8 must-have iPhone & Android apps for covering breaking news

At the Lawrence Journal World, we recently outfitted our reporters with iPhone 4s -- a move that has yielded multiple advantages.

Having been an iPhone owner for years, I've compiled a list of apps for reporters and bloggers to download and briefly explained how to use them. Each one of these has proven helpful in my own work as a journalist and in our newsroom as a whole when covering breaking news.

Twitter for iPhone
This is a must-have. You can add multiple accounts, so reporters can live tweet events from both your news account and their personal account. It’s also a good contact tool.

5-0 Radio Police Scanner
An instant police scanner (with tens of thousands of feeds) anywhere you go. If you’re on the way to cover breaking news, you can listen to scanner traffic on your phone while you drive. With the Pro version, you can record scanner traffic as an .mp3.

Google maps
This app comes pre-installed on the iPhone. You can search for directions before going on an assignment and use it as a GPS. You can also bookmark favorite locations. And you can navigate your way home when you get lost.

The Weather Channel or Weather+
These apps are more accurate and simply better than the pre-installed weather app, and they provide more information. You can also get severe weather alerts and radar.

Voice Memos
This pre-installed app is best used to record podcasts and raw audio. You can edit files and email or text them after recording. On iPhones, the files are sent in a .m4a format, which is the MPEG version of an audio file. The file can be imported directly into iTunes or Garage Band for podcasting and editing. You may need to convert the file into an .mp3 if your CMS doesn't handle .mp4 files. On Android, standard audio file format is a .amr, but other voice recording apps record in different file types that can be converted to an .mp3 using any file conversion program.

USTREAM Live Broadcaster
Instant live streaming on a 3G or wifi network. Log in and hit “Go live.” You can mute audio, add polls and record your live stream directly to your phone. This is a great option for breaking news and live streaming events or press conferences (as long as your network is reliable). Just make sure you use a tripod.

You can edit and share on the fly with iMovie for iPhone. The app lets you pick themes, add music, insert photos and record audio. You can then export and share the movie directly to the Web or add it straight to your computer when you sync.

  • Cost: $4.99
  • Android: No
  • Needs iOS 4.2.6 or later

Using this photo app is a great way to make your pics look artsy. You can also share them directly on multiple social channels or via email.

  • Cost: Free
  • Android: No
  • Needs iOS 3.1.2 or later

Remember to:

  • Add bookmarks to your Web browser as soon as you get your phone. Make a list of URLs you want to bookmark. Keeping an organized list of bookmarks will save valuable time when trying to navigate the Web. I keep bookmarks for adding and editing stories, photos and videos to our websites. I also bookmark URLs for sending text and email alerts, checking for local power outages and updating the home page of our main website.
  • Test upload photos, videos, text and audio from your phone's browser. Some systems may not be compatible with smartphones, so have a plan in place for uploading content before a big story breaks.

What apps have you found helpful when covering breaking news?


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