Reporters can get tips via free apps


The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has launched three new mobile apps to help journalists in the field with answers regarding the right to record, cover schools, or access information from police and courts.

The new apps – which also provide tools to collect audio, still and video images, and text for stories – were made possible by a grant from the Gannett Foundation, according to a release from the Reporters Committee.

They join the Reporters Committee FirstAid app, intro­duced in 2013, which provides access to open government laws and information, and iFOIA, launched in 2014, which allows journalists to file and track freedom of information requests online.

Drawing on the three topic areas journalists most inquire about when reaching out to the Reporters Committee hotline, the free apps cover:

Cops and Courts – Police departments can be less than forthcoming when it comes to releasing information.

This app provides specific information about laws regarding the release of records such as arrest reports, search warrants and affidavits, and about interviewing legal parties and jurors.

Recording Rights – Jour­­nalists sometimes face uncertainly about their right to make an audio or video recording of a conversation or a public occurrence such as an arrest on the street.

This is compounded when officials demand that taping stop and/or that the recording be deleted. This app will ensure that journalists have immediate access to the recording laws of their state.

Covering Schools – Jour­nalists reporting on schools face particular challenges trying to obtain school records.

With this app, journalists will have ready access to state-specific law and other guidelines for interviewing students and accessing school records.

In addition to content unique to each subject, each of the apps includes a legal guide and other helpful elements.

Legal guide: At the core of each app is a comprehensive legal guide tailored to that subject. It includes issues such as access, records and other relevant laws. In addition, users can write and store personal notes or contribute to a public comment section to share tips and other best practices.

Storybase: This practical feature gathers all the elements for producing a news story into an organized database. It can be used to take notes or compose a story, link or download records, record and store video and audio clips and photographs, and keep track of locations. Users also can file story information directly from their mobile device contact list.

Social media: Users can post stories and links to Twitter and Facebook directly from the Storybase section of the app, and can post references to the Legal Guide to Facebook.

“We thank the Gannett Foundation for it support and are pleased to be able to launch these apps during Sunshine Week, when the focus of so many activities and news coverage is on the importance of access to government information and the right to report freely,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Bruce D. Brown. “Having easy and immediate access to information that can enable transparency where it might otherwise be stymied is of enormous value. The apps also give reporters the ability to collect, compile and contribute their work with one easy-to-use tool. Any reporter on these beats or others should take advantage of the free download.”

The apps are available in the Apple, Google and Amazon app stores. These apps, like the first, were developed in-house by Reporters Committee staff, who culled from and updated the Reporters Committee’s extensive existing materials and created new content specific to each app.