Monday, 11 March 2013

Reportage: iPhone journalism - a visually impaired perspective

It’s not easy trying to embrace new technologies when you’re visually impaired, but if Journalism Week has taught me one thing, it’s how to adapt.

I’ve been training as a journalist since January at Leeds Trinity University, working towards the postgraduate NCTJ in Magazine Journalism. As someone interested in writing features and reviews, I was surprised by the emphasis on multi-platform journalism and multimedia technologies.

I’ve always been willing to embrace technology, but the iPhone is a device that I’ve largely ignored, associating it with obnoxious proto-gangsters who linger on the backseats of buses, thin men sporting bad facial hair and trilbies, and tech geeks. So when the tutors and guest speakers were singing the iPhone’s praises, I was initially sceptical.

We had a number of workshops on the iPhone and mobile journalism. We learnt how to use it for taking photographs, recording audio, and for making and editing video. We were shown how to use apps like iMovie and Voddio, and then how to publish content onto sites like YouTube and SoundCloud.

This is where I ran into difficulties.

I have a progressive eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa which means I have no peripheral vision and i have trouble with certain lights and colours.

I kept relying on fellow students to select the app I needed as the icons were too small for me to read. I found the screen to be either too dim or too glary to comfortably look at, and some of the apps were too small and detailed to use.

When Journalism Week arrived, I decided to stick with the technology I was comfortable with - a Nikon D3100 DSLR camera, a laptop computer, and a HHB FlashMic. I spent the week photographing speakers, writing articles, and conducting audio interviews. One tutor joked that I was “off-roading”.

It was apparent that those using the iPhones were ahead of the game. They could simply record an audio, edit it on screen, and have it sent to SoundCloud within seconds. I had to use card readers, USB leads, and wait while things transferred from one device to another, before editing it and then uploading it manually to SoundCloud.

This is another place where I ran into difficulty.

The SoundCloud interface was not made with the visually impaired in mind. This meant that I had to email the audio to the editor, and get them to upload it on my behalf.

Of course the audio quality on the iPhone doesn’t match the FlashMic, and a good DSLR will always take better photos. But what came through quite clearly during Journalism Week was just how convenient it is to have everything on the same device that can publish instantly.

I won’t be using the iPhone for mobile reporting, but I hope that Apple will consider releasing an iPhone with a much larger screen, or an iPad with a broadcast-quality microphone. Perhaps then I’ll be willing to invest.

Large portions of this article were used on

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