Oh no. I will have to become one of THEM

Chancer and Intern

The Chancer (left) and The Intern (right)

On Monday morning myself, The Student and The Detective were sat in a lecture about the much-debated, much-loved and much-mocked field of online journalism. Paul Bradshaw gave the lecture and began by telling everyone that they could tweet him with the hashtag for the lecture. Out came the iPhones, Blackberrys, Androids, Samsungs and more. And there I sat with my Sony Ericsson T280 (I found out its exact name by googling ‘Sony Ericsson old’) which is incapable of tweeting, accessing the internet or doing anything remotely social media-ish.

Not to be deterred I began texting updates to The Intern and was pleased to see the tweets from the Wannabe Hacks appearing on the big screen. By the way, before you all start shouting and hollering that you can text tweets to Twitter, I know, my phone doesn’t do that either. But the more I hurriedly text, desperately hoping for some shameless publicity, the more I realised something which disturbed me greatly.

Now I know I keep banging on about being this stingy Northerner who likes nothing better than saving money but that is only because it’s true. Not even joking, I got lost in this bloody stupid city the other day and calmed myself by visiting Tesco for a snack. I soon found myself hovering over the assistant as he priced up the reduced sandwiches. It was a low point, even for me. Anyway, let’s leave the embarrassing anecdotes behind and get back to the point…

As I was reminding you, I am a cheap git and upon embarking on this year in London, making my way through journo land, I was determined not to sell out. To stay true to myself and my crap phone. But I can’t keep this lie going any longer. I not only feel I need to have instant access to the world of social media but, in situations such as Bradshaw’s lecture, I want to have this kind of access. I want to be part of the debate when it’s happening, not a few hours later when I can finally get to a computer.

Sony and iPhone 4

My Sony Ericsson and an iPhone 4

Maybe I am wrong, maybe I am giving up too early? If anyone out there has faith in the kind of stubborn approach I took initially and thinks there is a way to be a wannabe hack in 2010 and not have one of the latest mobiles then please give me your suggestions. I don’t want to become one of the iPhone crew or Blackberry brigade, but like moving to London it seems to be a necessary evil of trying to make it as a hack.

On my first day at City one of my tutors Ann McFerran told me and my classmates that a journalist’s most important tool is their phone. Going out on a slight whim, I expect what Ann meant was that a journalist must be able to call people and speak to them directly. In fact, her advice seems to take on a whole new meaning and relevance in this age of constant connectivity. Only question now is which one do I get?

What is the best of the latest mobiles for a wannabe journalist? Should The Chancer stick to his stingy beliefs and stand by his old and limited phone?

NB. The Wannabe Hacks do not hold any preference to any particular mobile phone company or network. Unless of course someone is willing the give us some for free then we may just amend our policy.


About The Chancer
Tom is the former news and sport editor of Redbrick and also worked as the sport editor for The National Student. He has done work experience at local papers across the country and is currently studying the Newspaper Journalism MA at City University. He also co-writes the sport blog www.popeandswift.co.uk with The Student.

10 Responses to Oh no. I will have to become one of THEM

  1. Alex B says:

    Interesting debate, and I think your tutor hit the nail on the head when stating that the most important tool of any journalist is their phone. The problem with many ‘new’ smartphones is that their functionality comes at a cost. Obviously, there is the financial outlay, but also apps and internet usage drain batteries rapidly. Use it too much and charge it too little, and when you need to make that all important call, you’ll find yourself with a very expensive paperweight…

    It’s for that reason that the first thing I looked at when getting a new phone (eons ago, I should add) was the battery life. Functionality was merely an afterthought.

  2. Ryan GS says:

    I was an iPhoner once. After my contract ended I gave it all up for a new Android phone which, frankly, didn’t cut it. 3 months into my new 24/mo contract (and 1 week after I cancel the insurance – cheapo!) my phone gets nicked. Le sigh. I only hope the robber is equally as frustrated with the inadequate interface as I was.

    However, I’m now to skint to purchase a smartphone outright so am feeling your pain. Being a cheapo, sometimes you get what’s coming to you. And I’m relishing the moment when I can get back on the iPhone waggon. Unlike you, I know exactly what I’m missing. Does that make it worse, probably.

    I appreciate your skepticism in blindly joining your classmates in latest techno-craze. But time has shown the iPhone to be a very useful tool for staying connected, and writing this off for the sake of a few bob is, in my opinion, a false economy.

    Yesterday, I splashed out and had pizza for lunch. ‘How indulgent’ I hear you cry. Well, on my way to picking up my pizza, I found a tenner on the ground. Had I spent another day eating leftovers at my desk, I wouldn’t have been able to blow that £10 on a 3 scratchcards, my double-shot macchiato and the latest copy of Viz.

    Sometimes London gives!

  3. Peter Demain says:

    Pathetically conceited to announce the ‘best’ phone for the obvious reasons. Do you want a contract or pay as you go?

    Justifying this purchase with ‘online media’ is tenuous at best. Journalism got by without all the fancy jazz there is today; Twitter wasn’t around 5 years ago. If you want to ‘do journalism’ you either do it the officebound wire copy way or the old school way of going outside with ‘traditional’ equipment – works for online and print.

    Imagine Akbar of Hindustan deciding to give up warring because he had a chef who cooked his luxurious meals slightly wrong. Or Chuang Tzu giving up spouting wisdom because he got the occasional migraine: Irrelevant, entitled, wimp-arsed, shrinking takes on a life practice.

    Nowadays lots of ‘stinge’ or ‘thrift’ can be passed off under the trendy ‘environmental’ line. I’d go through examples, but I lack the bemusing verboseness those who frequented that Awards topic display.

    Pete, editor at Dirty Garnet.

    • The Chancer says:

      Pete I think your phrase about how journalism ‘got by without all the fancy jazz’ is an interesting one. Yes, journalists may have ‘got by’ then but now we have the chance to have instant connectivity on so many platforms so why not?
      And like it or not, Online media is playing more and more of a role in the release of and debate around articles written. How do you publicise your work? Twitter, facebook, sharing links with people who, if they have a mobile can read it almost anywhere. Also look at the way journalists discuss and share issues. The England world cup squad was announced first by Twitter, look at the latest info from party conferences the same thing happens. Journalists have a high demand to be ‘on the beat’ as you say ‘doing’ journalism, my point is that in order to keep up with everyone else, one of the latest phones can help me do that.

      • Peter Demain says:

        All what you’ve said is correct: You yourself waffle about ‘why not’ in this very article. There was already fast ‘connectivity’ with phones prior to the platforms you mention in the form of SMS & the two-way audio function phones have. In the acute doing work sense if you’ve numbers pertaining to whatever work you do, Twitter and Facebook is superfluous.

        Yes there’s the publicizing side; but I’d like to think you type articles at a computer and would thereafter use that device to publicize. If it’s good, and you’ve a following on Twitter, people should ‘retweet’ it.

        You do not need a smartphone to use Twitter; I’ve built up a following there and use an old clamshell…Nokia 0001 or something. Facebook I just post a link on the page, and it’s done – take’s one minute. The notion that that alone merits such the purchase you contemplate is laughable.

        If you really want to update stuff ‘on the beat’ – get a laptop with wireless function. If you have such a laptop, use it: That’s the comprimise between a smartphone and what I alluded to. As to socializing; you aren’t a football team’s spokesman, and face-to-face conversation is far more meaningful than exchanging ~140 characters back and forth.

        Pete, editor at Dirty Garnet.

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  5. Pete Blakemore says:

    Apart from the stingy northerner attitude, I know this feeling. Go to a halfway house, get an ipod touch. When you’re not ready to take the step up to having a smart phone straight away, it’s a really good start. Look up the previous generations on ebay, you can normally get some good deals. If you’ve got an ipod already, even better – I just store the bulk of my music on that, saving the touch for apps, my calendar and masterplans for taking over the world. Give it a few months and you’ll be ready for getting a blackberry – you’re not cool enough for an iPhone.

    Pete, (very nearly ex) Online Editor @ http://www.redbrickonline.co.uk

    • Alice says:

      Having been a “brick”-lover 4LIFE and literally missing out on opportunities due to it: “Oh, do you want to go and cover the G20 summit?” “err, YES”, “do you have an iPhone?” “err, no…” “oh, never mind then…” I’ve got to say that not having internet access on your phone makes you a leper in the world of journalism. Saying that, in a city where everyone, EVERYONE has some kind of smartphone, I’ve actually reverted back and got a Brit-signifying Nokia – sans camera, sans internet, sans everything. If the authorities wanted to check who was fiddling their visa waiver, they just need to look people’s phones….

      When the time comes, I’m getting an iPhone for sure. I agree with Pete Blakemore’s comment, though. With wireless access pretty much everywhere an iPhone touch is a happy halfway house. Just be aware you will be embarking upon entering the irresistable clutches of apple….

      • Peter Demain says:

        Stoogery aside…

        With a phone rather than a laptop in that hypothetical conference, what are you bringing out of there in terms of journalism? Less than you could: Ten or a hundred over attendants will be tapping on their touchscreens too – making what you say on Facebook, twitter or wherever in brevitic lumps trite and without value.

        Everyone doesn’t have a smartphone – people who have smartphones have smartphones. Ingrams (editor of the Oldie) doesn’t even use a computer yet his mag plods along with a steady circulation and good content. (Source – Press Gazette summary Aug 2010) – I’m sure he, and other elder media folks, are the same. Too close to teaching one’s granny to suck eggs foisting this new-fangled tech on ‘everyone’ you think?

        Just like any other consumerist you’ve convinced yourself you need one. Ironic or not, that ‘irresistable clutches’ remark is such blatent vacuous opinion that I had to fight back being bombastic…er…more than usual. My wallet is very resistant to buying Apple stuff; however iPods are good for recording purposes.

        Tom – consider the cost of the contract and/or product and oppose that to what you do. Peer pressure is bull; if you want to do good work whilst on the slender budget of a student I’d forego the phone and buy either a laptop or lower end DSLR for journalism.

        Pete, editor at Dirty Garnet.

  6. As a stingy Northerner and former brick-phone owner myself I can relate to this. I caved in last year and got a Blackberry – but only because my phone network said they’d give me the phone for free on a £20 per month contract with good terms.

    If you’ve been with the same company for a while I recommend looking at what other networks offer and then ringing your provider to do some haggling. Try playing hard ball and asking to be disconnected if they don’t make you a good offer. Sometimes this can mean you get put through to a ‘disconnection department’ which in reality is more like retention. They may make you a better offer. It’s hard to do but worth a try. I followed this advice: http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/phones/cut-mobile-tariff

    I was sceptical about smart phones but for Twitter my Blackberry is quicker and easier than my ageing laptop. I think it’s silly for journalism schools to start specifying a certain phone all students must own, as some in the US do. It come down to individual preference, what you need the phone to do and whether it will really add anything to your working practice or save you time.

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