New Tools

I got a new lens the other day, a 35 f1.8. I took it out for a spin briefly while on my porch today, and I’m pleased with the result:

The tools of reporting are changing, and trying to keep up with the times is a big part of 21st century journalism. I tote a camera with me everywhere I go, but I also take an audio recorder, a microphone and the ability to shoot video. Not much else will fit in my little bag.

I sent a followup email to the U.S. Forces—Iraq media office to see where I am with my embed request. They responded everything looked good, but they will be back to me shortly. That has got me thinking once again about what tools I’d shove in a bag to the Middle East.

I’m going primarily for radio, but there isn’t a chance I’d leave behind a camera. But on top of my reporting gear, the list includes a bulletproof vest, a helmet, ballistic goggles and armor piercing plates—that’s a bit more kit than I’m accustomed to.

How do you get the story home? What is the best way tell it? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a while now. With the Reporter, I’m primarily a writer. I shoot photos as well, but most of my time is spent researching and writing stories, only one of the mediums I love to work in.

Some of the freelance work I’ve been doing recently is audio production, one of the best mediums to tell stories. I’d love to be doing more of that. Much of the motivation for the Iraq trip is to build my radio resume, because reporting from the Middle East is exactly what I’d love to be doing.

But a huge chunk of my recent work has been video, a fuller medium to work in. I just put together my first piece for a new northern New Hampshire client, something that will hopefully help raise the region’s profile in the long run.

It’s great to work in so many mediums—I’m not sure I could choose just one. The way of the future for reporters is to be able to handle it all, as new software and better equipment makes it possible for anyone to create.

But I spend thousands of dollars, on microphones, computers, lenses, cameras, cables and memory cards. I’m ordering new software: $170 and $450; new lens: $550; new audio recorder: $600. It’s a race to keep the equipment ahead of the curve, and at the same time keep my credit card below the limit.

But the results! I just shot a video with one of my cameras and edited it all in a day. I’ll post the results as soon as I’ve given it to the client, but it’s great, particularly how it got used. Running through the woods, jumping over rocks, splashing through rivers, it performed throughout.

But getting shot at in Iraq? That’s a bit more testing. I took $4,000 in camera equipment to Peru, and it made it back fine, but that wasn’t a war zone, literally. Expensive tools plus desert sand sounds like a perfect storm for their demise.

An opportunity like this, however, should it arrive is not something to be passed over lightly. There will always be new tools.

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