August 28, 2017

This article originally appeared in Try This! — Tools for Journalism, our newsletter about digital tools. Want bite-sized news, tutorials and ideas about the best digital tools for journalism in your inbox every Monday? Sign up here.

As I’m writing this, Hurricane Harvey is gaining strength and moving toward Texas. Seems like a good time to remind you that Google’s Crisis Map is a great tool for tracking global weather anomalies and humanitarian crises.

ON MY RADAR: What in the world is a Bitcoin? Why should I care about the f-stop on a camera lens? How do you make panoramic pictures with your phone? If you have a burning question about technology and nobody around to answer it, check out TechForReporters. It’s like Yahoo Answers but for journalists and without that Looney Tunes vibe. Its founder claims there are “a few hundred technologists” available to answer journalists’ questions. I asked about using multiple cameras in a Facebook Live stream and had two great answers within a day.

NEW TOOL, FOUR STEPS: You know that thing where people take a bunch of screenshots of their phone screen (think texts, Facebook posts, tweetstorms, etc.) and then post them all in a series? There’s a better way (if you’re an iOS user).

  1. Download Tailor from the App Store.
  2. Take your screenshots and make sure they overlap a little bit.
  3. Open Tailor and select the images to be stitched together. There’s a good chance it’ll do it for you.
  4. Export. Now you’ve got a nice, tall, seamless image instead of some weird amalgamation.

BAD NEWS: The folks at Adobe Premiere must have been licking their lips when Apple released Final Cut X in 2011. It bombed in the video editing community. Many editors chose to either remain on Final Cut 7 (does Apple know how to count?) or switch to Premiere. Well, bad news for the former — Final Cut 7 isn’t supported in Apple’s upcoming macOS update. (h/t Alan Haburchak)

CRUNCHING NUMBERS: Despite our decades-long national debate about the Second Amendment, I realized that I had no understanding of my state’s gun laws. That’s embarrassing. I’ve lived here for seven years. So I was pretty thrilled to see that a nonprofit called Everytown for Gun Safety has gathered need-to-know information about each state’s laws. Everytown is dedicated to reducing gun violence, but the information in its Gun Law Navigator is solid no matter how you interpret the Founding Fathers’ intentions with the Second Amendment.

40 BETTER HOURS: I never thought an app would appeal to my desire to kick my phone addiction and my deep-seated concerns about the environment, but here we are. Download the Forest app, set the app’s timer and watch as a seed is planted. Use your phone before timer is up and the tree dies. Grow enough digital trees and Forest will plant real trees. Give yourself a hug. (h/t Taylor Gaudens)

LAST WEEK: One of the biggest challenges about tools for journalism is that there are too darn many of them. I’ve found ways to make that work in my favor with IFTTT, a website and app that allows you to connect one tool to another via “recipes.” Kristen Hare and I talked about the possibilities in our chat last week.

What do you do when you’ve cobbled together the most comprehensive database about opioid-related deaths in your entire state? If you’re, you publish it on an easy-to-use platform so that academics, researchers and other journalists can use it. They call it a public service.

ON TAP: We’re hosting training for that easy-to-use platform, called, on Thursday at 2 p.m. Eastern. Data reporters might roll their eyes at this, but it really is the GitHub for data. You should join us. It won’t cost you a dime.

Got a burning question about tools? Ask TechForReporters. Just kidding! I’m here to help. Let me know what you’re up to, what you’ve made or what you need help on and I might feature you in the newsletter. Email me and let me know.

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of articles that highlight digital tools for journalists. You can read the others here. Got a tool we should talk about? Let Ren know!

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Ren LaForme is the Managing Editor of He was previously Poynter's digital tools reporter, chronicling tools and technology for journalists, and a producer for…
Ren LaForme

More News

Back to News