August 27, 2019

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.

Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that a “loose network of conservative operatives” had been targeting Times reporters and journalists from other prominent news organizations in an attempt to discredit their work.

The goal: To weaken perceived critics of President Donald Trump and stifle the role of news media as watchdogs.

The weapon of choice: Public statements and social media posts from journalists that could be viewed as damaging.

I’m of many minds on this topic.

For starters, it should go without saying that journalism is not a welcome place for bigots of any type. Our work is incompatible with abhorrent views that place some people above others. Anyone who actually holds those views should not work in a newsroom. Period. Full stop.

But last I checked, besides a handful of bots writing up stocks and sports stories, everyone employed at a news organization is human. And being human is messy. We have a tendency to say and do things that are clumsy, awkward, inappropriate and potentially hurtful.

As Hamilton Nolan writes for Splinter, “There is not a priestly class of people called ‘journalists’ who are able to produce Certified Real Journalism, which exists on a higher plane from the tawdry musings of the rabble.”

I’m sure, if everyone’s life was transformed into a script, scraping that script would reveal at least a handful of “damaging” statements. Social media has effectively gamified the transmutation of wayward thoughts, which we might have otherwise kept private or shared with a small group, into a public spectacle and up for grabs to anyone who knows how to exploit a search tool.

Which is why I’m OK with deleting old tweets.

TweetDelete is the nuclear option. It removes all of them. If you’d rather take the surgical approach, use Twitter’s Advanced Search tool. Input your username and any words you’d like to filter for in the “any of these words” box (start with these vulgar ones). If you need more help, check out my tips from the last time this happened.

One last bit of advice: Always let your finger hover over that tweet button and take a beat to reread what you’ve written. Your drafts folder might explode, but at least your mentions won’t.

Keep your house in order. But tidy it up every now and then.

BE PREPARED: From fires to hurricanes, tornadoes to flooding, the world seems to be facing more severe weather than ever. Whether you’re covering it or just caught in the middle, it’s wise to have a plan to keep yourself safe, especially when roads and landmarks are damaged beyond recognition. A service called what3words breaks the entire planet into 3-meter squares that are each assigned a unique combination of three words (the face of the Statue of Liberty, for instance, is “”). Think of it like latitude and longitude except much easier to remember and communicate. Emergency services groups are using it around the world, but it’s also potentially useful for a variety of non-emergency scenarios like protests or large public celebrations. Or just meeting your friends inside a rather large bar.

GREEN ALL OVER: Sometimes, it’s the little details that really make a story sing. And I mean little. Seek by iNaturalist (iOS and Android) is an app that combines image recognition technology with geolocation data to identify plants, animals and other living things that you manage to snap a photo of. Now you’ll never offend an entomologist by confusing a monarch butterfly with a viceroy butterfly or be mocked by amateur herpetologists for running from a kingsnake that you’ve mistaken for a coral snake. (Now if only it could tell you the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow…)

SPEEDBUMP: Are your Google Docs running slow? Do you have the Grammarly plugin installed? Grammarly is a useful tool for checking your grammar and spelling mistakes, even if you don’t pay for the premium features. And last fall, Grammarly enabled a beta feature that allows it to work on Google Docs. But a new bug seems to be throttling some users’ docs down to turtle speed. For now, try turning off Grammarly on the bottom right corner of your doc until you need to do a final copy edit.

WHEN TO WIN: None of us are in this for the awards. But winning one sure is gratifying. Though “journalism awards season” is generally seen as a lengthy expanse of time that starts somewhere around the Online News Association’s annual conference in the fall and ends around the Pulitzers in April, the truth is that they happen all the darn time. Sarah Vassello from the Institute for Nonprofit News and Katie Fleeman from Knowable Magazine gathered all of those dates and launched a journalism awards calendar that you can subscribe to to keep track of all of them. Missing one? Submit it and they’ll add it.

TRANSPARENT PNG: Trying to add a logo to a slideshow but you find that it has some wacky, off-white background? Or maybe you want to remove that ridiculous backdrop from your headshot? Online PNG Tools offers a two-click tool that renders backgrounds transparent. Photoshop who?


  • Instagram added a sticker for stories that lets friends request to join a group chat right from that story. It’s perfect for when everyone has something to say about some bangin’ avocado toast (this is not mockery; I will likely actually use it this way).
  • Facebook is quietly testing a feature that allows the app to find and connect to publicly available Wi-Fi networks. The problem? Plenty of them actually appear to be residential networks.
  • offers a tasty headline: Can TikTok save journalism? Erm, no (and you should be wary of any headline that looks like this). But it might inspire some kids to become journalists. And it sure is a blast to watch.
  • Apple’s iMessage comes with swanky features that only other iMessage users can see. This puts Android users, whose messages appear as green on iOS devices (instead of Apple’s blue), at a disadvantage. So Samsung has started a campaign to reclaim green chat messages.

EMOTES: Before there were emoji, there were emotes. He’s a whole page of them. I’m honestly not sure what else to say about this.


Try This! is supported by the American Press Institute and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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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…
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