recording app on an iPhone) does, but it doesn’t save the files locally—just in your Dropbox. That means you don’t have to pull the recording off of the phone. You can log into your Dropbox account from any internet-connected machine and grab the file.
I suggested this app to my students this semester and one told me the other day it works beautifully for her needs. I have used it to conduct an interview that lasted ~17 minutes and it went flawlessly. I pulled the file down when I got to my office and produced my finished story to use as an example for my students. The $1.99 became worth it just with that use. It was easy enough that I might begin using it just to get a project or two going for myself.
Ryan Jerz is an all-around good guy who shoots photos and video, builds websites, and works at the University of Nevada. Ryan formerly taught digital production at Nevada's Reynolds School of Journalism.