Privacy, fake news, failing print media sales, terrorism, violent governments: it has rarely been more difficult a time to be a journalist than it is now. Thankfully there is a smorgasbord of ultra-useful apps at the fingertips of modern hacks – and they all have uses outside news gathering, from getting new work to keeping information safe. Here are five of the best. Let us know if we’ve made any glaring errors in the comments below.
1. Happy Scribe
Journalists spend hours – days, even – painstakingly recording and transcribing delicate and oftentimes sensitive interviews. There are dozens of transcription services on the Web. Few work as well, or as cheaply, as Happy Scribe, founded last year by Marc Assens and André Bastié.
Their idea began when Bastié, an e-commerce master’s student at Dublin City University, couldn’t be bothered to transcribe for an academic paper. The pair soon discovered a massive pain point: not only does it take five hours to transcribe one hour of footage, but it can also cost hundreds of dollars, effectively pricing out journalists altogether.
Today Happy Scribe has won numerous awards. And with a going rate of €0.09 per minute – a tenth of many services – it’s not hard to see why. “Since day one, we’ve mainly focused our work on trying to provide the best experience for researchers, students and journalists,” Assens recently told Silicon Republic. The pair’s next solution will target sufferers of dyslexia who struggle with speed writing.
By 2020 there will be over 4.1 billion email users worldwide. While most people are happy to use popular, but privacy-lite, services such as Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo!, one Swiss firm is putting security at the center of its business plan.
Founded in 2013 in Geneva, Protonmail received its first $500,000 via crowdfunding, before winning a further $2m round in 2015. Its encrypted platform, developed by former CERN scientists in the wake of the Edward Snowden scandal, includes an option to set emails to expire after a certain amount of time – something Google is set to copy at Gmail.
Rather than the model of other email firms, which is to make money from its users’ data, Protonmail makes it clear that it, rather than its customers, is the product – and offers plans as low as $5 per month for those who, like journalists, would rather outsiders did not spy on their inbox.
It’s difficult to record phone conversations on the go – or in public, where anybody could listen in. Enter TapeACall, developed by New Jersey-based company TelTech, which makes it simple to record and save any chatter through your handset.
Rather than other apps, which are paid for per month and require no small amount of finagling to make work, TapeACall is able to record with just a click, and can even be set to record a call that’s about to happen. Just let it run in the background and pick up your transcript when you hang up. It’s available in 45 countries and 28 languages: great for globetrotting newshounds. And recordings can be shared almost instantly.
With dwindling press budgets and freelance work becoming ever harder, it’s little surprise some firms are taking it upon themselves to link journalists, fixers and translators with editors and publishers. HackPack, a Berlin-based startup founded by former Moscow Times reporter Justin Varilek in 2015, might be the slickest and easiest to use.
Users simply upload their details – including bylines, experience, skills and languages spoken – and they’re entered into a database of thousands of media professionals across the gamut of platforms and specialities. Almost every country is covered, and the company even has a partnership with the European Youth Press and Belarus Press Club.
Ok, so there’s Telegram, Signal and a whole host of encrypted messenger apps that aren’t owned by Facebook. But WhatsApp is ubiquitous and, as yet, a safe space in which to convey sensitive information. Almost every journalist uses it around the clock – and, so long as you’ve got access to a wireless network, it’s free.
It might not be the most original of opinions in this article, but the fact WhatsApp is used by over 1.5bn people means you’ll be able to chat with almost any contact you make in the field – while you’re locked in a Christmas planning group with your family members.