Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tools of the trade

I couldn't help but laugh, perhaps wistfully, at Bernstein and Woodward's reporting tools: a mere pad of paper, a rotary phone, maybe a stack of phonebooks. What, no iPhone?

Today I find myself taking a more than just a few seconds to unpack my bag o' technology: laptop, phone, camera, appropriate chargers and cords. I see a handful of Blackberries to my left and a dozen DSLRs to my right. I think I'm slightly better than most of my technophile friends from the Silicon Valley (I still read actual books, and -- gasp -- newspapers, after all) but I know I've developed a dependency on my gadgets. And I wonder: does it hurt or help our reporting? I admitted in class that as I was taking notes on Downie's talk, I found myself typing without fully listening, and I had to refocus. On the other hand, I loved watching Woodward scribble notes and make connections on his notepad or Bernstein lean in to really listen and connect with a source rather than fiddle with a smartphone.

I'm most worried about students being so attached to their devices. We had a computer lab issue during class once and my students felt paralyzed and unable to do any work without Internet access. How do you teach students to work the "old-fashioned" way? To research, to interview, to write without distraction or reliance on technology? I think there's so much value to starting a story on paper rather than on a screen, but I can't deny the advantages of technology. I'm interested to hear what you do.

Kim Vinh
Sequoia High School
Redwood City, Calif.


  1. Oh, and a thank you to Michelle for being a lovely hand model... though I only moved the coffee cup closer to set up this shot; everything else was there!

    Adding one more thing to our reporter's essentials: at least coffee is slightly better than Carl's cigarettes, no?

  2. Kim as another resident techno geek, I agree it is paralyzing to be without it. I almost would suggest doing a session about this creating a scenario of a blackout.

  3. Kim, this is such a witty observation and commentary on our modern necessities. I am hooked to my electronics, as I think most of us are. It is evident any time we break from a session... just watch the cell phones come flying out of the pockets.

  4. Kim -- I can totally relate to your comment... Wow.. I do find that I can type way faster, but I lack the ability to really hear unless I am actually making eye contact... I attempted to type and watch this presentation... what a mess... Nice observation.