The equipment of this freelance multimedia journalist: How I became a better reporter this Christmas

It may seem like another cost, another obstacle to your dream. That’s because it is. Journalism students face the challenge of getting professional experience from newspapers and magazines that often don’t pay. Buying the multimedia equipment that would have to be part of anyone’s journalism tool box does cost money that many young journalists, fresh freelancers or recently-unemployed reporters don’t have.

So, I took three years, much of my own money and at least two gifts to accumulate what equipment I think to be important for a developed, independent multimedia journalist. Yesterday, I was thrilled to be given the last of the below items as my family Christmas gift.

All that said, these are tools, not rules. While I am by no means independently wealthy, much of the world doesn’t have the financial resources with which I am blessed.

So, here’s my triage of multimedia equipment, what you need most.

If even time doesn’t offer an opportunity for you to build on this tool box. Take heart. Nothing on the below list could replace hard work, smarts and persistence…. lots and lots of persistence.

I have ordered the items by importance relative to cost, output and value, in my opinion. There are a host of alternatives for all of the below products. These are only the ones I have chosen, come to know and would recommend.

  • Get yourself an audio recorder that can be simply uploaded onto a computer with a USB port. You’ll find more

    secrets from your interviews, in this digital age you can e asily archive your interviews to return to them later, and, better yet, you can quickly edit audio packages. Boom, multimedia.
    My choice: Olympus WAS-331M Digital Voice Recorder
    (Amazon.com user reviews): This was a college graduation gift for a bit more than $100. Produces a WAV file, which needs to be changed to MP3 to be edited in Audacity, but dragging the file onto your computer via a USB port more than makes up for it. Good quality, easy to use. Most importantly, it’s fast. I also use it more as a basic flash drive – which is a nice feature.

  • The costs for digital cameras have plummeted. For a tick more than $100, I got a great simple tool that gives me the option of taking Web-quality photos and video. (Update: There is no mic-jack, so the video does remain limited, however its audio recorder could replace a traditional tool of that kind)
    Nikon Coolpix S210
    (Digital Photography review):
    Photos at 8.0 megapixel and film quality worthy of a fine video podcast like this. While this is a great point-and-click, any newspaper or journalist looking to focus more heavily on video might want to look at other options. Also, there are great sites that help you pick the best camera for you.
    I have another video camera given to me by NBC for my work travel blogging and podcasting them in Japan. More on that later.
  • Joby GP1-01EN Gorillapod Flexible TripodFor $20 hire yourself a permanent cameraman.
    Joby GP1-01EN Gorillapod Flexible Tripod
    : Because I can’t afford that luxury of a camera man, I have to rely on nearby poles and this spacey looking tripod (Amazon link). Each leg is split into several ball and socket joints that allow the legs to grasp nearly anything.
  • Laptop: I’ve blogged, edited video and written on the road. Certainly not a necessity, but the value of being able to create all of your media on a mobile source is invaluable.

    Toshiba Satellite A105-S4334 (Notebook review): Bought used for $150. That is probably the most important feature, cost, but it’s relatively lightweight at six pounds. It is regularly criticized for poor battery life, and I’ve had some trouble with overheating.

  • External Hard drive: If your computer is a laptop, limited in space, get yourself a hard drive on which you can archive and organize your files, photos, video and audio. Think big.
    My choice: SimpleDrive USB 2.0 External Hard Drive 500 gigabyte (SimpleTech specs): It’s a gem, indeed, though most Macs can only read, not write, on it. It does need a power source – it can’t be powered by a computer – but it’s light weight.

Other, to be updated

  • Video camera:
  • Video-editing software: You can absolutely get by with Windows Movie Maker or IMovie – default programs. But as you develop
  • Graphic-editing equipment
  • Scanner:

Much of the equipment above I first became familiar with while travel blogging and podcasting while in Europe.