January 7, 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.

Let me guess something about your browser.

You have a tab open for your calendar. A few more contain documents that you’re working on. You might have one open with Chartbeat or Parse.ly or Google Analytics. There’s a good chance you’re reading this email in another tab that you keep constantly open.

Sound right?  

Though modern internet worker drones like you and me can vary quite a bit — something I realized when my colleague gasped that I had 13 browser tabs open, a pretty small number for me — we all likely keep a few important web applications open at all times.

It’s not generally a problem until you open a few more. Another work document, two social sites and a handful of articles you’re DEFINITELY going to read later and your formerly organized system suddenly looks like a TJ Maxx — chock full of good stuff with no apparent organization. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Station is a quasi-browser (for Windows, Mac and Linux) specifically built with web apps in mind. Instead of tabs, it contains a smart dock with intuitive icons. Load up your favorite apps from the more than the 600 Station supports and then easily skip between them with a few keyboard shortcuts. And don’t worry about clogging it up with other pages, because opening a link in Station drops that link back into your web browser of choice, safely quarantined from your apps.

It takes a while to build the finger muscle memory to master the shortcuts that really make Station worth the trip. But hey, new year, new you. Right?

IN FACT: Trust in news is back on the rise, but it still ain’t pretty. One way journalists are combatting that is through transparency. Using a tool like DocumentCloud to share the primary documents behind an important article can help reporters build credibility with skeptical readers. DocumentCloud has been free for journalists since 2010 but will begin charging based on tiered payment plans sometime in the first half of 2019.

THE GOOD, THE BAD: “It’s a question that gets asked every time Facebook does something wrong,” writes Matthew Ingram for Columbia Journalism Review. “In 2019, will the tide turn against Facebook and social media?” My take: probably not. But 2018 did feel a lot like the low-carb movement in the late ’90s. People are noticing social media’s effects on them and, while a small number have decided to #deletefacebook and eliminate social media from their internet diet, plenty more are just cutting back. In the meantime, some tech companies actually deserve praise for their work in 2018.

ON MY RADAR: It’s 2019, folks. You absolutely have to switch to using a password manager if you haven’t already. They keep your passwords safer, generate more secure ones for you and will probably save you a good amount of time and stress. My tool of choice is LastPass, but I just learned about Mycena, ostensibly an even more secure option. Rather than hosting passwords in an online vault protected by a master password, Mycena stores passwords locally on your devices and offers a mix-and-match security system. Combine fingerprint scans, PINs, lock patterns, voice passphrases and face ID to keep your passwords safe.

FOR FUNSIES: Ah, humanity. We have this wonderful ability to make the horrors of the world seem palatable. Giant waves? We’ll surf ‘em. Deep, dark caves? We’ll spelunk ‘em. Lions, tigers and bears — the literal killers of our ancestors? They’re the stars of children’s movies. We’ll turn ‘em into plushies and send ‘em to bed with our toddlers. So of course we were going to do the same with deepfakes, a horrifying assault on truth that can manipulate the political discourse and jeopardize national security. Pick Donald Trump, Mark Zuckerberg or … Ira Glass (?!) and make them say whatever you want with the clack of a few keys.


  • Podcasters, radio show producers and anyone who publishes audio: If you’re not posting a transcript on your site, you’re losing out on SEO value and missing out on the 35 million Americans who are part of the deaf or hard of hearing community. Oh, and if something ever happens to that audio file, your hard work will be lost to time. Happy Scribe, one of my favorite automatic transcription tools, just launched an embeddable transcript player that solves all three.
  • Ever go to Reddit on mobile only to be assaulted by that darn pop-up that prompts you to use the app instead? You can turn that off. It’s the little things in life.

LOOKING BACK: I put together a list of what I thought were the best tools for journalists in 2018. Even if you’ve been a subscriber since late October and saw that I published that list week by week in this newsletter, I added 10 other great resources and tools to bookmark. It’s worth checking out again.

THE WRINGER: Also, thank you to the remarkable number of readers who pointed out my error in the last issue of the year. Rest assured, I will never write “put through the ringer” again in my life. Your keen eyes give me hope for the future of copy editing. (Editor’s note: It’s particularly galling that I missed this, especially in light of the famous Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham story.)

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 Poynter.org. He was previously Poynter's digital tools reporter, chronicling tools and technology for journalists, and a producer for…
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