Journalist Toolbox: My 5 Secret Weapons for Digital Reporting

March 2, 2019

 (Note, this is not me but we kinda look alike.)



Hey guys! Whew, it's March!  Kudos to all of us for surviving the wildest Black History Month, crazy political plot twists (this is not the season finale of America guys, stay hopeful) and one of the warmest winters on record, (although it doesn't feel like it today in NYC).


I've personally spent the past few months on a rollercoaster of life and career changes, and I have to say I am loving and trusting the process.


Chances are you're here because you attended NABJ's Millennial Media Summit at Columbia University and heard me speak on a panel.


Achievement unlocked! Not only did you dedicate your Saturday to professional growth, but you also followed through and visited my website to gather additional reporting tools.


The world of journalism is constantly evolving and it's always helps to have a little help to thrive.  


[What's better is these companies didn't pay me to post this- but they should though! Someone tell them I'm always accepting checks! :) ]


As promised I've listed my 5 Secret Weapons for digital reporting below.  They were so good I couldn't keep them to myself, and I hope they make your life easier.

1. Grammarly


Working for a digital news site, time is of the essence.  As more and more news shops face pressure to publish higher volumes of content, with fewer dedicated staff for copyediting, it becomes important that journalists know how to be their own editors.


I learned early on in my career that regardless of who edits my piece, my name is going to be on my work and I'll be held responsible for what is in the article.


Any digital journalist knows that sinking feeling when someone points out an error in your published piece-- or worse when you have to publish a correction.




After running into frustrations with editing, I decided to get a subscription to Grammarly.  It proofreads my pieces and lets me tailor my goals for different types of writing, such as a formal explainer article or an informal storytelling piece.


It isn't perfect and doesn't catch some of the nuances needed to edit an article for a digital site like theGrio, but it doesn't hurt either.


Now before I submit to an editor, I know I've done all I can to make my piece publish-ready.


2. Google Voice


"I got twooo phones..." Most people don't know that when they are calling my "work line" it's my cell phone with a secondary number.  Google Voice is the plug for allowing me to separate work and personal phone calls without literally having to carry two phones.



But what's better is that Google Voice allows users to record calls from their phone. By simply pressing 4 at the start of a call, Google Voice will record and neatly store the phone call by date and time, as well as note the length.  Then you can download it directly from Google.


(Here's a short video on how Google Voice works) 


This tool is essential for interviews when I'm in the field and don't have my laptop to type full conversations (something I no longer do thanks to the last tool on this list, but stay tuned...).


Note that Google Voice is not a secret call recorder. So when you press 4 it will announce, "Call is now being recorded." BUT that's cool because I'm not Michael Cohen and don't have a need to secretly record folks most of the time.  Side note: You can also stop recording during the phone call by pressing 4 again.




Lynda, Lynda, Lynda. saved my life when I was transitioning from traditional broadcast news to digital news.


It had been an entire year since I needed to edit a single video, thanks to working for one of the few medium-market TV stations that had video editors and no MMJs.


However, once I started in digital news, all that luxury was out the window. 


I needed to refresh the editing skillset I'd learned at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism and master Adobe Premiere in time for my audition at theGrio.





Through Lynda I had access to hundreds of courses, which retaught me the basics of editing, transitions and even setting up lighting for shoots.


Thanks to Lynda and YouTube, I walked into my audition and landed a short-term contract, which then became a full-time job offer.


4. Vont


Vont is my favorite mobile app to share my video work with the 'Gram generation.  Let's be real-- we do a lot of really in-depth journalism and reporting, but at the end of the day there's an entire audience which only gets its news by Instagram.


Every journalist has a different style and rationale for how they present themselves on Instagram, but I take the opportunity to integrate my work.


Don't just look at selfies I took at brunch.  You gon' get this news clip too.


(Example of a video I made with Vont) 

 Vont is perfect for taking a video and making the dimensions square, as well as allowing you to put text on the video.


This is important for ensuring you get proper credit for your work (especially in an age where people just rip and share things with no regard for journalistic standards).


The $2.99 cost is 100 percent worth the benefit of enhancing your clips.


5. Trint


If you want to change your life as a journalist, start by reducing the time it takes to do the most painful part of the reporting process: transcribing.


"But Natasha," you say- "How can I eliminate hours of being hunched over a laptop with headphones, rewinding and replaying a conversation I really only needed 2 minutes from? Isn't it a right of passage?"




Nah fam.  I'm here to tell you there is a better way.


Trint is a tool that lets you upload audio or video and automatically transcribes it into text.


No games. No lies.


I've found that Trint accurately transcribes 85-90 percent of the time depending on who is speaking on the clip, so editing is minimal.


What's better is that it allows you to play back your audio on higher speeds, and make your own edits as you go.


The tool is also computer smart, so you can teach it to recognize unfamiliar or tricky words and phrases (like flewed out) and it will know for future transcriptions.


Having hours of my day back to focus on writing stories has transformed my efficiency and effectiveness as a journalist and video producer.


There has been no bigger or better game-changer for me, and I highly recommend Trint for any digital journalist trying to become better at their craft.


I hope this list helps jumpstart some progress for you but let's keep spreading the love.


Is there a tool I didn't mention that you think would be helpful for other reporters?  Post it in the comments below!  And don't forget to subscribe to my blog to get a monthly note from me.


Yours Truly, 






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Journalist Toolbox: My 5 Secret Weapons for Digital Reporting

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